This post was most recently updated on March 30th, 2020
Looking for a diet to lose weight fast? Like in the new year after the festive season (Yep, I’m guilty of overindulging). Well, this article could be about preparing low-fat meals and recipes for losing weight, but it isn’t!! It’s more. It’s about choosing the best diet for humans (which covers weight loss for you also)!
The Latest Eating Trends
A diet just means the type of food we eat regularly, right!? This is influenced by popular trends and the popularity of certain diets changes with the season.
So, let’s look at trends.
Well, way back, a person’s diet depended on food grown locally or available locally (weight watchers wasn’t a thing). And, it was more about what was available for survival.
Today, our choices have dramatically broadened. Globalization and advances in agriculture provide us with many dietary options that include healthy food choices.
So today it’s more about eating the foods we enjoy rather than purely eating for survival (or is it?)
So, what are the latest trends in diet plans?
Cookbook sales give us one indication of the latest trends. Nutritionists provide another with the latest food trends in diet plans based on their clientele. But what is the best diet for humans?
What’s the Best Diet for Humans?
What we eat is important for more than just our figures. It’s also important for our future selves — our survival as a species. So, how do the latest trends in diet plans rate in terms of caring for our future?
First, let’s look at major impacts relating to our current food consumption (no special order):
- Our carbon footprint (adding carbon to the atmosphere – climate crisis)
- Water footprint (water overuse or contamination leading to drinking water crisis)
- Chemical residues
- Food wastage
- Plastic debris in our oceans
- Genetic modification of foods
- Antibiotic over-use in food industry causing antibiotic resistant strains
How Your Diet Can Make a Difference
You can choose ‘organic’ or ‘free range’ products to help with lowering chemical residues and antibiotic-resistant strains (issues #3 and #7). Also, preparing and using food consciously, and avoiding plastic packaging helps in reducing food wastage and plastic debris (#4 and #5).
You can help fight the wastage of food and there are numerous everyday ways to save the wild we know (#3-5). Nevertheless, choosing organic or free range may not always be attainable.
One way to overcome this is to grow your own chemically-free produce or source it from local markets, which tend to be less expensive.
Among other tips to avoid food wastage: Use a grocery list based on your weekly meal plan. This cuts down wastage and benefits your budget also.
Because of the complexity of the issue, I will not attempt to cover the effects of genetically modified (GM) foods here in any detail.
Similarly, the use of antibiotics in eggs, chickens, beef, and similar industries won’t be covered. This is also complex because countries differ in antibiotic use standards and associated labeling.
I will leave it to you to investigate how to navigate these in your area. The way to do it is to choose products that are ‘organic’ or ‘free range’.
What are good diet tips to reduce our footprint? Below, I look at the potential carbon and water footprints of diets that have trended over recent years (no special order).
I have included simple ways to be more ecologically responsible. In regards to the Intermittent Fasting Diet, the environmental footprint will depend on the food in the plan.
Best Diet Reviews
1. The Vegan Diet
The vegan diet excludes all animal products, including poultry, honey, milk, cheese, gelatin, fish, and eggs. It relies on meatless protein sources, such as lentils, tofu, and dried beans. Including vitamin B12 supplements are advocated with plant-based diets.
Vegan is good for reducing your footprint, but it might surprise you to learn that vegetarian tops the list, according to sources cited below.
Among reasons, is the waste of productive land for other food production if the entire population were to go vegan.
Basically, not all agricultural land is suitable for vegan all-year round. The future land availability for sustainable food production is a genuine global issue.
It is something worth considering in addition to the carbon and water footprints.
Vegan as an Environmentally Healthy Diet Plan:
Carbon footprint: Low. As a protein food, lentils, tofu, and dried beans rate low with greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2015 scientific report 3. This compares to lamb and beef, which are among the highest.
Water footprint: Low. According to a 2012 study report 4, water use for vegetables is about ⅕ of that for beef.
Tips to Reduce Ecological Footprint Further
Buy organic; buy local; grow your own–to reduce footprint from transport and chemical use. Adding potatoes is more water efficient, only consuming 50 gallons 5 per pound, than adding rice (consumes 403 gallons per pound) to your meal.
2. The Gluten Free Diet
A gluten-free diet cuts out products made from wheat and other grains containing the protein, gluten.
It is critical for Coeliacs.
Similarly, a gluten-free diet is important for controlling symptoms in sufferers of IBS and other functional gastrointestinal disorders (see FODMAPs Diet).
The choice of meat in the diet plan is open to the consumer.
In other words, any diet plan can be gluten free with gluten products excluded.
Gluten Free in Terms of Environmentally Healthy
Carbon footprint: With meat, it rates high. Combined with a vegetarian diet, this is low.
Water footprint: With meat, it rates high. Combined with a vegetarian diet, this is low.
For a simple cookbook: You can’t go past the 4 Ingredients Gluten-Free: More Than 400 New and Exciting Recipes All Made with 4 or Fewer Ingredients and All Gluten-Free! available at Amazon — See details. Mine is well bookmarked. It includes vegetarian meals, also.
3. The Low-Carb Diets
The low-carb is not a new diet. The Atkins Diet, for example, has been around for decades. It cuts out bread, rice, pasta, and potato, and has passionate high fat (low carb) followers.
The Ketogenic Diet has also been around for some time.
Of course, they are both still popular, with revisions appearing only recently.
The Eco-Atkins diet
The Atkins gets a makeover — acknowledging the benefits of a plant-based diet.
The Eco-Atkins diet is basically a vegetarian or vegan version of the low carb diet, with these proportions:
- 31% of daily calories (kilojoules) to come from plant proteins
- 43% from plant fats, like olive oil and other healthy fats
- and 26% percent from carbs
There’s a lot of nuts, seeds, and beans.
Just recently, it’s been heralded as the new plant-based diet craze.
The Ketogenic Diet
This is about the body burning fat (ketones) rather than sugar for fuel.
Generally, it involves very low-carb, high-fat (not just high-protein) intake.
The Low Carb Diets Ecological Footprints
Carbon footprint: Eco-Atkins–low. Ketogenic–high, based on a large amount of meat as the main source of protein and fat.
Water footprint: Eco-Atkins–medium to low. Depending on type, nuts have a high water use. Ketogenic–high, based on a significant amount of meat constituting the diet.
Tip to Reduce Footprints
4. The Whole30 Diet
This 30-day diet plan focuses on cutting out sugar (even artificial sweetener), alcohol, grains, legumes, beans, and dairy which are considered “all the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups”.
Moreover, it advocates whole foods over packet ingredients.
The result is a diet of meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, fruit, nuts, and vegetables.
The Whole30 Environmental Footprint
Carbon footprint: High, with meat the main protein.
Water footprint: High, with meat the main protein. Nuts are also generally high on the list for water use.
Tip to Reduce Footprints
Consider sources of the meat, eggs, or seafood. Choose ‘organic certified’, free-range or grass-fed over lot feed or caged. Choose nuts that are sustainably grown and support the environment, e.g., brazil nuts and macadamia nuts.
5. The Paleo Diet
The Paleo diet peaked in 2013.
According to nutritionist, Kate Freeman, it just didn’t deliver on what people wanted in the long run – lose weight for the long haul.
Enter the Paleovedic Diet, which combines the Paleo diet with Ayurveda (5000-year-old Indian system of medicine).
This three-week program (with a meal plan and recipes) is the brainchild of Akil Palanisamy MD.
Like Ayurveda, it is based on three doshas. Palanisamy claims that studies are starting to show doshas have a genetic connection.
Thus, there are reasons to modify or swap foods according to your dosha. Makes sense!
For one thing, like in Ayurvedic medicine, it focuses on nutrient-rich herbs, spices, and detoxifying fruits and vegetables.
This is about maximizing intake of phytonutrients (vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants). So this is good.
Paleovedic Diet Plan Eco-Friendliness
Carbon footprint: High to medium, since the main protein source is meat. Could be lowered with a higher proportion of vegetables. According to the Reducetarian Solution (April 2017), “cutting 10% or more of the meat from one’s diet can transform the lives of the reader, animals, and the planet.”
Water footprint: High to medium, since meat remains a major component. Could be lowered with a higher proportion of vegetables.
Tips for Reducing Ecological Footprint
Consider sources of the meat, eggs, or seafood. Choose ‘organic certified’, free-range or grass-fed over lot feed or caged. Choose nuts that are sustainably grown and support the environment, e.g., these brazil nuts and these macadamia nuts.
6. Vegetarian or Plant-Based
This tops the list as the most eco-friendly diet plan.
Vegetarian as the traditional diet is based on fruit, veg, grains, and beans. There is also the lacto-vegetarian (dairy) and the lacto-ovo-vegetarian (dairy and eggs).
By all means, consuming plant foods, especially potatoes is better for the planet. Growing potatoes requires less water, only 50 gallons per pound, than rice (403 gallons per pound) for example.
Vegetarian as an Environmentally Healthy Diet Plan
Carbon footprint: Low. Cheese rates high on emissions after Lamb and Beef, but is still only about ⅓ of that of lamb and half that of beef.
Water footprint: Low, but watch cheese, according to a 2011 study 2 changing to a vegetarian diet will reduce your water footprint by as much as 58% (based on the average current per capita food intake in the US).
Tip to Further Reduce Ecological Footprint
Buy organic; buy local; grow your own — to reduce footprint from transport and chemical use.
The Mediterranean diet is mostly a plant-based diet and so leans towards the ecological footprint of being vegetarian.
7. The low FODMAPs Diet
This diet is an evidenced-based approach to managing the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It was developed by Monash University, Australia.
FODMAP stands for “Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols”. The diet includes meat, vegetables, fruit, bread, cereals, and nuts, along with a whole list of FODMAP items to eliminate.
In general, FODMAPs items to eliminate from your diet plan include gluten and lactose. They also include garlic, beetroot, asparagus, mushroom, pulses and beans, apples, blueberries, and lots more.
The problem items are those that cause bloating. But, not everyone is affected in the same way. The idea is to eliminate first, and then choose to introduce items if you wish to see which ones can be tolerated.
The low FODMAP diet plan has been found effective in controlling symptoms in sufferers of IBS and other functional gastrointestinal disorders.
Low FODMAP as an Eco-friendly Diet Plan
Carbon footprint: Similar to gluten-free — with meat, it rates high. Combined with a vegetarian diet, this is low.
Water footprint: Similar to gluten-free — with meat, it rates high. Combined with a vegetarian diet, this is low.
8. Liver Cleansing Diets
Why focus on the liver? Well, the liver does a lot of things. In fact, my university lecturer, back at that time, told our physiology class that if we were stuck for an answer in our exam, put “the liver”. That might give you a hint as to how important a healthy liver is in the functioning of our bodies.
These liver cleansing diets usually focus on whole foods rather than processed, whole grain cereals, fruits, and vegetables, with no additives and free from agrochemical use.
The Liver Rescue by Anthony Willian advocates a diet aimed at improving liver function and thus all over wellbeing. The diet is about low fat, high carb (from loads of fruit and vegetables), with added supplements.
Leaning towards less meat these types of diets go part of the way towards a vegetarian diet in reducing carbon and water footprints. By avoiding foods with pesticides, these types of diets go a long way towards reducing chemical residues harming the environment.
Top Diets Based on Book Sales
These are the top 10 best sellers on Amazon in this category (at time of writing).
- Liver Rescue
- The Complete Ketogenic Diet for Beginners
- Body Love
- Whole30 Slow Cooked
- The Clean Plate
- Simply Keto
- The Case Against Sugar
- The Keto Reset Diet
- The Plant Paradox
- The Easy 5-Ingredient Ketogenic Diet
More on these in the below diet reviews. But for now, it’s interesting to note that the Ketogenic Diet gets four mentions, showing it’s popularity and a trending interest with weight loss diets.
Top Diets Seen By Nutritionists
According to nutritionist, Susie Burrell, the following are the top 6 in diet trends:
- Mediterranean Diet
- Intermittent Fasting
- Moderate Carbs
- Low Carbs
The Mediterranean Diet
- The Mediterranean Diet centers around plant-based foods (fruits and vegetables), whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Olive oil and canola oil (considered the healthy fats) replaces butter and salt is replaced by herbs and spices to add flavor to meals. Red meat is limited to once a week or less.
The Intermittent Fasting Diet
- Intermittent Fasting is a diet plan promoted for weight loss and also health. For example, the 16/8 (and earlier 5/2) where you limit your eating to 8 hours a day and you abstain for 16 (in the of the 16/8).
Moderate Carbohydrate Diets
- These are more about maintaining good health. The diet consists of 30 to 40 percent carbohydrates such as bread or grains, eaten more so in the morning and less at night. A study published in the Lancet Public Health found that consuming a moderate amount of carbs had the lowest risk of mortality.²
Low Carb Diets
- As the name suggests this involves lowering your consumption of carbohydrates. People use this for both health and weight loss reasons.
- This diet is more often a conscious decision by those who are concerned about animal abuse or environmental harm. Vegan involves no animal products, including dairy and eggs. It differs from vegetarianism, which allows dairy and eggs.
- This diet is about health, weight loss, or simply having a meal plan to follow. The name is such because the diet’s principle is to only eat foods presumed to have been eaten by our early ancestors who were hunters and gatherers. Meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, and some seeds and nuts are in. Dairy, legumes, cereals, and processed foods are out.
Balance is Best
Some people like to have a strict diet plan. But you don’t have to do this. It’s all about balance.
You can try and be primarily vegetarian, eat gluten-free, and perhaps exclude nightshade vegetables, onions, and garlic if you suffer from arthritis or IBS.
Partaking of local wild caught fish and free-range chicken…occasionally is okay.
Here are some things to consider:
- Vegetarian is the most eco-friendly diet
- It is cheaper to eat vegetarian at home than to eat meat
- Potatoes are one of the top eco-friendly foods we can consume and are so versatile. And, I like them!
- Health benefits associated with certain foods can be specific to you
- Weight control may be your main concern
Also, remember that having interests with purpose and meaning helps with weight loss more than going on a fad ‘diet’.
So, not only is having a diet plan for health or weight loss.
It is also about caring for our environment, our future, our long-term health.
In some quarters, today’s trends show more people are becoming conscious of their diets in terms of their footprint on the Earth.
One thing is clear: What you chose to eat has environmental as well as health impacts.
Thus, it is important to make conscious food choices.
What do you think? What are the things about a diet plan for you? Which of the above have you tried? What did you find?
Other Ideas On Diet Plans
When time-poor, people tend to opt for takeaways (or ‘take-outs’).
Otherwise, they buy food haphazardly, resulting in fresh food being wasted.
With this, convenience is the main driver of people’s behavior, especially in today’s ‘busyness’.
One idea is to have healthy meals delivered to your door.
Since, many people are unfamiliar with preparing vegetarian meals, getting a delivery of these once (or thrice a week even) helps them and the environment.
Most important, going meatless one to three days a week is a step towards regeneration for a healthy planet for tomorrow.
Whether your diet plan aims to prevent diabetes, lower cholesterol, or reduce blood pressure by limiting salt intake, or simply just to lose weight, the actual food we plan to eat in our diets can be the key to a healthier and longer life.
What we eat is not only important for our health but also the planet’s, and thus future generations. And, it turns out plant-based diets are the best environmentally healthy diet plan.
- Grace Communications Foundation – https://www.gracelinks.org/
- More on water footprint: https://www.treehugger.com/green-food/from-lettuce-to-beef-whats-the-water-footprint-of-your-food.html
- Environmentally friendly foods – https://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/top-10-eco-friendly-foods/
- Water Footprint: https://waterfootprint.org/en/water-footprint/product-water-footprint/water-footprint-crop-and-animal-products/