Whether you want to shift a few pounds, improve your health or simply eat more fruit and veg, there’s a balanced diet that’s right for you
Let’s start by saying that quick-fix weight-loss plans are a bad idea. Crash diets can leave you feeling restricted, fed up and more likely to put all the weight back on.1
However, changing your diet to include more of the good stuff – wholegrain foods, fruits and vegetables – and less of the bad stuff, like junk food, is always a good idea.
If you’re worried about certain aspects of your wellbeing, there’s a diet that’s right for you, too. So, which one should you choose?
‘I want to look after my heart health’
You need… the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet is based on the diets of people living near the Mediterranean in France, Spain, Italy and Greece. There are countless studies that show this diet is good for your health2 – and in particular your heart. A 2016 global study of more than 15,000 people reported that those following a Mediterranean Diet were less likely to have a heart attack or stroke.3
To follow a Mediterranean Diet,4 you need to:
- up your intake of olive oil
- eat more fruits and vegetables
- cut down on meat
- eat more fish, especially oily fish
- eat more legumes, like lentils and beans
‘I want to lose weight’
You need… a healthy, balanced diet
Sorry, there’s no magic bullet when it comes to losing weight,5 but there are some golden rules. The British Dietetic Association6 advises:
- changing one thing at a time, such as eating an extra portion of fruit or veggies a day – when you can do that, change something else
- be realistic – you can’t drop four stone in four weeks, but 1-2lbs a week is safe and sustainable
- up your exercise levels – getting active will burn calories and you’ll get an endorphin boost
- accept that slip-ups are normal – make a plan for how you deal with them when they do; it doesn’t mean you’ve failed
If you’ve got a lot of weight to lose, talk to your GP before starting any new eating plan.
‘I want to add more muscle’
You need… a protein-rich diet
We’re not talking about Atkins or Keto, but simply a diet that ups your protein intake. US army research found that taking on extra protein not only increases muscle mass, but can improve muscle strength in active men, too.7 You need around 1g of protein per kg of body weight, but this will increase when you start training.
Try to eat ‘natural’ sources of protein – meat and fish are primary sources, but animal-free alternatives include tofu and other plant proteins – rather than protein shakes or bars as these often contain sugars, fats and additives. Get advice from a nutritionist before increasing your protein intake, as too much can overload the kidneys.8
‘I want to eat less meat’
You need… a flexitarian or reducetarian diet
Completely avoiding meat, fish, eggs and dairy means going vegan. But if all you want is to eat more plant-based foods, you have a couple of diet options:
- reducetarian – this means cutting down, but not cutting out, the amount of meat and animal products you eat
- flexitarian – this is a ‘flexible vegetarian’ diet, where you eat mostly plants and also occasionally meat
Reducing the amount of meat you eat can cut your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and shift a few pounds, too.9 You’ll also be helping to improve animal welfare and the environment. Everyone wins!
Handpicked article: Seven ways to lose weight naturally
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
Written by Rosalind Ryan on November 22, 2018
Reviewed by dietitian and nutritionist Azmina Govindji on November 26, 2018
1. British Dietetic Association. Fad diets factsheet. Available from: https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/faddiets.pdf
2. Kris Gunnars. Healthline. 5 studies on the Mediterranean Diet – does it really work? Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/5-studies-on-the-mediterranean-diet
3. Stewart RA, et al. Dietary patterns and the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events in a global study of high-risk patients with stable coronary heart disease. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27109584
4. NHS. What is a Mediterranean diet? Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/what-is-a-mediterranean-diet/
5. Mayo Clinic. Weight loss – choosing a diet that’s right for you. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss/art-20048466
6. British Dietetic Association. Weight loss. Available from: https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/weight_loss
7. Pasiakos SM, McLellan TM, Lieberman HR. The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25169440
8. BBC iWonder. Should you worry about how much protein you eat? Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/z8899j6
9. Mayo Clinic. Meatless meals: the benefits of eating less meat. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/meatless-meals/art-20048193