Does a new year mean jumping on a new diet?

It’s always great to see people trying to improve their diets and look after their health. But an unfortunate side effect can be people simply jumping from one fad to the next.

Fad diets have a tendency to repeat. Look back far enough and you’ll notice that the same diet themes reappear time and again, maybe with a new twist. Although the diets didn’t provide long-term benefits last time, somehow it’s expected to be different the next time around.

It’s understandable that people look for the magic fix, often by focusing in on individual nutrients or food groups.  But long term it’s a healthy overall diet that is important - there is no one easy fix.  Instead of following a fad diet, we’d be thrilled if people focused on making permanent changes to their overall eating patterns that support long-term health and wellbeing.   

It’s impossible at the moment to talk about food without talking about the paleo diet. For many people, going paleo could end up being just another fad. But for some, who take the better concepts and mix them with what modern science tells us about healthy eating, it could provide a healthy approach to eating. 

There are some positive features of the paleo diet which many people could benefit from. These include eating more vegetables and cutting back on heavily-processed foods.

However, the paleo diet often cuts out certain food groups which modern science says are good for us and don’t need to be eliminated. We know that foods like legumes, unrefined whole grains, and plain reduced-fat dairy are part of a healthy diet; alongside seafood, lean meats, and healthy sources of fats like oily fish, nuts, seeds, plant oils and avocado. 

One thing to consider if you’re on the paleo diet is that our food supply now is entirely different to how it was in the Paleolithic era. Wild animals used to be much leaner, and butter and cream didn’t feature on the menu. Many experts agree that the paleo-era diet wasn’t the meat-heavy diet it’s often portrayed as. So, the paleo diet shouldn’t be taken as a license to overdose on either meat or animal fats. 

If you are considering the paleo diet, we suggest thinking about what you can stick with long-term, what works for you, and what modern science says about the foods that promote health. We can learn a lot about healthy eating by looking at the diets of the world’s longest-lived people, such as traditional Mediterranean groups.

Their diets include plenty of vegetables and fruit, and plant-based foods like nuts, legumes and unrefined whole grains. They also eat seafood and/or lean meats or plain dairy, and consume healthy sources of fats like oily fish, nuts, seeds, plant oils and avocado.

People adhering to such a diet are neither paleo, nor low-carb high-fat, nor low-fat high-carb. Instead, they have a moderate intake from all the food groups and focus on healthy types of foods without going to extremes.