Holistic Nutritionist and Personal Trainer Weigh in on Popular Diet Trends


As we approach the end of the year many of us are thinking about fitness and wellness resolutions for 2016. While it may be easy to decide what changes we want to see and feel in our bodies, it can be overwhelming to figure out how to go about achieving those goals. Everywhere we turn there are experts explaining why their approach is best, but the truth is that no single diet program has the absolute final answer.

If you’ve grown tired of starting over, then it’s time to focus on creating lifestyle change. That requires us to go beyond quick fixes and temporary diet programs and focus on making exercising and eating well a part of our lifestyle. So, how can we sift through current diet trends and get to the meat-and-potatoes (pun intended) of balanced, clean eating that will move us towards lifelong fitness in the upcoming year?

I reached out to Sharisse Dalby, a Certified Holistic Nutritionist specializing in family nutrition as well as digestive and emotional health and we put our heads together to bring you the good, the bad, and the takeaway for eight popular diet trends in hopes to empower and encourage not only individuals, but families to implement long-term lifestyle changes.

Holistic Nutritionist and Personal Trainer Weigh in on Popular Diet Trends

Atkins –

What the Trainer Says…

The Good: Because it is a low carb diet consumption of simple carbohydrates is reduced and focus is shifted to consuming more whole foods. Lower carb diets can be great for leaning out, but usually aren’t maintainable for the long run.

The Bad: Carbs are our body’s most efficient source for energy. Not getting enough may lead to decreased metabolism or feeling sluggish which deters us from getting active. When energy deprived, the body will trigger cravings for a quick fix usually in the form of simple carbs and sugars, which perpetuates cycles of binge eating. Atkins is not family friendly, which presents a challenge for parents having to cook once for themselves and once for their kids.

The Takeaway: Focus on swapping simple carbs and processed grains for whole grains and complex carbs so that your body is well fueled.

What the Holistic Nutritionist Says…

The Good: Lower carbohydrate diets have been shown to improve heart health as long as it also includes healthy sources of fats and proteins.

The Bad: The limited variety of fruits and vegetables can make it difficult to consume enough variety of vitamins and minerals. Their line of bars, shakes, and frozen meals contain many preservatives and artificial ingredients that I would not recommend.

The Takeaway: Lower your carbohydrates at least three days a week and include more healthy sources of fats, proteins, and produce as a regular part of your diet. Avoid the Atkins line of bars, shakes, and meal replacements.

Plant Based Diets –

What the Holistic Nutritionist Says…

The Good: Plant based diets can lower and even reverse high blood pressure because they are high in potassium and fiber, and can be low in sodium.

The Bad: Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that is only found in animal protein and lacking in a plant-based diet. It is needed for proper functioning of your nerves, blood cells, brain, and more.

The Takeaway: Increase your daily intake of fruits and vegetables by including at least one serving with each meal or snack. It is imperative to include either a vitamin B12 supplement or a high quality animal protein, also.

What the Trainer Says…

The Good: Research shows that vegans and vegetarians have a decreased risk of heart disease and maintain healthier body weight.

The Bad: Few vegetarian foods offer complete protein where all essential amino acids are present, so there’s a need to pay attention to complete protein pairings (i.e., beans & rice) in order to preserve muscle mass during weight loss and as we get older.

The Takeaway: Integrate more meatless meals with complete protein combinations and allow vegetables to have the spotlight in your plates.

Weight Watchers –

What the Trainer Says…

The Good: Weight Watchers is a great starting point for becoming aware of nutritional value in foods we eat since nutritionally dense whole foods, fruits, and veggies “cost” less in their point system than processed, nutritionally deficient foods. Participants can eat most foods on this program and won’t have to prepare separate meals for their family.

The Bad: While the program encourages healthier eating habits, it does not require that you spend your points on nutrient dense foods. Until you get a good understanding of the program, there’s the possibility of spending daily points without getting the nutritional value you need.

The Takeaway: Keep in mind that all calories are not created equal. For example, consuming a 300 calorie balanced meal for lunch will do more for your body than a 300 calorie Frappuccino.

What the Holistic Nutritionist Says…

The Good: Accountability and goal setting are key components for beginning a healthy diet and can help to create long term habits that will actually stick.

The Bad: Counting calories is a slippery slope and with a high priority on keeping track of points, it can become an unrealistic lifestyle to manage.

The Takeaway: Set goals and find an accountability partner to keep you on course and only count calories for the first one to two months to help you start on the right track.

Raw Food Diet –

What the Holistic Nutritionist Says…

The Good: A raw food diet can be great for weight loss, lower your risk for heart and cardiovascular disease, and can lower your overall cholesterol.

The Bad: The main source of energy comes from nuts, which are high in fat and should only be consumed in limited amounts. Also, raw foods can be hard on your digestive tract because many people struggle with digestive issues.

The Takeaway: Consume raw foods once a day, in moderation, along with a balanced diet of cooked foods.

What the Trainer Says…

The Good: Consuming a raw food diet virtually eliminates consumption of processed foods, which decreases exposure to toxins and reduces the amount of stress that processed foods put on the body. Some foods also maintain a higher nutrient content when eaten raw.

The Bad: Without careful execution, a raw food diet can lead to several nutritional deficiencies.

The Takeaway: Include a variety of raw fruits, vegetables, and nuts or seeds in your diet. Raw foods make great snacks.

Mediterranean Diet –

What the Holistic Nutritionist Says…

The Good: The Mediterranean diet has been linked to lower inflammation due to its ability to lower platelets and white blood cells, which in turn lowers the risk for heart attacks and stroke.

The Bad: Due to its high fat content, there is a possibility of weight gain if you are not aware of how much you are consuming. It is also important to consume high quality fats to receive the heart healthy benefits.

The Takeaway: Consume high quality fats daily, while reducing dairy, red meats, and sweets to once or twice a week.

Paleo –

What the Trainer Says…

The Good: Paleo eating seeks to reestablish some of the best practices of hunter gatherer societies. Many wellness experts view adopting the paleo way of eating, in addition to paleo exercise and movements as the antidote to America’s obesity epidemic. This way of eating also requires consumption of high quality, organic, whole foods only.

The Bad: Because all grains, legumes, and refined sugars are completely removed it’s very easy to become energy and nutritionally deficient without careful planning and execution.

The Takeaway: Reap the physical and mental health benefits of reducing exposure to pesticides, genetically modified foods, processed or refined foods, and toxins. Consuming organic, whole, minimally processed, high quality foods while transitioning from a standard American diet can be life changing.

What the Holistic Nutritionist Says…

The Good: High protein will help with muscle repair and growth if you are active and the red meat will encourage healthy iron levels.

The Bad: Any diet that limits certain fruits and vegetables makes it easier to become nutrient deficient. This will require adding in a supplement or sickness and chronic disease will result.

The Takeaway: Increase your protein on active recovery days, but keep healthy sources of carbohydrates in your diet to give you energy on workout days. Include a variety of fruits and vegetables each day.

Gluten-Free –

What the Holistic Nutritionist Says…

The Good: Many people are gluten sensitive these days and don’t even know it. If you are even slightly sensitive to gluten, consuming it can quite quickly cause intestinal permeability, aka “leaky gut.” Removing it from your diet can increase your digestive health as well as aid in weight loss.

The Bad: Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for your body and many people get overwhelmed by going gluten-free so they avoid carbohydrates instead of just removing gluten.

The Takeaway: Limiting gluten for 30-90 days and then re-introducing it can help you determine if you are gluten-sensitive and if you should remove it permanently. Otherwise, limiting gluten to 3 times a week could prevent it from becoming an allergen and can aid in weight loss.

What the Trainer Says…

The Good: Eliminating gluten can improve digestion and decrease stomach bloating or discomfort for many. For the most part, gluten-free foods contain higher quality, complex carbs such as brown rice, quinoa, or amaranth, which is an added bonus. Gluten-free eating can be beneficial for both adults and children.

The Takeaway: If the midsection is a troubled area despite consistent clean eating and exercise, then adopting a gluten-free diet may help, but keep in mind that gluten-free does not mean low or no carbohydrates; there’s simply a shift in the kind of carbohydrates you are consuming.

Western or Standard American Diet –

What the Holistic Nutritionist Says…

The Good: There are very few benefits to the current American diet; however the wide variety of available fruits and vegetables is worth noting.

The Bad: With our overly busy schedules, we tend to reach for the quick and simple: processed foods, pre-packaged foods, and fast foods which are slowly killing us through obesity, malnutrition, and disease.

The Takeaway: Prepare a container of healthy, easy grab and go snacks to keep in your fridge or pantry to allow convenience while taking advantage of our healthy options – and skip the drive-thru.

What the Trainer Says…

The Good: The Standard American Diet (SAD) has fueled a nationwide obesity and health epidemic like we’ve never seen before, so there’s a need to reevaluate and build a healthier foundation for ourselves and our families. The good thing is that those who care about the health and well-being of the people are working non-stop to change American food standards.

The Bad: Increased risk of disease of the mind and body due to consumption of pesticides, toxins, genetically modified ingredients, refined sugars, and simple carbohydrates. The SAD diet’s focal point is centered on instant gratification and taste rather than wellness and nutrition.

The Takeaway: Knowledge is power. Gather information about food quality and begin to eliminate eating habits that do not serve your health, family, or goals one at a time. Also, begin to vote with your dollar and demand that our health is no longer sacrificed for the sake of convenience and profit.

Connect with Holistic Nutritionist Sharisse Dalby

Connect with Personal Trainer Bri Jackson

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Bri Jackson
Bri Jackson is a New York based certified trainer, yoga instructor, and wellness blogger. She is passionate about bringing simple clean eating, fitness, and inspiration to others. Connect with Bri on Instagram @Brittgotfit_ and her personal blog www.brittgotfit.com.