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With so many possibilities when it comes to diets, it can be almost impossible to choose the right one for you. With the range of diets encompassing everything from extreme fasting to diets claiming you can eat anything you want, choosing a diet that will get the results you want and that you can follow in the long term can be extremely difficult.
Determining which diets are too good to be true and which are based on solid scientific principles is only the beginning of the battle to choose the right diet, so here are some questions to ask yourself when considering which diet choice is the best option.
Is the diet similar to what you eat already?
The diets that are the easiest to stick to in the long term tend to be the ones that are most similar to what you already eat. The fewer changes and modifications you need to make, the easier it is to follow the diet and reap the benefits, which is why even very simple changes such as reducing portion sizes can be enough to see results.
If a diet is made up of foods you have never heard of or things you would not normally consume, it is probably not going to be the best option for you.
Does it fit in with your lifestyle?
As with the previous question, this also means thinking about how a diet fits into your normal habits and if any radical changes are required that may be hard to maintain.
For example, a diet that requires you to eat seven small meals a day may not be the ideal option if you lead a busy working life with few opportunities to eat. Similarly if you have to dine out a lot as part of your job, a meal replacement diet is probably not suitable.
A diet that fits in with your day, your job and your schedule is essential if you want to follow it in the long term.
Do you like the foods on offer in the diet?
There is no point following a restrictive diet that involves eating a food you do not like and never normally eat. If you have to replace a key food in a diet that is fairly restrictive, you are likely to compromise the effects of the diet and may also disrupt the nutritional balance.
Choosing a diet where you enjoy what you are eating is a great way to make it part of your everyday life and get long term results.
Can you afford to follow the diet?
Many very prescriptive diets require you to buy specialized products such as meal replacements, snacks or even complete meals. Others insist upon the purchase of high price food items such as organic foods, lean meat and fish.
If you are on a food budget, splashing out on these expensive products may not be feasible and means you are likely to fall back on your older, more budget friendly eating habits when money gets tight.
See also: How to eat healthily on a budget
Remember there are plenty of diet options that cater for limited budgets and whilst some of the more expensive programs can be effective, there is no need to spend a lot of money on healthy food in most cases.
Is the diet too restrictive?
Diets that limit your choices of food, the amount you eat, when you eat it or prescribe the exact amount of calories you should be consuming can be difficult to keep up in the long term, simply because life gets in the way.
Diets such as these can have detrimental effects on your social life if you are unable to eat out or at other people’s houses without large amounts of forward planning and often result in the dieter completely giving up on the plan as it simply does not allow them to continue their life as normal.
Is the diet too flexible?
At the other extreme, a diet that is too flexible, or not restrictive enough can give you the loopholes you need to cheat on your diet on a regular basis, meaning you may not see the results you hope for.
Be honest with yourself about your level of willpower, if you think you can follow a flexible diet plan without too many slip ups this is a good option, but for some people a little more discipline is helpful.
Can you see yourself following the diet in the long term?
Crash and fad diets can produce short term results, but rarely result in long term maintenance. When choosing a diet, look for one that you can imagine yourself following for the long term future, rather than just a quick fix.
Is it a diet that will help you fulfill your goals?
Different diets focus on different results and are more or less suitable for obtaining them. In order to choose the right diet for you, make sure you determine what you want to achieve by following the diet, for example weight loss, lowering cholesterol levels or improving sports performance, and choose one that will target these areas.
Does the diet fulfill your nutritional requirements?
Many diets that are not based on scientific principles nor have the appropriate research behind them may cut out key foods and therefore leave you at risk of nutrient deficiencies.
If you wish to follow a less well supported diet, it is a good idea to discuss the idea with a dietician or doctor to determine if it will provide you with the nutrition you need.
Is the diet suitable for other members of your household?
Although it is not essential for everyone living in the house to eat the same thing, it does make it easier to stick to a diet if the people around you are consuming the same things. By choosing a healthy balanced diet that covers all the food groups, the whole family can eat the same thing, simplifying shopping and mealtimes, with those who have increased energy requirements simply eating larger portions than those who are watching their weight.
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