Here’s a picture of the cookbook shelf in my kitchen. You may notice that it suffers from multiple personality disorder. At any given time, I could be on the South Beach Diet, paleo, Whole30, vegan, vegetarian, whatever Gwyneth Paltrow is, then make gumbo with Emeril. I am nothing if not adaptable.
With the diets, I think it’s the lure of the fresh start. Clean out the fridge, buy shiny new healthy things and have someone else give you all the rules so you don’t have to make decisions. What’s not to like? Unfortunately, fresh starts wear off after a few days and then you’re stuck with withdrawals from whichever of your favorite things you’re not allowed to have and you start questioning your life decisions.
My husband and I started doing the South Beach Diet years ago. This involves two weeks of a strict low-carb plan followed by a more moderate period where you can have whole grains. My husband would drop 900 pounds the first week, partly because he is a better person than I am and never cheats, and partly because he is a man and life is not fair. Meanwhile, I’d struggle through the entire two weeks of Phase 1 and lose 4 pounds.
I still have all the South Beach cookbooks because the dinner recipes are tasty and simple and can easily be adapted to other clean eating plans. I don’t do the diet anymore because Phase 1 includes some high-sodium items and dairy, both of which I find it best to avoid. Okay, I find it best to avoid dairy but mostly don’t do that.
Let’s just get the vegetarian thing out of the way. I just can’t. I even failed at Meatless Mondays, though there are two recipes that we did really enjoy when we were trying that: portobello mushroom pizzas (also great for low-carbing) and these Spiralized Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas from when I got the Inspiralizer.
The Whole30 is a miraculous, life-changing eating plan in which you lose a million pounds, cure all your health problems and get glowing skin and shiny hair, and all you have to do is give up basically everything you like for an entire month. Just kidding. You can have coffee. Black. The food is actually really good; there are plenty of cookbooks (I like “The Whole30 Fast and Easy”) and recipes online, and if you’re already eating clean you’ll find it’s not a drastic change; you just have to avoid sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes and dairy. I know. It is kind of a lot. But by eliminating foods that cause inflammation and other issues, you can learn which things really affect you so you can avoid them. I’ve done a Whole30 and a Whole … um, like 19. Sometimes I’ll do a Whole week. That’s not approved by the Whole30 people, but the world is a little safer for us all if I can have some chardonnay.
Paleo is basically Whole30 but with more wiggle room. (“Paleo for Beginners” is a great book to start with if you’re interested.) For example, one day I got an email from a Paleo website with links to recipes. I clicked on one and among the ingredients were Greek yogurt and feta cheese and I was all “whaaa?” and went straight over to Google to see what magical hocus pocus would make these items not dairy. I landed on a discussion board where I learned there is a thing called “primal” where some dairy is allowed. And then a whole bunch of people are just not following the rules.
I may be one of those people, or maybe I’m more of a cherry picker of diets. All of the cookbooks have good, healthy recipes in them, so as long as you’re cooking with clean, whole-food ingredients as much as possible, it’s all good. As for gumbo with Emeril, well that’s just fun.