A warning on new year’s diets

2014 is here, and some of you have probably made the New Year’s resolution to get healthier and more fit. Any effort to improve your way of life is always looked upon favorably, but you should be especially vigilant when planning out what diet you want to follow.

It’s super easy to get caught up in the hype surrounding a new trend, but keep a watchful eye for nutritionally sound, doctor-approved diets. Pick something you can do for the long term; something you can maintain.

If you need help getting started, the Center for Student Health and Counseling has a nutritionist you can talk to for free. They will talk to you about your current eating habits and offer advice for improvement.

There are so many diets out there, and most are very unhealthy. Many of them focus on cutting calories down to an unhealthy amount. This is commonly referred to as crash dieting.

Crash dieting is impossible to maintain for a long period of time and can be dangerous to your health. It generally results in gaining any weight lost—and then some—once you resume consuming a normal amount of calories. As a rule of thumb, you should not eat fewer than 1500 to 1800 calories a day. Without a proper amount of calories, you will see a decrease in cognitive abilities and overall energy.

If you must follow a diet, the paleo diet is a nutritionally sound diet that has become quite popular in the last year or so. It is a high-fat, high-protein diet that focuses on cutting out grains and dairy, while getting all your calories from meat and vegetables. It can be hard to maintain, as the standard American diet contains a lot of grains in the form of fillers.

Going paleo can be as strict or as lenient as you want to make it. There is room to “cheat” if you absolutely must have a slice of pie. It’s a good diet on which to base long-term eating habits on.

Outside of a specific diet, eating healthfully is actually easier than it seems. It requires a few minor alterations, but it is totally doable if you’re committed. Start making small changes, and you’ll soon find that you can easily maintain it.

As previously noted, don’t be afraid of calories. If you’re eating a balanced diet and not overdoing it in any one area, you won’t eat too much. Additionally, fat isn’t to be feared. Your brain needs fat to function, and as long as you’re eating healthy fats like nuts, seeds and oil your body will be happy.

In terms of diet breakdown, you generally want to strive for the 40/40/20 breakdown of calories: 40 percent from lean protein, 40 percent from complex carbohydrates, and 20 percent from fat. The quality of calories is just as important as quantity, so eat whole foods whenever you can; processed food is packed with sodium and unhealthy fillers.

It’s worth noting that there is room in any diet for eating sweets and junk food; moderation is key in this regard. Enjoy yourself.

It may seem daunting to overhaul your diet, but if you want to see yourself getting healthy this year, this is where it starts. Find foods that you enjoy, and learn to cook healthy meals; it’ll become easier and easier as time goes on. Good luck!