Beware Fad Diets

I read a piece by a fellow gluten-free blogger that worried me. Due to what was described as months of overindulgence, he decided to spend some time following the AIP diet. Also known as the Autoimmune Protocol diet, this is a highly restrictive diet designed to address problems related to chronic inflammation, a serious problem for people with autoimmune diseases, including celiac.

I want to focus on two of the words in that first paragraph: highly restrictive. Essentially, the diet has you eating animal protein and some vegetables. The goal of the diet is to remove all foods that are perceived to be gut irritants…or, you know, pretty much everything except animal protein and certain vegetables. The AIP diet is also seen by some as a stricter version of the Paleo diet.

This means no grains, no legumes, no dairy, no nuts and seeds, no eggs, no foods from the nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, etc), no oils except olive and avocado, no processed foods, no alcohol, no drugs from the NSAID family, no sugars, starches, yeasts, fruits.

This is a (very) tough nutritional regimen to follow (not to mention boring), and it’s one of those diets you shouldn’t undertake without a long and serious discussion with your doctor. You may be sacrificing beneficial foods to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist…or you may be solving the wrong problem altogether. Based on what I read, this was a carefully considered decision by this gentleman, but I worried that his followers would take it as a recommendation.

This is not a diet you follow to recover from a bit of overindulgence. This is a diet you follow to address serious, chronic, and medically established health issues. This is why the blog post in question worried me. Too many people are looking to fad diets to save them from perceived problems; I mean, we all know people are “gluten free” because they think it’s somehow healthier to eliminate gluten…without taking the *types* of foods being consumed into consideration.

Or, if you’re just substituting highly processed foods with highly processed gluten-free foods, the gluten-free diet won’t do you much good. If you’re trying to lose weight or get healthy, this requires an overall change in your diet.

At those times when I’m feeling bloated — which is very different from chronic inflammation — I certainly cut back to a more Paleo-style diet. I rely on lean proteins, vegetables, and fruits, with small portions of grains. I am runner, after all, and I need carbohydrates. I simply obtain them by consuming foods considered slow carbs versus fast carbs, except on my carbo loading days.

I write a lot about healthy diets and nutrition because I believe it’s a huge part of our overall gluten-free lifestyle. So many of us have spent large portions of our lives not feeling good, great, or even human, and we know how important a healthy diet is for us. Fad diets come and go, and, yeah, if you follow the AIP diet (or Whole 30 or whatever) for very short periods of time, you won’t harm yourself.

But you don’t get a full complement of nutrients from animal protein and certain vegetables alone. Without balanced nutrients, you could be causing other problems in your body. And we’ve all been there before, right?

Tip of the Week

A balanced diet includes lean proteins, lots of fruits, vegetables, and fiber, whole grains, and even fats. Balance is the key. You don’t need to do detox diets or engage in a restrictive diet to be healthy.

Gluten-Free Meal of the Week

I have a sick fascination with articles entitled “I’m a [Insert Healthy Lifestyle Profession Here] and Here’s What I Eat in a Day”. Mostly because I wonder how in the world these people manage to eat such time-consuming meals while holding down full-time jobs. It must be the house elves.

When *I* feel like I need to dial it back, mostly because I’ve been overindulging in carbs or wine (some weeks are just like that, you know?), I like to prepare a meal that is basic, simple, and delicious. I don’t like foods or regimens that feel like punishments. And, frankly, most of the meals we eat at home are pretty simple.

This week’s meal is exactly that. It has a Mediterranean feel, and cooks up quickly. I love using pesto over chicken — it adds a bunch of flavor without a lot of work. Toss the carrots with a bit of olive oil and the spices before roasting.

  • Grilled Chicken Thighs with Pesto Sauce
  • Roasted Carrots with Cumin and Coriander
  • Mixed Green Salad with Olives and Roasted Peppers
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