In January, we’re inundated with ‘New Year, New You’ messages, with many focusing on weight loss and body transformation.
Each year, a new set of diet books are released, with a new set of rules and regulations. But which can you trust?
Nutritional information can be confusing with various diet gurus promoting a different approach and it can be difficult to make sense of the advice.
Expert dietitians from the British Dietetic Association (BDA) have weighed in on some of the biggest new releases of 2017.
“Whether you are looking to lose weight, improve your appearance or increase your energy levels, you need to know if advice is based on scientific evidence or whether you are more likely to just lose £££s rather than pounds,” a spokesperson for the BDA explained.
The Louise Parker Method – Lean for Life: The Cookbook, by Louise Parker
The book focuses on a healthy lifestyle and moving away from ‘dieting’ and ‘fads’, which is very positive. It myth busts some of the ‘clean eating’ trends of 2016 such as coconut oil and gluten and dairy free diets. It has some good tips to support you in a healthy lifestyle and contains some fairly quick, simple recipes that could be useful for healthy meals after work.
As this is mainly a cookbook, there is minimal information about what constitutes a healthy balanced diet. For example, the author mentions including ‘low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates’ and ‘good fats’ in your diet, but doesn’t expand on what these are or why they may be beneficial. As part of the dietary advice it advises watching your portion sizes but doesn’t describe what appropriate portion sizes look like.
The recipes are mainly based on protein and vegetables, and lack a portion of slow releasing carbohydrates such as wholegrain pasta or rice. If you skimp on these slow release carbohydrates, you may not have enough energy to do the exercise that Louise advises in the book and may end up snacking on foods high in fat and sugar instead. Louise does say that this method is not encouraging people to cut carbohydrates out but does say ‘keep carbohydrates on the lower side’. This goes against Public Health England’s recommendations that starchy carbohydrates should make up just over a third of the food we eat, which is also vital in increasing fibre intake, which is essential for good health.
The cookbook may be useful for those who already have a sound knowledge of a healthy diet, however it may be quite confusing for others. The idea of long-term lifestyle change is very positive, however more wholegrain carbohydrates need to be included in the main meal, for slow releasing energy.
In a statement Louise Parker told The Huffington Post UK: “My method, programmes and books are checked, approved and practiced by BDA and HCPC registered dietitians. We only employ registered dietitians in our clinics to ensure we provide the very latest evidence-based dietetic advice. My first book covers the nutritional background and full method of Lean for Life in detail. This is a follow up cookbook and focuses on additional recipes for readers to enjoy.’”
Clean Eating Alice – Eat Well Everyday, byAlice Liveing
Clean Eating Alice – Eat Well Everyday is the latest recipe book from blogger, author and personal trainer Alice Liveing. It follows her first book, The Body Bible. Eating Well Every Day relies heavily on the hope that the reader will know Alice’s story however the book gives a brief discussion about Alice’s approach to diet with no mention of the troublesome term ‘clean eating’.
Her approach seems sensible with recommendations to make small, long-term and sustainable changes with a focus on enjoyable movement, positive mind-set and a balanced eating plan – no quick fixes here.
On the whole the book keeps to a balanced nutrition guideline with no omissions in food groups. The recipes include a broad range of realistic meals and smoothies which seem to be relatively simple, well balanced nutritionally and, for the most part, are made up of everyday and affordable ingredients. Serving sizes are generally for one or two, which is positive.
The book contains a short section on nutrition but this provides only very basic information and contains some inaccuracies (for example, Alice states that an apple is a “simple carbohydrate” when in fact apples do contain useful fibre that slows down the absorption of the simple carbohydrates).
There is also no “tie in” between the nutrition information section and the recipes so you are left wondering why the recipes provided are anything special when it comes to nutritional quality.
This book is a collection of nice recipes to accompany the initial Body Bible and definitely one for her existing fans. The recipes are clearly written by someone who enjoys food and has a well-rounded approach to healthy eating. However, some of the areas of nutritional advice could do with being updated. Additionally, it’s a shame Alice uses the term ’clean eating’ as it can be interpreted by some to mean the exclusion of some important food groups that can result in deficiencies.
HuffPost UK reached out to Alice Liveing, who declined to comment.
How to lose weight well, by Dr Xand Van Tulleken (with recipes by Georgina Davies)
This 200 page book supports the TV programme of the same name, but focuses on what we should be eating. It includes 70 recipes, which take up about three quarters of the book. Dr Xand uses his personal experience of losing six stone alongside his medical training to present a generally sensible dietary plan for weight loss.
The first part presents his “four steps to losing weight well”, all containing sound advice, helping individuals to focus on their personal issues to lose weight successfully. For example, he asks you to consider “why am I trying to lose weight?” and “what are the main barriers to my success?”
The book is based on calorie counting, avoiding processed food completely and eating food based on one ingredient. There is a focus on eating lots of vegetables and salads. He advises avoiding all nutritional pills, diet pills and to avoid blending or juicing food. He also advocates using a calorie tracker to monitor food intake and activity.
As the recipes are mainly based on vegetables and protein, whilst this diet is not promoted as a low-carb diet, essentially it is, which can leave you hungry and missing out on vital nutrients such as fibre – really important for the health of your gut.
Although he encourages individual choice, there are three meal plans, based on eating either one, two or three meals a day. You will most likely lose weight on any of the plans if you follow them – the three-meal plan provides around 1300kcals per day, while the one-meal a day only provides about 750kcals per day – so expect to be hungry, especially keeping in mind that the average male and female needs 2500 and 2000 calories daily respectively, to maintain weight.
A mix and match approach to the meal plans is most likely. On one-meal a day, the diet is also low in several nutrients, but especially lacking in calcium, so we would advise adding some milk or yogurt into the plan if you are going to follow this in the longer term.
Overall this book provides reasonably sensible diet advice, although the plan is too low in some vital nutrients such as calcium and fibre to follow long term. If you are a young professional who enjoys food, it may be a good book to give a go, and you might just get some new ideas to jazz up your veg.
In a statement, Dr Xand Van Tulleken told HuffPost UK that many of the issues taken by the BDA were “untrue”.
He said: “There are delicious high carbs recipes in here for pancakes, roast squash, bean mash, quinoa, chickpea ratatouille and even potato chips, spaghetti carbonara and chocolate pots. While I found reducing my carb intake helpful, I make it clear in the book that I do not believe in a low-carb approach for everyone and I don’t think ketosis is necessary. There is no evidence that low-carb diets make you hungry. What makes you hungry is losing weight because of reduced energy intake.
“The one-meal-a-day plan is as nutritionally-balanced as the other meals so as not to lack in vital nutrients. I put emphasis on consuming vast quantities of calcium righ veg, i.e. broccoli, with many of the recipes containing calcium rich dairy products. Since the diet allows people to choose their meals, it would in theory be possible for people to design themselves a low-calcium diet but a balance of these recipes will give adults a decent amount of all necessary nutrients whilst achieving their aim of losing weight.”
He added: “Generally speaking the ‘BDA’s view’ appears to be the same as mine. However, the claims that the plan is too low in some vital nutrients, such as calcium and fibre, is not true. You don’t have to be a young professional to enjoy this book, if you are anyone who is overweight it is a good book to try. To say there are new ideas to jazz up your vegetables is contradictory: the emphasis on vegetables is an emphasis on fibre.”
Tom’s Daily Plan, by Tom Daley
Tom’s Daily Plan is filled with pictures of Tom looking marvellously fit and healthy, hopefully encouraging the readers to make some changes in their health behaviour.
The book uses many of the fashionable and questionable food and lifestyle trends including spiralising, hacks, protein boosts, and coconut oil but thankfully none of these are over-emphasised. Ingredients are recognisable and most would be found in the nearest corner shop, and Tom nearly completely avoids the addition of difficult to find, expensive, and on-trend “superfoods”. Most of the meals are high in fibre and many include the addition of seeds, legumes and vegetables. The inclusion of daily exercise workouts is a welcome addition to this recipe book too.
Tom’s plan also follows the broad messages of our national healthy eating guidelines which is helpful for people at home struggling with so many conflicting nutrition messages in the media.
There is a slight over-focus on protein consumption in this book and some of the recipes could be improved by increasing the fruit and vegetable content.
This book contains a good mix of vegetarian, fish and meat meals, with high fibre content and most are very easy to prepare and suitable for the whole family. However it would be good to see the inclusion of more fruit and vegetables and less of a focus on protein.
HuffPost UK reached out to Tom Daley and are awaiting a response.
Tom Kerridge’s Dopamine Diet; my low-carb, stay-happy way to lose weight, by Tom Kerridge
When Chef Tom Kerridge hit 40, he felt that the combination of being older and weighing more did not bode well (especially when combined with fresh fatherhood). However in the last three years he has managed to loose three stone in weight (about 20 kilograms), which is a great achievement especially while still working in kitchens as a chef.
This book is a colourful presentation of beautiful recipes. Kerridge describes his decision to eliminate all alcohol from his diet before adding that he cut out nearly all carbohydrates, and describes his current intakes as below 90g per day. Swapping a “small steak and chips to big steak and greens” is his diet formula, and cutting out all alcohol and starchy and sweet foods is a very effective way to reduce intakes of energy (calories).
This is one of many books describing low carbohydrate dieting, but his specific claim that protein foods bring joy (because they contain tyrosine, which convert to dopamine in the brain, which make you happy) is a massive over-promise based on very theoretical concepts. There are no human studies showing that more proteins in the diet translate to more dopamine levels in brain tissue, which lead to better diet adherence. In fact alternative claims based on stronger science supports the opposite: more carbohydrate increases tryptophan levels in brain tissue, which increase serotonin, which may make you content, so cutting out carbohydrates is not necessarily beneficial.
There are many ways to eat less, and Tom Kerridges’s way works for him. It may also work for others, and his many recipes could be an inspiration to start eating less and eating better. However dopamine levels in the brain are not the explanation and cutting out carbohydrates may make meeting fibre recommendations difficult.
HuffPost UK reached out to Tom Kerridge and are awaiting a response.
In summary the BDA spokesperson said: “The reality is that if something sounds too good to be true, than it probably is and there is no quick fix approach to weight loss and a healthier you, though many products and diet and cookery books are marketed this way.
“Be particularly wary of diets that ask you to unnecessarily eliminate foods that provide key nutrients – remember, unless you have a medically diagnosed intolerance or allergy to foods like dairy, gluten and wholegrains, there is no need to eliminate them and doing so could lead to deficiencies in your diet.
“Think about a sustainable eating pattern that you can maintain for life – something you can realistically stick to in the long-term, not just for a month or two. This means having a balanced-diet containing a wide variety of foods in appropriate portion sizes.”