It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That’s right, it’s time for an end of year wrap-up for best and worst trends of 2013, and I’ve got the diet category covered for the good, the bad and the just plain crazy. 

Best 

Paleo. Cavemen didn’t eat potato chips, so why should we? Paleo eaters channel their inner hunter-gatherers and fill up their plates with meat, fish, eggs, tree nuts, ancient grains, vegetables and fruit. Loading up on these powerhouse foods and nixing anything processed can help with weight loss, lower risk of heart disease, reduce acne, improve energy and promote optimum health. The downside? Dairy, legumes and sometimes potatoes aren’t a part of the paleo hunt. So while it’s great to kick processed foods and added sugars to the curb, our ancestors missed out on some healthy foods like beans and Greek yogurt that can definitely help make up a whole food nutritious diet. I say go paleo if you're a meat eater, and add a twist of legume with a sprinkle of yogurt on top!

Vegan. All meat and animal products are no-nos for vegans. I’m talking everything from steak, to eggs, to yogurt and milk to even honey! A vegan diet is environmentally friendly, and many people choose it for ethical reasons. It’s also free of cholesterol and many saturated fats, helping to make vegans less likely to develop heart disease. The high amounts of veggies and fruit that vegans consume also make them less likely to develop cancer and diabetes. Sounds like good stuff right? Well, it is as long as you pay extra attention to detail and be a “responsible vegan.” A vegan diet takes prep and planning (but so does any healthy diet!). Because animal foods are eliminated, vegans need to make sure they’re getting enough protein from beans, rice, nuts and seeds, legumes and grains and that they’re meeting their requirements for nutrients like iron, calcium and vitamins B12 and D, which can be harder to come by in plant-based foods. In other words, no living on pretzels and pasta just because they're “vegan.” 

Green Juices. Clean, lean and green -- the juicing trend certainly has its perks and is a tasty way to slurp down some vitamins. Raw green veggies like broccoli, kale and collards have a mild, refreshing flavor when juiced up with other ingredients, and just one glass of juice can pack in multiple servings of veggies. Incorporate juices into your diet (think green juices and a handful of almonds for snack), but don’t make them your entire diet. Also, make sure to go with freshly prepared juice with just a small amount of sugar from apple or another fruit -- or none at all, which is the way I like to go! Most packaged juices are mostly fruit versus veggies with a little fruit, so read carefully. 

Worst

Tongue-Patch Diet. This one was a little hard to swallow. All the rage in Venezuela, this trend involves sewing a patch onto your tongue -- yup, that’s right -- which causes pain whenever you eat. Patch users follow a strict 800-calories-per-day liquid diet and keep the patch on for an entire month. Um, pain whenever you eat? Only 800 calories a day? Oh, I forgot to mention that if you don’t have the patch removed after a month, it starts to merge with your tongue -- yikes! I can’t say enough bad things about this diet! It sets you back a whopping $2,000, causes swelling and discomfort, can lead to infections, makes it hard to sleep and doesn’t let you eat enough calories. You might drop 20 pounds in a month, but as with most fad diets, it has been reported that tongue-patch dieters gain all the weight back anyway. And did I mention that it hurts when you eat?

HCG. Starvation by pregnancy hormones? Yup, this fad diet from the '70s came back this year, but just like polyester pants, it should have stayed in the past. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone elevated in pregnant women and in theory is supposed to suppress hunger and trigger your body’s use of fat for fuel. On the hCG diet you give yourself daily injections of the hormone and restrict your calories to just 500 per day. This might sound crazy, and frankly it is. The hormone hasn’t been approved for over-the-counter use, and borderline starvation can have serious consequences -- including sudden heart failure. 

Baby Food. That’s right, there are people out there slurping up mushy bananas and mashed-up peas in an effort to slim down and shape up. Don’t get me wrong: Small portions are a good thing, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with eating fruits and veggies. But eating baby food just isn’t the way to do it. A tiny jar of pear puree might be seem like a feast for a baby, but it's not meant to play the position of dinner for an adult. A meal this small will leave you hungry and prone to cravings and high-calorie food urges later. No adult can eat this way for long, so any weight-loss progress will likely not have lasting benefits. Haven’t we all grown up?


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