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The Best Non-Diet Diets

Mediterranean Diet

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Copying the eating habits of the people who live in the Mediterranean has been shown in studies to reduce the risk of heart disease and mortality. Most researchers credit the emphasis on antioxidants-rich foods such as olive oil, almonds, broccoli, and the occasional red wine. Allowing yourself indulgences like vino from time to time is a key long-term strategy, otherwise you’ll feel deprived and restricted, which usually leads to giving up on a diet completely.


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Eat a lot without eating a lot. Sounds confusing, but it’s very easy: On the volumetrics plan, you look not just at the calorie content of foods but the size or volume of your meal ingredients as well. Part of the struggle that people have with “diets” is dealing with hunger. The focus on eating higher-volume, lower-calorie foods (read: lots of vegetables) gives you a satiety advantage as you feel like you are eating a lot volume-wise but you really aren’t calorie-wise.

Nutrient Timing

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Instead of vilifying carbs, this approach centers on eating the right types of carbohydrates at the right times based on your body’s biochemical response to foods. You can eat starches and grains only before working out since exercise improves insulin sensitivity, helping your body shuttle carbs to your muscles. When eating any other time, you limit carbs in favor of eating vegetables, beans, and fruit. Have your carbs and eat them too? That’s a plan any pasta lover can stick to.

Paleo Diet

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While the “caveman” diet may be too restrictive at times (no cheese?), modified versions can allow for the consumption of dairy and legumes. Either way the core of this approach always remains the same: lots of real foods, no added sugars, and no processed foods. Concentrating on eating whole foods (as opposed to shakes and premade meals) and restricting added sweeteners, empty calories, and processed foods lead to a high-quality diet and better health in the long term. Real foods also keep you fuller longer compared to bars made from unpronounceable ingredients.

Zone Diet

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The 40/30/30 carb/protein/fat calorie percentages that this diet is famous for cannot be maintained over the long haul. However the real-world application of the Zone Diet yields nutritionally balanced meals that don’t require calorie counting or number crunching. When you eat, picture your plate divided into thirds. Fill one-third with protein and the other two-thirds with vegetables or fruit, and then sprinkle on a little healthy fat from foods such as olive oil or slivered almonds. Successfully making healthy decisions on the fly is a key component to weight maintenance, and this visualization strategy is a very simple way to control calories and macronutrients and stay on track without much effort.

Clean Eating

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As long as it isn’t processed, you can eat just about anything when you go clean. Proteins, whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and a variety of nuts, seeds, and oils can all be enjoyed in moderation on a clean eating diet plan. Since the guidelines are unrestrictive—unless you’re a sugar addict—most people should be able to eat clean for life.


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