We have based our Best Choices Diet on a modified Mediterranean Diet, emphasizing whole foods while discussing the appropriate proportions of meats, oils, eggs, grain foods, starches, “sweets” and dairy that should be included in a healthy diet. In this way, we combine the best of whole food, Mediterranean, and the DASH diets, offering a plan for eating that maintains the benefits of each diet, fills in shortcomings of each, while creating a style of eating acceptable to more people.
Four principles define this diet – keep active, eat whole foods, mostly fruits and vegetables, buy your food (organic when possible) from as close to home as you can, and last, insist that everything you consume is nutritionally rich (no “empty” calories.) This is not specifically a weight-loss diet, but you will find it much easier to manage your weight when you eat only healthy foods.
Beans, Legumes, Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Although these are on the second tier of the Mediterranean Diet pyramid, fruits and vegetables are the foundation of our Best Choices Diet. Every meal every day should include these fantastic sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Brightly colored vegetables and fiber-rich fruits (whole, not dried or juiced), beans and legumes are the best choices. Always buy fresh or frozen with no processing or added ingredients.
Whole grains, Herbs, Spices, Olive and Coconut Oils, Seed and Nut Foods
Whole wheat, oats, rice, rye, barley, and corn are very good sources of protein and fiber; these grains would include minimally processed foods made from whole grains, like breads and pasta. Nuts are great sources of protein and healthy fats, but higher in calories. Olive oil (always cold-pressed Extra Virgin) is a great addition to salads and whole grain foods, but should not be used for cooking. Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (healthy medium-chain saturated fat) is a great choice for cooking. Remember that all oils are calorie dense, so use sparingly. Vegetable oils like sunflower seed, soybean oil, and canola oil should be used with caution. They are processed (manufactured) oils (and possibly GMO).
Fish, Eggs, Poultry
Enjoy fish, eggs and poultry 2 or 3 times a week. Poultry should be pasture raised by local growers and your eggs should be from the same. It is strongly recommended that all the food you purchase be certified organic and from local farmers to the extent possible. I can tell you that purchasing your food from a guy down the road wearing coveralls makes you feel infinitely better than purchasing food from the corporate “food” industry. Take care when purchasing fish to avoid toxins and contaminants.
Cheese and Yogurt
Minimally processed cheese and yogurt can be enjoyed once or twice a week. Other dairy is best avoided. Contrary to what you’ve been told, you can get plenty of calcium and protein from plant-based diets without dairy. Besides the unneeded calories and fat, the casein protein in milk has been associated with tumor growth. Soy and nut milks are a great alternative and contain protein (soy milk) and more calcium than cows’ milk (almond milk is awesome).
Red meat (this includes beef, pork, and lamb)
Red meat should be no more than a once a month treat. Besides the unhealthy saturated fat in red meat and the increased risk for several deadly diseases, red meat is a dietary and environmental liability. The energy cost and greenhouse gas emissions caused by the commerce in meat animals are far greater than for an equivalent unit of plant-based food. The meat industry feeds their animals staggering amounts of grains on lands that could otherwise be producing plant-based food for humans. These animals are confined in often abusive conditions and given massive amounts of antibiotics to prevent diseases that can spread quickly in crowded environments.
Sweets or Added Sugar
Last, but perhaps most importantly, you are urged to avoid sugar in your diet. If you were to name the most uniquely devastating substance in our modern diet, it would be excess fructose (see below). Sugar (50% glucose, 50% fructose) has rightfully been demonized for years. The glucose in sugar is the body’s energy source and we need a modest amount every day. However, excess glucose is stored in fat cells for future use (or non-use as typically happens). Sugar is the most highly glycemic of food, causing blood sugar oscillations. Excess sugar is largely responsible for our diabetes epidemic, and lastly, sugar contains no nutrients, just calories—an empty food.
Fructose (the darker side of sugar)
The other ½ of sugar, fructose is found in nearly all fruits and most vegetables in small amounts. Humans have evolved to metabolize modest amounts of fructose as the price to pay for getting very nutritious fruit in their diet. Fructose, in excess, alters human metabolism. The body has no way to utilize fructose; it can only be metabolized by the liver in a surprisingly similar manner as ethanol (alcohol). In your liver, where fructose winds up, the excess fructose makes bad things happen, to put it very simply. Fructose can cause obesity, insulin resistance, leptin resistance, excess uric acid (and gout), high blood pressure, intestinal malabsorption, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Beverages and Lifestyle
Fruit juices are out; they concentrate the sugar in fruits and lose the fiber content. Water is great; drink as much as you like. Wine is ok in moderation (a glass or two a day tops). All soda pop is out; even the diet versions, they serve to sustain the craving for sweets. It is very important to remain active with 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 or 6 days a week. Both aerobic and resistance training are very helpful.
We have completely revised our dietary choices to reflect the new Best Choices Diet. We hope it becomes your diet.