Four Different Diets You Can Try This Year

Which of these four diets would you like to try?

IMAGE Patrick Martires | Styling by Paulynn Chang Afable

The New Year means people resolving to “go on a diet” to lose those extra holiday pounds. Come February, the average person falls back into old habits, likely because whatever changes one tried to make aren’t sustainable. It may be that the food choices are highly restrictive, causing one to give up the minute the craving for a sugary donut kicks in. Or that the menu just isn’t interesting enough, leading one to look for variety. Or the diet in general leaves one feeling weak.

Learn about four different diets—Mediterranean, calorie-controlled, Paleo, and detox—fit in with different lifestyles and affected their overall health. The method: Take baseline measurements, go on a diet for three weeks while keeping other factors (fitness routine, for one) constant, keep a diary to track day-to-day state, and take new measurements at the end of it.

The main takeaway: As with most things in life—parenting, work, relationships—consistency is key. If you can’t adapt to a diet as a lifestyle, then all you have is a temporary fix.

Photo by Dairy Darilag

The Mediterranean Diet

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- Roselle Miranda

What it is: The Mediterranean diet revolves around the eating habits of those living in countries like Greece, Italy, Spain, Israel, Egypt, and Turkey. While varied, all their cuisines are rich in fruits, vegetables, olive oils, nuts, fish, and dairy. Lean meats such as lamb, chicken, and the occasional pork chop are on the menu. What the diet does emphasize is no processed foods (bye-bye, bacon!), no butter, less salt (time to get creative with herbs and spices), and consuming whole-wheat grains, which means switching to brown rice and whole-wheat bread.

How I fared: The biggest changes to my diet were the switch to whole wheat, using no extra salt, and my personal choice to eliminate pork and beef. These were easy to enforce since I made my own meals. No delivery service offers this type of diet as of yet. The biggest challenge, however, was eating out, as brown rice is not available in restaurants, and dishes prepared for the diet’s specifications are uncommon. On these occasions, I sometimes brought my own brown rice or doubled my veggie option.

Since I was consuming mostly fish, I did have a craving for meat. I didn’t change anything in terms of my eating pattern, but my merienda did change drastically. Instead of big portions and coffee (two creams, two sugars), I would have fruit juice and nuts. At my consultation with LifeScience preventive and sports nutritionist Mabelle Aban, R.N.D., I was surprised to learn that by eliminating my daily java fix, I was already cutting 500 calories from my diet!

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Despite these challenges, these diet changes improved my health for the better. My metabolism became that of someone four years younger, I lost three pounds, and the fat surrounding my organs lessened—good news for both my weight and my heart. Given this improvement within three weeks, it’s hard not to believe the claims about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Plus, I believe it’s highly sustainable. If I were to add a bit more lean meat, then it’s something I can stick to for life.

A day on the Mediterranean diet:

Breakfast – olive scrambled eggs

Lunch – tomato and feta cheese pita sandwich

Snack – mixed nuts and yogurt

Dinner – steamed pesto fish fillet with brown rice pilaf

Blitz a few ingredients together for an irresistible hummus spread for toasted chips!

Greek yogurt and muesli are perfect together!

Photo by Dairy Darilag

Paleo Diet

By Tisha Alvarez Angluben

What it is: The Paleolithic Diet is designed to emulate the way our caveman ancestors ate prior to the agricultural revolution. This means consuming more protein, and non-starchy vegetables and fruits, and eliminating foods that supposedly weren’t available at that time: grains, legumes, processed oils, refined sugars, and dairy. While it has its critics, it has become one of the trendiest diets in recent years. Delivery services offer the Paleo Diet for about P3,600 for five days, with five meals a day.

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How I fared: As diets go, Paleo is very filling. There were times when I couldn’t even finish my meal. Most were tasty enough, with a few standout dishes per week (my most memorable snack: a banana skewer with dark chocolate sauce. And when I say “skewer,” I mean “toothpick”). But as the saying goes, you truly don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. In this case, I realized just how much carbs were a big part of my life. While Paleo gives you “bread,” they were likely made from coco flour or something similar, which gives it a strange, dry texture—it’s like the difference between veggie meat and real meat. I ended up cheating a lot while on this diet—downing a glass of iced tea to kick up my flagging energy, or a handful of nuts to satisfy my need for something crunchy. The only way I could justify that time I had a small slice of pizza was it was someone’s birthday at the office.

I thought that after three weeks of this, I would be incredibly slim, but I was disappointed that progress was slow. I only had myself to blame as I turned every weekend into a cheat weekend, devouring all sorts of carbs (hello, fries! How you doin’, cupcake?). And I felt really lethargic, especially during the first week. (I read that it’s some sort of carb withdrawal symptom.) It did surprise me that my numbers showed improvement: My metabolic age, which was lower than my actual age, to begin with, went down by three years, and while I only lost a pound, my muscle mass increased while my body fat percentage decreased. Nutritionist Aban also pointed out that the diet helped me increase my fruit and vegetable intake.

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I thought I would have no problems with Paleo since I am a carnivore through and through—but apparently, I love rice, pasta, and bread just as much.

A day on the Paleo diet:

Breakfast – pumpkin pancakes with stewed fruits

Morning snack – orange nut bread

Lunch – King Caesar salad with grilled chicken in homemade dressing

Afternoon snack – squash chicken fritters with lemon basil aioli

Dinner – prune-stuffed chops with honey sesame carrots

Where to get it: Paleo Manila, (0917) 777-7657; The Sexy Chef, 940-8544, (0917) 799-2433

The roasted kalabasa in this salad makes for a filling appetizer or even a light lunch.

These pancakes have crisp edges! Make them for breakfast.

Photo by Dairy Darilag

Calorie-Controlled Diet

By Maita de Jesus

What it is: The amount of calories one should consume in a day varies, depending on weight, height, level of physical activity, and objective (weight loss? Maintenance?). Many diet delivery services now offer 1,200-, 1,500-, and 1,800-calorie/day menus, and your choice would be based on the above-mentioned factors.

How I fared: With the abundance of food delivery services out there catering to that diet, it’s easier than ever before. The prices range from P1,300 to P2,000 for three square meals and two snacks for five days.

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The first week was tough. The food was tasty and creative—I especially loved their Mediterranean-inspired dishes, and there would be days where I would eat white rice. But the portions on the 1,200-calorie diet looked small. After a consultation session with Life Science nutritionist Aban, I found out I was supposed to be consuming 1,500 calories a day, especially since weight loss wasn’t my goal. No wonder I was always hungry, and I felt a drop in my energy levels and my immune system.

The portions were better on the 1,500-calorie diet. Unfortunately, since I was on the go a lot, I wasn’t able to stick to it. Nonetheless, there were noticeable changes. My tummy got smaller, my upper body looked more toned, and I generally felt lighter. I was also more mindful of the way I ate—I didn’t eat as much rice and sweets and controlled my portions. I got fuller faster as well. By the end of it, I missed the convenience and variety. I would have wanted to continue it, but it’s something I couldn’t sustain in the long run since I was always out, and lacked the energy to say no to my cravings. But now, I’m more mindful about what I put in my body, and knowing which foods to limit. Perhaps that has to lead me to the right path to better eating habits, with or without the diet.

A day on the calorie-controlled diet:

Breakfast – arroz ala Cubana

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Morning snack – fruit

Lunch – pancit miki bihon

Afternoon snack – coffee jelly and nata de coco with coffee cream

Dinner – baby pizza with prosciutto & basil

Where to get it: Plan:Eat, (0917) 305-5510; Lunchbox Diet, (0917) 809-3196; Yummy Diet, (0917) 889-8660; The Happy Diet, (0917) 551-2808

Topped with a classic trio ground beef, fried egg, and fried bananas this plate of rice makes for a wonderful meal anytime of the day.

This stir-fry noodle dish is easily a Filipino favorite.

The Detox Diet

By Nina Almoradie

What it is: The detox diet is a five-day pescetarian (read: no meat) diet of 1,200 calories per day with detoxifying juice or tea. It costs about P2,500 for five days.

How I fared: I had been wanting to improve my eating habits, but given my busy work schedule, I’d normally skip breakfast, have a late lunch, then get take-out dinner.

I found the detox program convenient because all I had to do was follow the meal plan. However, Diet Diva only offers the Detox Diva program every first week of the month for five days. In addition, nutritionist Aban explained that given the insufficient studies about the effectiveness of detox diets, three days of supervised detox program is enough to revitalize your system. “Detox diets allow your body to take a break from all the unhealthy food items you eat,” she said, “but if you have a functioning liver and kidneys, your system can eliminate those toxins. So instead of looking for a way to detox, address the root cause—switch to a healthy, sustainable, balanced diet. No amount of detoxification or supplementation can compensate for a bad diet.”

Although I didn’t feel deprived with the detox diet, I got hungry easily. I survived the first three days without any cheats, but as I got more physically active at work, I found it harder to stick to the program. The detox made me feel lighter and helped with my constipation. But when I cheated on my last night with crispy pork belly and rice, I felt nauseated and bloated. Lesson learned: Take it easy on your tummy.

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Where to get it: Detox Diva by Diet Diva, (0917) 703-3482

Explore different brands and types of tea, then add your own twist by using flavored syrups.

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Article was published in the January-February 2015 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. Minor edits were made by Yummy.ph editors. 

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