What gets a diet on the “Best Diets Overall, 2020” List?

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By Isobel Matsukas, Editor-in-Chief

The holiday season is in full swing and New Year’s Resolutions are not far away. If you’ve opened a health, fitness, or wellness magazine recently, you’ve probably either seen “diet” in all caps with a gold star or “diet” with a big red x through it. Flip the page and you’ll see a beautiful assortment of Hanukkah and Christmas foods, beautifully arranged on a dining room table. Turn the page again, and pictured will be a “get slim quick!” workout regime to “work off” the page before. And THEN there will be an article about why diet culture is ruining society. Normally I respect someone who is able to appreciate or acknowledge both sides of an argument but that’s in regards to participating in HIIT and yoga workouts, not dieting and then anti-dieting. Yes, diets can be extremely beneficial to people that need them, whether it’s to maintain a healthy weight or to regulate diabetes. But that’s what doctors and dieticians are for. Not the front cover of a magazine that goes out to thousands of people. 

 

US News and World Reports recently published their “Best Diets Overall, 2020” which drew my attention because I thought, “what makes a diet the ‘best’ or the ‘worst’?” Our college counselors tell us to stay away from US News and World Reports because going to college isn’t a competition as to how high up on the list you can be admitted, there are multiple good schools for each person depending on what they’re looking for. However, this diet listing includes a hyperlink to side articles explaining the rationale behind the ranking, and includes additional articles explaining each diet. It also includes a sidebar next to each diet listing, giving it an “overall” score, a “weight loss” score, and a “healthy” score. The problem arises when readers don’t know how to read between the lines and conduct research, or when readers aren’t sure of their nutritional needs. Height and weight are not the sole factors of physical health. 

 

However, this US News and World Reports article is something I can support, because they consulted a panel of experts, mostly nutrition researchers and doctors, to dissect each diet. The experts chose seven categories for consideration: ease of following, ability to produce short-term weight loss, ability to produce long-term weight loss, nutritional completeness, safety, managing/preventing diabetes, managing/preventing heart disease. They also provide a plethora of information regarding each diet, and their process. 

 

Naturally, the Mediterranean diet is #1 on their list and the DASH diet is #2. I’ve actually written articles about both of these diets! (link to my article on Mediterranean diet, link to my article on DASH diet) My favorite part of the Mediterranean diet, other than the delicious feta and kalamata olives (shoutout to my Greek class!), is it’s relatively unrestrictive. That is what makes a diet effective. When diets start entering the mind, humans naturally want what they can’t have and it can create a binging mindset. As for the DASH Diet, it was created with hypertension patients in mind. Therefore, it has a lowered amount of sodium. And that’s about it! I believe the DASH Diet is #2, also for its flexibility. Now, US News and World Reports also creates best diet lists for specific results which might be better resources if you’re looking for a diet to help with something specific.

I wrote this article about a year and a half ago, it’s called “A ‘happihealthy’ Way of Eating,” and a few things have changed since then but the key component has remained the same. First of all, I hate the word “diet.” It screams restrictions and rules. I like “food freedom” and “intuitive eating” which this article explains really well. It means not letting negative thoughts and guilt about food enter your mind and eating to fuel your body in a nourishing way. Therefore, my happihealthy way of eating practices moderation and mindfulness. Therefore, enjoy the holidays, eat and exercise in a way that benefits your body and soul, and most importantly, have the cookie. Happi holidays!