If you’re toying with the idea of trying a new diet, read this first. We broke down the basics and discuss the pros and cons of the diets you’ve been hearing about lately so you can choose the one best for you. We’ve got the keto diet, the paleo diet, Whole30, intermittent fasting, and clean eating covered, plus more, so all your questions about each will finally be answered.

By Andrea Beck

If you want something you can stick to, choosing a new diet isn’t a decision you should make lightly. Our guide to the latest diet plans will break each one down for you, including the pros and cons, so you can find one that will fit your lifestyle (or at least help you figure out what the deal is with all the different diets you’ve been hearing about). If you’re interested in trying one of the diets below, we’ve also got a few different healthy recipes you can try, especially when it comes to Paleo recipes and keto recipes.

1. The Paleo Diet

Sometimes called the caveman diet, the principle is simple: Eat the way our hunter-gatherer ancestors did, which means avoiding highly processed foods. In practice, Paleo can be a little trickier because there are many different versions. Some Paleo followers embrace bacon; others exclude it. Some versions don’t allow any added salt; others do. And some variations allow treats made with nongrain flours, like almond and coconut flour; others say no to sweets. You can choose which variations you want to make, but the basic Paleo guidelines are below.

What You Should (and Shouldn't) Eat:

Fill your diet with plenty of protein (particularly grass-fed meat, seafood, and eggs), lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and nuts. Stay away from dairy, grains, beans, white potatoes, most vegetable oils, and processed foods.

The Pros:

Because this diet is high in protein and fat, you might feel more satisfied and have more energy eating Paleo meals. The Paleo diet is also a popular choice because eliminating processed sugars and reducing refined carbs can go a long way toward helping you lose weight. Paleo is often said to help reduce inflammation too, especially for people who have sensitivities to lactose and gluten.

The Cons:

The Paleo diet emphasizes protein, so it can be high in saturated fat, which can increase your risk of heart disease over time. Plus, the Paleo diet cuts out all grains, so you’re losing the benefits of healthy whole grains, which are good sources of fiber and B vitamins. (U.S. Dietary Guidelines say about half of your total calories should come from carbohydrates.) Additionally, because Paleo cuts out dairy, you’ll have to be extra careful about getting enough calcium from other nondairy sources.

Get the recipe: Delicata Squash Salad with Pork Medallions

2. The Keto Diet

The theory behind the keto diet is that when you stop eating carbs, which your body breaks down for energy, you’ll go into a state of ketosis when your body is forced to burn fat instead of carbs for energy. Guidelines for the keto diet vary, but in general, 75 percent of your calories should come from fat, 15 to 25 percent should come from protein, and only 5 percent should be carbs. Originally, this diet was created to help children with seizure disorders, but the combo of high fat, moderate protein, and low carbs has also been found to help people lose weight.

What You Should (and Shouldn't) Eat:

On a keto diet, fill your plate with meat, fatty fish, eggs, nuts, and high-fat dairy products. You’ll end up skipping grains, sugar, beans, juice, and many fruits and veggies. Low-carb veggies and fruits like broccoli and avocados are part of the plan, but you’ll have to cut many starchier veggies like potatoes and corn.

The Pros:

Some studies have shown that a keto diet might be better for weight loss than a low-fat diet. And the healthy fats from all the fish and nuts in this plan will be a positive addition to your diet. Some people also feel less hungry following this diet because high-fat foods can be more satisfying. The low-carb aspect will also help lower insulin levels.

The Cons:

A lot of people experience the “keto flu” when they first start this diet. You might experience nausea, fatigue, and headaches for one to two weeks until your body adjusts to using fat as its primary energy source. You’ll also have to devote a lot of time to meal prepping and cooking. Eating the same foods can feel monotonous after a while. Heart disease is also a risk because keto is so high in fat, particularly animal fats. A lot of fruits and veggies aren’t keto-friendly, so you’ll probably have to take supplements to make up for the nutrients you’re missing out on. And once off the diet, a lot of people gain back weight. Admittedly, this is common among most diets. Additionally, people using insulin or diabetes medications should talk to a doctor or registered dietitian before starting keto to avoid low blood sugar.

Get the recipe: Chicken and Asparagus Skillet Supper

3. Whole30

Whole30 is meant to be a short-term diet that acts as a “nutrition reset.” It lasts 30 days and involves cutting out foods like grains and dairy. The creators of Whole30 argue that your diet is causing inflammation and damage to your gut, and that by cleaning up your eating for 30 days, you’ll have more energy and feel better overall.

What You Should (and Shouldn't) Eat:

On Whole30, the goal is to eat plenty of fresh veggies and fruits, high-quality fresh meat, fish, and seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, some oils (like olive and coconut), and ghee (clarified butter). You cut out grains, most legumes, dairy, sugar, and processed foods. After the 30 days are over, you slowly reintroduce these foods while paying attention to how they make you feel.

The Pros:

One obvious pro is that you’re cutting out processed and packaged foods and sugar for the month. At only 30 days, it's easier for some people to stick to. It’ll helps you develop good habits like reading labels, making healthy food choices, and cutting back on junk food. Many people also feel more energized after cutting out processed and refined ingredients. It can also help you identify any previously unknown food intolerances as you reintroduce foods to your diet after the month is over.

The Cons:

One of the claims is that it “cures” certain conditions, but this isn’t backed up by science. If you have an unknown gluten intolerance, you might feel better doing Whole30, but you’ll have the same intolerance when you start reintroducing gluten to your diet. Whole30 can help you identify the intolerance, but it won’t cure it. Also there’s no detailed plan for after the 30 days so some people might revert back to old habits and have trouble consistently eating healthy once the diet is over.

Get the recipe: Shrimp Salad with Lime Dressing

4. Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is really more of an eating pattern than an actual diet. Rather than focusing on what you’re eating, intermittent fasting is about when you’re eating. There are a variety of plans, but they all include fasting or otherwise drastically reducing the number of calories you consume during certain periods of time. One popular approach, the 5:2 calls for eating 500 to 600 calories on two nonconsecutive days of the week, then eating normally the other five days. The two fasting days might change your hormone and insulin levels, which can lead to weight loss. Another popular plan is to eat only during a set eight-hour window each day, like 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

What You Should (and Shouldn't) Eat:

Though this diet is more focused on when you eat than what you eat, stick with healthy food choices in reasonable portions and avoid eating anything in excess.

The Pros:

Sometimes, it can be easier to watch what you eat for a couple set days a week than keeping track all the time. Fasting doesn’t cut out any foods or food groups, so you’ll be able to get all the nutrients you need into your diet without having to make any swaps, and you don’t have to worry about getting “flavor fatigue” by only eating certain foods. You can also choose a fasting plan that works for your schedule.

The Cons:

You’re not focusing on the foods you’re eating, so it’s possible to overeat or binge during the times when you’re not fasting. And if you’re not already making healthy choices, your diet might not improve. Plus, overeating junk food can increase your risk of heart disease and some types of cancer and will limit the progress you make by fasting. If you choose to fast on set days, you might feel tired or have trouble concentrating on those days.

Get the recipe: Pesto-Prosciutto Flatbread

5. Clean Eating

This diet plan focuses on eating real foods and whole ingredients. Rather than ordering takeout, it encourages cooking and eating meals at home so you know exactly what you’re eating. One way to think of it is as eating for nourishment and considering how you eat impacts the environment.

What You Should (and Shouldn't) Eat:

Focus on eating lots of fresh produce and whole grains and avoid eating processed foods and any foods with additives that you can’t pronounce.

The Pros:

There’s no strict calorie counting on this diet plan, so you won’t feel deprived. It also doesn’t cut out or restrict entire food groups, which can make it easier to follow.

The Cons:

More work will go into each of your meals because you’ll be washing, peeling, slicing, and chopping fresh whole foods. You’ll also have to carefully review the ingredient list of any food products you buy, and eating out or eating on the go can be trickier because this plan encourages making everything at home.

Get the recipe: Grilled Veggie Pasta Salad

6. Plant-Based Diet

This diet focuses on eating fresh fruits and veggies, making it perfect for anyone who wants to reduce how much meat they’re eating (hello, meatless Mondays!) without going completely vegetarian. And if you are interested in becoming a vegetarian (or a vegan), a plant-based diet can be a great option for easing in.

What You Should (and Shouldn't) Eat:

Fill your plate with fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Although you don’t have to cut them out completely, you should avoid large amounts of meat, dairy, eggs, and refined foods, like white flour, sugar, and oil.

The Pros:

This diet doesn’t cut out any food groups; it encourages minimizing some, which makes it easier to eat a varied diet. This plan also closely follows the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

The Cons:

You’ll have to plan to ensure you get enough calcium. And though limiting oil can help you cut back on calories, a lot of oils also have healthy monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, which are helpful in combating heart disease.

Get the recipe: Grilled Okra Tacos

7. The Blood Type Diet

The theory behind this diet is that your blood type affects how your body reacts to certain foods and is linked to your ancestry. Therefore, a healthy diet for you consists of foods that are found in your ancestors’ native land. According to the theory behind this diet, eating those foods will help you better digest what you eat, lose weight, reduce inflammation, and give you more energy.

What You Should (and Shouldn't) Eat:

The foods you should (or shouldn’t) eat depend on your blood type, so you might have to do some research to see what this diet theory recommends for you. For example, if you’re type B, according to this diet you should avoid chicken, corn, wheat, tomatoes, and lentils. If you’re type O, cut out corn, catfish, olives, and orange juice.

The Pros:

This diet recommends that all blood types avoid processed foods, which will help you cut back on junk food.

The Cons:

There’s no science to back this diet up. It’s true that some people have intolerances to certain foods, but there’s no research that proves food intolerances are linked to your blood type in any way.

Get the recipe: Roasted Salmon with Broccoli and Tomatoes

8. The Alkaline Diet

The theory behind this diet is that certain foods can cause your body to produce too much acid, throwing off your pH level and resulting in problems like inflammation. The idea is that avoiding certain foods will prevent this and promote weight loss.

What You Should (and Shouldn't) Eat:

There are different versions of what you should or shouldn’t eat when following an alkaline diet. Some plans call for cutting out meat, eggs, dairy, and most grains; others keep cold-water seafood and eggs as part of the diet plan. In general though, you’ll be filling up on fruits, veggies, legumes, and some nuts and seeds.

The Pros:

This is pretty close to a plant-based diet, which includes lots of healthy fruits and veggies and cutting down on saturated fat.

The Cons:

The theory behind this diet isn’t very strong. Your body is constantly balancing the pH of your blood anyway, so you can’t drastically affect it by changing what you eat. Eating a lot of meat might lower your pH, but it’ll only lower it a fraction.

Get the recipe: Mexican Fruit Cups with Honey-Lime Syrup

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