Common sense (not to mention professional medical opinon!) suggests that a 'balanced' diet is best for almost everyone. By 'balanced', we mean that you strictly control your consumption of saturated fats and refined sugar, and be careful about how much protein you eat. Kind of makes the Atkins Diet look a little shaky, doesn't it? The Atkins Diet, and other 'crash' diets are a knee-jerk reaction to a disturbing Western diet phenomenon - in short, our diet is getting worse, and we are ALL getting fatter!
In most western countries (particularly the USA and Europe) most citizens consume too much saturated fat (generally, the rise of 'McBurgers' and other 'fast' foods is thought to be responsible for this). Likewise, we all eat too much refined sugar, which is a major component of most 'soft' drinks (or sodas) and is also found in horrendous quantities in refined white flour. The use of white flour in our bread has also contributed to a related problem - we tend to get too little fiber in our diets nowadays! Is fast food the culprit? Given that over half of every dollar spent on food in the USA is spent in fast food outlets nowadays, the answer is probably 'yes'.
Twenty years ago, an obese person would be the center of some attention - a medical problem might be suspected. Nowadays, almost 1 in 3 Americans is obese, as are 1 in 5 Brits. The problem has gone from being small, to being (literally!) large. And this has happened in a single generation. So how can we get back to diet basics?
Firstly, Balance that diet! Make sure you eat foods from ALL the major food groups.
Secondly, Keep the saturated fat and refined sugar intake LOW. Our bodies need fat and carbohydrates, but DON'T need saturated fat or refined sugar - we only eat them because they taste good!
Thirdly, stick with the 'good' carbohydrates. Good carbs include fresh vegetables, fruit and potatoes. Items like whole wheat bread, pasta, rice, oats, beans and whole grains are also excellent providers of the essential elements and energy our bodies need to function healthily. There is a reason why doctors advise us to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day - it keeps us healthy! (and even helps prevent cancers!).
Fourthly, you CAN eat fat in reduced amounts, but it must be 'good' fat. By this we mean monounsaturated or polyunsaturated food sources, and NOT animal fats, which 'clog' up arteries, and contribute more than anything else to heart disease. Fat of any kind is particularly heavy in calories (2 times the average of other foodstuffs), so you must keep the amount you eat right down if weight loss is the aim.
Fifthly, and this is a funny one, ALWAYS make a shopping list before you go out, and STICK TO IT! The number of 'impulse' purchases we all make would surprise you, and believe you me, these impulses are ALWAYS bad for the tummy!