The Flexible Diet: Doing the Math on a New-trition Trend

Relationships, travel planning, gymnastics: all areas where being flexible is important. But what about being flexible in your diet? A nutrition trend called ‘flexible dieting’ recently hit the scene. The hook: you can eat whatever you want… as long as it meets and doesn't exceed your total daily limit for carbohydrates, fats, and protein. With any diet approach, there are going to be pros and cons. Let’s take a look at the flexible dieting trend and see how it stacks up.


quinoa-meal-macronutrientMacros: The "big" idea

Instead of traditional calorie counting, flexible dieters count ‘macros (their daily totals for grams of carbohydrates, protein, and fat). The calculations for their daily macronutrient limits are based on the flexible dieter’s height, weight, physical activity level, and weight loss goals. By sticking to their daily macro limits, flexible dieters are automatically keeping their calories in check. Why? Because carbohydrates, protein, and fats are the only food components that have calories. The only other inflexible recommendation for flexible dieters is a daily goal for grams of fiber. Fiber helps the dieter feel full and provides a host of digestive benefits.

The benefits of the macro approach are clear. By giving specific attention to macronutrients, flexible dieters are more likely to meet their specific needs for carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Flexible dieters personalize their macros, so that they have a balanced combination of fats, protein, and carbohydrates to match their lifestyle and other specific needs. Also, flexible dieters shun food rules and trends with little or no scientific basis (woo!). Their no-deprivation approach is appealing to many of us, and it’s sustainable for folks who want to ‘splurge sensibly’ with the occasional higher calorie food.


green-micronutrients-healthyMicros: A "little" problem

Flexible dieting doesn’t provide any guidance on micronutrients (AKA vitamins and minerals). This gap is the biggest drawback of the flexible diet. Though macros provide calories and perform vital functions, micros are also essential to maintaining good health. Fruits, vegetables, and other micronutrient-packed foods need to make it on your plate to maximize your health.


Adding it all up

As far as trendy diets go, the flexible diet has a lot of promise. It’s personalized, sustainable, and based in time-tested principles of weight management. There is a lot to praise about this new fad. But consulting with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) is still the best bet for individuals who are living with chronic disease or struggling to manage their weight. RDNs are credentialed nutrition experts. They’re trained to make sure that your diet is meeting all of your individual needs and helping you to reach your weight loss goals. And remember, when developing a nutrition plan, sometimes the little things (micros) matter just as much as the big (macros).


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