TTT-Tuesdays Tasty Tip with Chef David Hall

Diet-Mania

As a personal chef, I often get requests for service where the client wants a particular fad diet of some sort. I make every attempt to steer them away from these “popular” or fad diets because none of them work in the long-run, and they often actually lead to weight gain if not followed to the last infinitesimal detail. I’ll explain more on that at the end.

Look at almost any commercial program and you are likely to see so-called “beautiful people” on your screen pitching a product that will somehow make you slimmer and trimmer, more beautiful, powerful, cool or otherwise on your way to the “Big Time.” There are dozens of products advertised that promise you a svelte or toned body and success if you eat, drink or take some fat-burning “supplement.” Add to the “supplements” the plethora of diets touted on the market today and you have some difficult and confusing information to wade through in order to make healthy choices. But if eating and living healthier is on your to-do list, don’t be so quick to adopt the popular diets the celebrities espouse.

Let’s briefly examine a few of the popular diets, including the Raw, Dukan, 17-day and Paleo Diets:

RAW – I wish I had a 10 dollar bill (that’s inflation for you) for every time someone asks me if I “cook raw.” I tell them, “Of course. I cook all sorts of raw food.” In return, they give me that look of disgust because I’m a flesh-eating criminal of some sort. Many celebrities are touting this diet as the panacea to their incredible bodies.

The raw-food diet simply consists of consuming only raw food. Food cannot be exposed to temperatures over 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Smoothies, nuts, dried fruits, cold soups and fresh vegetables are all prepared with little to no heat. A few brave raw supporters eat raw fish; no problem here. Others will brave eating raw meat; while the brave ones drink unpasteurized milk. All of these items pose the risk of carrying foodborne bacteria that can make you very sick.

The problem with not eating any animal-based products like meat, eggs, poultry, fish, or dairy is that you eliminate vitamin B12 from your diet, a vitamin your body needs to transform fat and protein into energy. Vitamin D is also lacking, which is important in reducing risks associated with chronic conditions from heart disease to cancer.

DUKAN DIETalso called the “French Atkins diet”. This boring diet consists largely of lean protein, a miniscule amount of oat bran each day, and drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water a day in the first phase, called “Attack”. The second phase, “Cruise,” allows you to eat vegetables except for starches like rice, corn potatoes, etc. Finally, in the third phase, “Consolidation”, you’re allowed to eat fruit, grains and dairy again which is why this diet nutritionally makes no sense at all.

Dr. Dukan encourages the consumption of only lean meats, as well as a 20 to 30 minute brisk walk every day. That’s the good news. The bad news is that calcium and vitamin D from dairy and disease-fighting compounds from fruits and whole grains is largely absent. Also, portion sizes are not well defined. In fact, Dr. Dukan tells you to eat as much protein as you like. Seriously, to lose weight you need to eat fewer calories than what you burn, this can be an issue if the meat you enjoy is bacon, salami or some other great-tasting meat.

17-DAY DIETThe 17-Day” actually refers to the length of each “phase” of the diet. In the first phase, called accelerate, you can eat fish and poultry, as many “cleansing” vegetables as you’d like, low-sugar fruits (but not after 2 p.m.), 2 servings of probiotic foods—like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir—and tiny amounts of “friendly” fats such as flaxseed and olive oils.

The diet becomes more tolerable as you “graduate” or move to the next phases or cycles. For example, in the second phase you can start consuming lean red meat and whole grains, legumes and starchy vegetables.

Generally speaking the 17-Day Diet is very rigid hard to follow without carrying the book around so you knew which foods from the various food groups you can actually eat. Food combining is, in part, a key to this diet. The total daily calorie allotment from the meal plans provided is too low for busy and active people.

Most health experts strongly endorse eating a colorful variety of produce so you can get a healthy mix of disease-fighting phytochemicals. Fruits and vegetable are minimal in this diet as are whole grains that recent research indicates can lengthen your life.

PALEO DIETalso called the Caveman Diet, requires eating like our Precambrian relatives. Well this makes things real interesting because it means having to find a rock with an edge to sharpen a stick with which you can spear your dinner. Lots of animal protein, “natural” carbohydrates (essentially fruits and vegetables) and some nuts are on the menu. The challenging part for those of us living in Phoenix is those darn javelina are nasty tasting and there’s not enough to feed the 1.7 million of us in the Valley of the Sun.

The Paleo Diet is high in protein and fat. This requires somehow obtaining health-sustaining omega-3s into one’s diet from oily fish like wild salmon, game meats, free-range chicken and grass-fed beef, all which are quite costly compared to farmed or conventionally raised counterparts.

Dairy is nonexistent which is how most of us get our calcium and vitamin D. While carbohydrates are extremely minimized in this diet, research now shows limiting or eliminating carbs impacts your mood and memory.

So why are these “diets” so popular? They work – at least in the short run for losing a few pounds fast. They work because they eliminate entire food groups, which translate to a reduction in calories. Eating fewer calories causes you to lose weight. Adopting any these diets can help you jump-start your diet and drop some pounds fast, however following them long-term means you’ll miss out on several key nutrients required for good health.

Another thing to consider is when you suddenly change your eating habits, a “starvation response” is triggered by your brain. This response is where the brain tells your body to store any and all unburned calories as fat (for a rainy day), just in case the “new food supply” dries up. If you eat something not within the specific diet that has a slightly higher calorie count, those calories shoot straight for your “problem areas” without passing “GO” or collecting $200. This explains why people that try fad diets wind up being heavier when they stop dieting than when they started dieting. Yep, you guessed it. It’s called the yo-yo diet effect, where you cyclically gain and lose weight trying several different diets, but sadly and typically gain on a gradually increasing slope.

So what’s the key to healthy eating and weight management? Join me next week for some tips to healthy eating and weight management.

Blessings,

Chef David Hall, CGC

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Comments

  1. Yes diets NEVER work…… Lifestyle Change is the only way to have lasting results. ~Amy

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