Diet Fads by Decade

In case you haven’t heard, dieting is like, so out.

So what’s the latest fad? For once, let’s hope that what’s currently ‘in’ is not just a fad, because the trend seems to be towards healthy eating.

That’s right. Weight loss-obsessed Americans have decided that they’d rather be healthy than skinny. They’ve had enough of quick-fix diet plans and weight loss programs. Instead they are opting for the life-time benefits of eating healthy and leading a healthy lifestyle.

Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD breaks it down for WebMD.

Market research firm NPD recently reported that based on a survey of 5,000 people, they found that "the number of Americans on weight loss diets was at its lowest rate in decades. "In 1990, 39 percent of women and 29 percent of women were on a weight-loss diet. Fast forward to February 2008, those numbers are down to 26 percent of women, and 26 percent of men.

However, in a 2008 survey conducted by the American Dietetic Association involving 800 adults, they found that 79 percent said they aren’t trying to improve on their eating habits anymore because they’re already satisfied with their diets. On the other hand, 73 percent claimed that they’re not changing their diets because they don’t want to give up their favorite foods.

Fortunately, experts say they don’t have to/

Jeannie Gazzaniga Moloo, PhD, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association says "All foods can fit into a healthy diet, as long as you exercise and practice moderation." (Source: WebMD)

Healthy eating vs. dieting

What caused the shift towards healthy eating? Experts say it could be that people have learned from their previous mistakes.

Many dieters have been drawn by diet plans, diet books and weight loss programs again and again, only to re-gain the weight they’ve lost and more, once they get off they program. Plus, although there are a number of low-cal, low-fat, non-fat or sugar-free products, out there, obesity statistics are as high as ever.

Michael Dansinger, MD, a physician for the NBC reality show The Biggest Loser says, "The truth is that if your weight loss plan is not sustainable for the long term, it’s not worth following."

Still it could be that people are still waiting for the next diet of the moment, so says experts – the next Atkins Diet or South Beach Diet.

It may also be that since 2 out of 3 Americans are overweight, it is fast becoming the new "normal." A 2007 study by The New England Journal of Medicine found that people "tend to follow suit when their friends and family members become overweight." The same is true when they lose weight.

Not more. Better.

You may have noticed a shift in trend towards "better foods." We have seen the emergence of the "slow food" movement (an interest in organic foods) and in eating foods grown close to home ("locavore").

"If you shop at farmers markets, you are going to be buying natural food, not junk food," says Moore.

K. Dunn Gifford, president of the Oldways Preservation Trust, adds that "high-quality food is just more satisfying."

"We need to reduce our tendency toward over abundance and realize less food can be more satisfying when you choose foods with intense flavors and taste," says Gifford.

Experts say that it may be much easier to think about what you can eat instead of what you can’t.

A 2007 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted that obese women who focused on eating more fruits and vegetables while avoiding high-fat foods lost 20 percent more weigh than women just avoided high-fat foods.

What should be part of your meals? Experts suggest opting for more fruits and veggies, and whole, unprocessed foods as these contain more nutrients and are naturally lower in fat, sugar and salt.

Eating lean or low-fat proteins at every meal is likely to fill you up and lower your tendency to overeat, says Nancy Rodriguez, PhD, RD, a nutrition researcher at the University of Connecticut. Similarly, high-fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits and veggies, are low in calories and will help you feel full longer. "When you fill up on nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, low-fat dairy, and other lean protein, there is less room for empty-calorie foods," says Rodriguez.

As for great tasting but less nutritious foods, American Dietetic Association president Martin Yadrick, MA, RD says "It’s OK to enjoy a small serving of those foods once in a while."

Slowing down

Our fast-paced lifestyle gave us processed and packaged foods, which experts says, has an effect on our weight and health.  This is why experts are all for home-cooked meals, saying how we eat is just as important as what we eat.

Ellie Krieger, RD, host of the Food Network’s Healthy Appetite and author of The Food You Crave says, "When you prepare it, you have total control over what is in the food, you can make it exactly how you like it, and better for you than in restaurants, where you have no idea what is in the food."

Finally, experts recommend really enjoying your food. When you take your time to eat, you savor the flavors and thus enjoy your food more. You also give your brain time to catch up and realize that you are comfortably full. If you sit down and taste the food, you are more likely to be satisfied with less," says Rodriguez.