For those in the Northern hemisphere, the sun is returning, and the New Year is right around the corner. Thus, many of us are looking at new goals. Whether just beginning a fitness and health journey or fine-tuning from the last to further progress, that often starts with how we eat or the diet we follow.
While the word “diet” tends to be a four-letter word in many circles, the real meaning of diet is just how we nourish the body. In other words, no matter how you eat, you are on a “diet.” Of course, what you choose to eat on that diet can determine how you feel, your overall energy levels, how you look, how your clothing fits, how fast you recover and heal, and your health stats (e.g., blood pressure, blood glucose, triglycerides, etc.).
That’s why it’s important to look at your diet every now and again to determine if it’s taking you closer to your goals or leading you astray.
Here are some of the top diets—or at least dietary guidelines—to consider for the coming year.
Many of these diets will seem familiar. After all, good diets are tried and true and have been followed for decades, centuries, or even millennia for good reason. Unlike fast fad diets, these have also stood the test of time.
Remember, no matter how popular or effective the diet plan, if your goal is to lose weight, you’ll still need to ensure you are consistently in an energy/calorie deficit over time. And, of course, we’re all individuals—the diet that works best for you may not work as well for others (and vice versa).
Best Diets for 2023
1. High-Protein Diet
There’s one way of eating that’s been shown to help control appetite to help you eat less, decrease cravings, and promote diet quality. This can help you lose body fat while maintaining (or better yet, building) calorie-burning lean muscle. What is this amazing diet? A high-protein diet.
Another popular higher protein diet is the Satiating Diet. Diets are often about restriction—restriction of calories or specific foods or food groups (e.g., macronutrients) as well as cutting back on portion sizes. But when many of us are told we can’t eat something, that’s the food we crave the most. So, it becomes harder and harder to follow as we feel hungry and dissatisfied, explaining why so many diets fail. The Satiating Diet instead focuses on feeling full and satisfied by eating more protein and other filling foods to help decrease hunger and boost calorie burning.
2. Mediterranean Diet
Perhaps the most popular healthy diet around is The Mediterranean Diet. This lifestyle approach focuses on mindful eating, sound nutrition (eating whole, natural foods), and daily activity. And it can be adapted and adjusted to fit into just about anyone’s lifestyle. This is why it ranks as one of the best diets year after year.
There are many other diets that focus more on a healthy lifestyle approach that are appealing for various reasons. Other popular options supported by science and followers alike include:
• The Ayurvedic Diet, which focuses on promoting health, vitality, and overall wellness. This ancient diet promotes eating mostly whole, minimally processed foods combined with mindful eating rituals. It’s based on the proverb: “When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”
• Clean Eating: With a basic premise of eating mostly healthy, whole, minimally processed foods, you’ll skip foods that are ultra-processed and refined to improve body weight and health.
• Intuitive Eating Diet: Due to the understandable backlash against “diet culture” and “diet failures,” this anti-diet or un-diet may appeal to many. It focuses on learning to trust your body and hunger cues, eat mindfully, and enjoy all foods. It’s not, however, always as easy as it sounds, as many people find understanding their hunger cues challenging, especially when exposed to highly palatable foods and increased distractions when eating.
• Volumetrics Diet: This is a fairly new diet that’s big on volume, so you feel full, yet it still creates a calorie deficit to help you lose weight. This helps people feel sated and not deprived, which is a big factor when it comes to sticking with a diet plan over the long term.
• 80/20 Diet, which isn’t really a diet and is rather more of a guideline for following any diet. So, no matter what diet plan works best for you, it’s an attitude you can maintain for life. In short, the 80/20 diet involves eating on plan 80% of the time and treating yourself the other 20%. In other words, it’s a dieting “rule” that’s designed for moderation and maintenance.
Many diets can help you live your healthiest, best life. At the foundation is focusing on real, whole foods that nourish your body, mind, and spirit. Combine that with a more active lifestyle, and you really can reach your goals of feeling more vibrant and energized. And, if need be, you may even drop a few pounds while you’re at it.
3. Low-Carb Diet
Fortunately, over the last several years, most of us have learned that dietary fat isn’t the villain it was long proclaimed. In fact, healthy fats are important for a healthy life. Now, more people are finding that lowering the consumption of another macronutrient can help support weight loss while also decreasing the risk of high blood sugar levels or other health issues. That macronutrient? Carbs.
Not all carbs are bad, of course. And some are needed to fuel an active lifestyle. But going low-carb has been shown to improve results for many people, especially for weight loss. If you’re not sure this diet is right for you, you may also want to check out: Is a Low-Carb Diet Healthy (or just more dieting hype)?
If you want more specific guidelines for your low-carb diet, some of the most popular low (or lower) carb diets include:
• The Ketogenic Diet (or Keto, for short): One of the most popular diets for weight loss.
• Part-Time Keto: Some people find that while the benefits of the keto diet are intriguing, following it full-time is difficult, if not completely impractical. That’s where part-time keto fits in. Also known as intermittent ketosis, part-time keto may be even more effective and appropriate, especially for healthy folks just looking to drop some LBs or improve metabolic flexibility.
This is because part-time keto allows for more flexibility, so you can better change your diet without completely changing your lifestyle, especially when eating with others. In addition, allowing yourself more carbohydrates when you’re more active can also help support your athletic endeavors.
• The Atkins Diet: Before the ketogenic diet, the Atkins Diet was likely the most well-recognized low-carb diet. There are four phases of the Atkins Diet, starting with very few carbs and gradually allowing the consumption of more until your desired weight is achieved.
• Slow-Carb Diet: Another popular option for folks who find ketogenic or low-carb diets too hard or too impractical (we completely understand!) may choose to go “slow-carb” instead. Popularized by Tim Ferris, this diet has simpler rules and menus to follow.
• Carb Cycling: Again, consuming carbs is an important part of a balanced diet, and it’s not a good idea to completely vilify any one macronutrient—carbs, fat, or protein—forever. Some days you will need more carbs than others. And carb cycling allows you to eat while adjusting for your lifestyle (when you’re more or less active).
Voluntary fasting has been around since antiquity, especially for spiritual rituals. Now, though, it’s gaining traction for other reasons: most commonly increased weight loss, improved metabolic flexibility, and autophagy (or the body’s ability to clear out old, damaged cells and regenerate new, healthier cells).
The most popular way to fast now is not to go days on end without eating but to rather eat during certain windows. In general, intermittent fasting (IF, for short) refers to going extended periods (typically 12 to 48 hours) with little to no caloric intake. That said, fasting has several subclassifications, such as time-restricted feeding, alternate-day fasting, periodic fasting, and fasting-mimicking diets.
Fasting, though, isn’t right for everyone. So before skipping your next meal, take some time to do your research and then slowly ease into longer windows to avoid side effects and get the most from this way of eating.
5. Plant-Based Diets
Eating more of a plant-based diet is one of the fastest-growing ways to eat (increasing over 250% in the last decade). Eating more plant-based foods has been shown to promote health benefits, be more sustainable, address environmental concerns, and more. While there are seemingly endless variations of plant-based diets, some of the most popular include:
• High-Protein, Plant-Based Diet: You don’t need to rely on animal products to get the protein you need, even when following a higher-protein diet. There are plenty of high-protein plant-based diets that support a healthy metabolism, stronger muscles, and appetite and weight management.
• Pescatarian Diet: You don’t need to be 100% vegan to follow a plant-based diet either. The pescatarian diet, for example, advocates regular consumption of fish, though it does skip red meat and poultry. However, seafood is typically only consumed a few times per week with much of the diet being made up of plant foods.
• Flexitarian Diet: Even if you’re not ready to give up meat altogether, you can still eat more of a plant-based diet. For instance, the Flexitarian Diet is a mostly-vegetarian diet yet includes occasional meat or fish. It’s perfect for people who want to cut back on animal products due to health issues, to reduce environmental impact, or just to cut back on the seemingly ever-increasing cost of groceries.
6. Paleo Diet
Trending for over a decade, the paleo diet is the antithesis of the modern Western-style diet. This eating plan encourages eating only whole, minimally processed foods. While there’s no evidence that this is how our ancestors around the globe really ate, the diet focuses on foods you could find if you relied only on hunting and foraging to get foods in their most natural forms. There are several different variations of the diet, including the even more strict Whole 30 Diet, which is more of an elimination-style diet.
7. Diet for Specific Needs
Weight loss isn’t the only or even the best reason to change your diet. Many people, especially those who have long consumed the Standard American Diet, need to address heart issues, high blood pressure, digestive complaints, low energy levels, obesity, etc. Fortunately, doctors, researchers, and health experts have created a variety of diets to address these health needs. And many of these are supported by reams of research. Some of the most popular options are:
• DASH Diet, which stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” In other words, this diet specifically addresses blood pressure reduction as high blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, often silently.
• Mind Diet, which takes two well-proven, highly effective diets (i.e., Mediterranean and DASH) and smashes them together with a focus on brain health. This diet was designed to improve overall health markers and lower the risk of mental decline to boot.
• Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Chronic low-grade inflammation throughout the body is believed to increase the risk of nearly all health complications. So, by eating to support healthy levels of inflammation, you may be able to improve your overall health.
• TLC Diet, aka “The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes Diet,” which was created by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program. The goal is to help people lower cholesterol levels to support heart health.
• Adrenal Diet Plan: Designed to help relieve stress and “adrenal fatigue” and decrease stubborn belly fat by nourishing the body and mind with healthy foods, movement, rest and relaxation, social connections, and recharging.
• Low FODMAP Diet: While virtually everyone experiences digestive discomfort from time to time, people who suffer from bloating, gassiness, heartburn, abdominal discomfort, and worse more often may have unresolved food sensitivities or even allergies. If you find that foods, particularly high-carbohydrate foods, leave you feeling unwell, a low FODMAP Diet may help you find the culprit(s) and help relieve your discomfort.
• Low-Histamine Diet: Similarly, if you’re bombarded by allergens, dietary changes may help by decreasing levels of histamine in the diet.
5+ Diets to Avoid
Of course, every year, numerous fad diets claim to be the solution once and for all to help you lose weight, often without even having to increase activity levels. As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. (And besides, there are so many benefits of exercise way beyond just losing weight.)
Some of the popular options to avoid include:
- Dirty Keto
- Grapefruit Diet
- Detox Diets
- HCG Diet (and other low-calorie extreme diets)
- Juice cleanses
Best Diets for 2023 and Beyond…
Despite all the claims—and there are many—no diet is one-size-fits-all. All of us have different goals, lifestyles, bodies, and preferences. So, the weight-loss diet that works best for you may not be the best diet for the health, weight loss, or goals of your partner, friends, or co-workers.
Fortunately, there are so many healthy diets to choose from. With a little trial and error, some curiosity, and an openness to trying new things, you can find the right diet for you and your tastes.
No matter which diet you choose, rest assured, eating healthfully—that is, a diet that emphasizes nutrient-dense, whole foods—can help you feel better, enjoy greater energy, and (as long as it leads to proper caloric intake) help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
Here’s to finding the best diet FOR YOU this upcoming year—whether your goal is to lose weight, conquer a long-standing health issue, feel better, have greater energy levels, or just save money and be more environmentally sustainable. You’ve got this!