Healthy eating should not be as stressful as it is

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Intermittent fasting, keto diet, Mediterranean diet, Paleo diet. The year of 2019 is a time of extreme attention to what we eat, especially at Conestoga. And that is not a bad thing. It is important that we eat healthy, but with all of the constant calorie counting and excessive belief in the universal “right” diet, one begins to question if this is the best thing to do. One begins to wonder why everyone feels like they need to eat a certain way when it would be better for them to follow a general plan of healthy eating.

Dieting is often about limiting consumption, but in reality, there are many other factors that determine whether diets work. Lifestyle and genes are just two of them. For example, a study performed at Texas A&M University revealed that people of a certain genetic type who were accustomed to an American-style diet became heavier upon switching to a Japanese-style diet and an Atkins-like diet. 

A particular diet’s effectiveness truly depends on the person. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, there has been success in diets that focus on high-quality foods (i.e. minimally processed food) as well as low-carbohydrate, high-protein and high-fat diets.

One popular dieting pattern that has made its way into ’Stoga is intermittent fasting, in which adherers skip certain meals. The rationale is that brief periods of fasting will decrease overall calorie consumption. However, it is not all about the calories. A prominent risk is nutritional deficiency. According to the Cleveland Clinic, people who fast intermittently can have low levels of calcium, vitamin B12 and iron, which are important for growth.

If someone’s goal is weight loss and they are able to maintain their nutritional health, intermittent fasting may be a viable option for them. But even if a particular diet works for someone else, it will not 100% work for you. Feeling pressured to eating a certain way can contribute to the development of eating disorders, per Mayo Clinic.

There is no one-size-fits-all diet. Instead, everyone should eat healthy proportions of each food group. The National Institutes of Health makes it simple: half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables; eat whole grains and protein-rich foods; consume dairy, but limit saturated and trans fats as well as added sugars. Add on portion-control, 60-minutes of exercise per day and no skipped meals and that is all high school students need. 

We all already have enough stress in our lives with homework, tests and extracurriculars. Over-worrying about what we eat is superfluous, something we can’t afford to have on our plate. So go ahead and eat that meal of McNuggets and fries once in a while.  Buy that milkshake you have been craving. Treat yourself. You deserve it.