For many nutrition experts, one word sums up the best diet plan for 2018 — plants.
Nutrition professionals expect to see a surge in plant-based diets in 2018 thanks to increased awareness about the health and societal consequences of consuming animal-based proteins.
Experts cite “What the Health” as one catalyst in prompting more people to adopt a plant-based diet. The Netflix documentary, released in March 2017, explores how meat, fish, poultry and dairy products are connected to diseases. Fans of the film characterize it as a call to embrace veganism, while critics complain the documentary goes overboard with its misguided warnings.
Amid both praise and condemnation for “What the Health,” nutrition professionals say the documentary has awakened more people to the power of a plant-based diet plan.
“Several people who know that I am a plant-based nutrition coach have approached me after watching ‘What the Health,’ asking several questions and finally being ready to take the step into trying a vegan diet,” says Harry Sherwood, co-founder of Consciously, whose programs promote plant-based nutrition. “This also happened after ‘Cowspiracy’ came out a few years back; it talks about the environmental impacts of the animal agriculture industry. ‘Food Choices,’ a documentary pushing for a plant-based lifestyle, is another on the list raising awareness of our current paradigm of food.”
Registered dietitian nutritionist Jeanette Kimszal agrees. She says documentaries like “What the Health” might scare more people into eating plant-based proteins such as beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.
Lisa Davis, chief nutrition officer at Terra’s Kitchen, a meal delivery service, also is on the “What the Health” train. She, too, expects the plant-based movement inspired by the documentary to grow in 2018.
“Diets rich in plant products, like the Mediterranean-style diet, are very anti-inflammatory,” says Davis, a certified nutrition specialist. “With inflammation underlying a lot of the world’s health problems, this health trend can have a big impact.”
Sherwood stresses that documentaries such as “What the Health” are only part of the shift toward plant-based dieting.
“There is also a push for ethical eating happening around the globe. People are having their eyes opened to how much the world is affected by the animal agriculture industry,” he says.
While not mentioning “What the Health” as a factor, registered dietitian Nichole Dandrea believes plant-based eating will gain traction in 2018. She says this could take several forms, such as swearing off consumption of meat altogether, switching to a meatless-Monday diet or stepping up the commitment to eating more plant-based proteins and nutrients.
Although plant-based dieting will be on the minds of many in 2018, it’s not the only diet trend that experts foresee as we say goodbye to 2017. Here are four other trends.
Kimszal says the Paleo diet has been going strong for a while, and she thinks it’ll continue to be popular in 2018. “People have seen good results,” she says, “so they will be inclined to start this diet.”
Caleb Backe, a health and wellness specialist at Maple Holistics, a producer of natural and organic beauty products, lauds this diet for bumping up your protein intake while removing processed foods from the equation.
“On the other hand, cutting out entire food groups can throw your body out of whack and cause some deficiencies,” he says. “Paleo requires close monitoring, and not everyone can pull that off.”
Kimszal predicts the Whole30 diet will be big again in 2018, particularly among people who are seeking a nutritional “reset” as the calendar flips to a new year.
“The good thing is that it does help to eliminate processed foods and high sugar intake, she says. “The only downside is that it may not be sustainable for some people to maintain and they will fall back into bad habits.”
This 30-day diet eliminates real and artificial sugar, alcohol, grains, most legumes, dairy, carrageenan, MSG, sulfites, baked goods and junk food. At the same time, it emphasizes moderate portions of meat, seafood and eggs; lots of vegetables; some fruit; plenty of natural fats; and herbs, seasonings and spices.
After the 30-day period ends, “you will find the chances of simply reverting back to your older eating habits have lessened to a small or large degree. It depends on you,” Backe says.
Backe says the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet is picking up devotees around the world. This diet — a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH eating plans — is aimed primarily at older people who are trying to enhance their brain power and reduce the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s and other similar conditions, he says.
“It takes time to adjust to a new diet, and this is probably one where a gradual process just won’t cut it. Better to go all-in,” he says.
According to Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, the MIND diet pinpoints these brain-healthy food groups: green leafy vegetables and other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine. Meanwhile, it restricts consumption of red meats, butter, margarine, cheese, pastries, sweets, fried foods and fast food.
Simply put, intermittent fasting involves eating all your food for the day within a certain window of time, according to registered dietitian nutritionist Melissa Groves. Usually, this means fasting for 14 to 16 hours and consuming the rest of your meals during the remaining hours.
“Intermittent fasting increases the amount of time the body stays in the fasted state, which most people only achieve overnight while they sleep, allowing us to access and burn that stored energy,” Groves says.
Groves cautions that long-term studies haven’t examined the effects of intermittent fasting. Furthermore, intermittent fasting can be dangerous for people with type 1 diabetes and other conditions. Plus, she adds, it’s possible to consume the same number of calories — or more — during the eating window compared with how much you’d consume throughout the day.