December 10, 2020

Food Forecast: Diet Trends for 2021

Show Notes

On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Shanthi Appelö, registered dietitian for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Together, they discuss their predictions of what diet trends we’ll see in 2021.

In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:

  • Factors that will influence diet trends in 2021.
  • Different spins on previous diets.
  • Questions we should ask ourselves when considering a diet.
  • How to spot fad diets that aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Transcript

Chuck Gaidica:
This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast, Episode 69. Coming up, we discuss what diet trends we anticipate seeing in 2021.

Chuck Gaidica:
Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. This is a podcast dedicated to navigating how we can improve our health and well-being through small healthy habits we can start implementing now, and in this case, carry us right into the new year. I’m your host, Chuck Gaidica. Every other week, we sit down with a certified health expert from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and we dive into topics that cover nutrition, fitness and a whole lot more.

Chuck Gaidica:
On this episode, we’re sharing our forecast of what diet trends we expect to see in 2021. We hear a lot about them now, but are they really something that will stick and stay with us? With me today is registered dietician for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Shanthi Appelö. Good to talk to you again.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah. Happy to be back.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, we should mention Shanthi comes to us… Was a long travel via Sweden to Nashville, got her degrees at University of Tennessee in public health nutrition, a master of science, and then she makes her way through her own kitchen now, having fun and experimenting with food. She’s an expert in clinical nutrition, public health and teaching in the university setting. And she loves the outdoors, so we’re getting into… Well, we’re in that time of the year whether warm or cold, we need to get outside anyway. I guess that’s just good for health in general, right?

Shanthi Appelö:
Absolutely. I stocked up on new coats here in Michigan, so I’m ready.

Chuck Gaidica:
Did you? Yeah. Yeah. Well, I have to admit to you right up front. I’ve been on two diets my entire life because I don’t get enough food with one. You know what I mean? And it’s just… It is so daunting for all of us to try to figure out what is going on when it comes to diets, so I want to dig into this and talk about the diets that you see, that you think are going to stay with us, ones that work, and then let’s reflect back of where we’ve been and where we’re going, because I’ve heard it referred to as the COVID… Not 19, but the COVID 15, you know?

Shanthi Appelö:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Chuck Gaidica:
That everybody, on average, has gained about 15 pounds during the pandemic. Is that true from research you’re seeing?

Shanthi Appelö:
Well, I think at this point, the research is mostly anecdotal.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah.

Shanthi Appelö:
But there have definitely been reports of that weight gain that we’re seeing because when we’re thinking about the pandemic, maybe we’ve been delaying some doctor’s appointments that sometimes reminds us to get our health on check, right?

Chuck Gaidica:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Shanthi Appelö:
Maybe we’re working from home and we don’t have access to gyms, and maybe just having that increased face time with your pantry. You’re boredom eating, snacking all day, right? There’s so many factors that play into why we might see some weight gain during all of this.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, and then I did hear just this past week again… It’s not the first time I’ve heard the statistics that wine sales are through the roof. So, while that may be an anesthetizer, it is something that you have to think about because I guess whether it’s fruit juice for kids or wine for adults, you drink too many vacuous calories in something and you can pack on a few pounds, huh?

Shanthi Appelö:
Absolutely. And when we think about liquid calories, too, they add up so much and they don’t give us that same fullness. If we’re having a pumpkin spice latte, it might be 400 calories. Even though a slice of pizza is also 400 calories, it makes us a little more full. So, choosing your splurges, right?

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. Well, I’ve heard also during this time and still at this time, the idea of boosting our immune system and I have to admit, I do take supplements and I’ve been adding zinc to my diet, chelated zinc every day just as an immune booster, and it could be a placebo for me. Actually, I don’t care. If it makes me feel like I’m doing something good, I’m okay because I don’t think it’s going to hurt me. But talk about foods that, honest to goodness, could help boost our immune system, especially as we head into some of the Michigan cloudy weather here for the next season.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah. You know, Chuck, I have been looking at my crystal ball and I do think what you’re saying is going to be one of the biggest diet trends for 2021, just diets that support immune-boosting foods. So, you’re right in that zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, iron and protein, they all play integral roles in boosting our immune system or making our immune system function as it should.

Chuck Gaidica:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Shanthi Appelö:
But something to think about here is that we don’t have to necessarily mega-dose any of those. So, we just kind of can reflect on our own diets and see whether we’re getting enough. For some of these, you can check that status with your health care provider if that’s something that’s recommended, but for vitamin C, for example, that’s probably the most popular one out there. It gets mentioned… If you do a Google search… There was actually this really interesting study where they looked at Google searches versus the evidence for certain nutrients. So, vitamin C was the top one on there, but it actually only was 1% of the scientific evidence compared to other ways to boost immunity, like vaccination.

Shanthi Appelö:
So, thinking about that, there are plenty of ways that we can get these nutrients in our diet without mega-dosing. I think supplements are fine and they do work for a lot of people who may not get enough nutrients in their diet, but for vitamin C, for example, the only way that we actually see it preventing colds and flus are in long-distance runners or people who are really high-level athletes.

Chuck Gaidica:
That’s interesting, so… And I’m seeing this, that what you’re talking about, whether it’s called immune booster or vitamin C, there are chewables, there are gummies, they’re tablet, they’re a pill you can swallow. So, they’re in all kinds of forms and my local drugstore just did a reboot. They moved everything around and tried to make it look more like an Apple store, I guess. And they’ve got end aisles and entire product aisles now with nothing but sleep aid vitamins and supplements, immune-boosting… It’s not just the whole aisle of you’ve got to go by alphabet to figure out what you’re looking for. It must be a huge business selling this stuff.

Shanthi Appelö:
Absolutely. And we see a higher growth in these supplement sales every year and they continue to grow and… But really, what research shows is that they can be helpful in supporting if you have a deficiency or don’t get enough, and in certain groups it’s definitely helpful. But what we really care about, right, Chuck, is what is going to make us live longer and healthier. And actually, the research doesn’t show that supplements make us live longer, except for in these groups, right?

Chuck Gaidica:
So, what is it that I want to eat on a daily basis? For instance, I’ve heard that broccoli is considered a super-food. Is that true? Is that an overstatement for something that not everybody likes? I like it, but not everybody does.

Shanthi Appelö:
I think all vegetables bring something to the table.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah.

Shanthi Appelö:
But broccoli in particular is loaded with fiber, which is a really important nutrient found in so many fruits and vegetables. It does have some vitamin C. It has vitamin K. And so, it’s loaded with a lot of nutrients and what’s cool about fruits and vegetables… If we load up on so many of those, it provides us with these other types of nutrients, like antioxidants and flavonoids, and what they can do is actually help prevent some harmful chemicals — they’re called free radicals — from doing damage in our body by kind of blocking their effect. So, there are so many benefits to eating real foods. I’m not against supplements, but I definitely thinks that we should focus on those foods first. So, as we enter into 2021, just thinking about focusing on what foods you’re putting into your body more so than on the supplement end.

Chuck Gaidica:
We used to hear pick fruits and vegetables with a lot of deep color. Blueberries, red apples, broccoli is deep green. Is that still a pretty easy way for us to remember what to grab? Look for the color?

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah. So, it’s interesting because colors are actually associated with different nutrients. So, if you’re thinking red and orange colors, that oftentimes means vitamin A, and if you’re thinking about dark green, you’re thinking vitamin K. So, the more colors we get, the more nutrients you’re going to get, too.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. So, it’s pretty easy to extrapolate that out, right? Dark green is also spinach. I mean, it was good for Popeye, so I guess it’s okay for us, you know? And then… Like you’re talking, apples, oranges, I mean just stuff that seems like a no-brainer.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah, and what’s cool, too, is that so many different vegetables actually have… One serving has more than enough sometimes than you need of certain nutrients. So, vitamin C, easy to get in strawberries, easy to get even in broccoli, so things add up. So, basically the key takeaway here is focus on food first, but you can definitely benefit from some supplementation as well. You know, Chuck, one thing that I think is also interesting with COVID-19 is the way that meal prep kits and delivery is going to work into our lives in 2021. I think that a lot of companies are looking at how do we satisfy the consumer that is at home most of the time and they’re not behaving like they usually are in terms of their food trends. People are trying new things at home, maybe are more open to new cooking techniques and things like that. So, I think we’re definitely going to see more diets or types of companies doing more meal prep kits and deliveries.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well you know, that’s funny because I guess sometimes I hear seniors kind of revolt at this idea of meals on wheels, something that shows up at the door. And I see this change. I guess it’s a lifestyle change because we shouldn’t call these things diets. But the lifestyle change, obviously it’s getting delivered to the door. You don’t have to go out and get it and expose yourself to anything. If you have a particular problem, right, like diabetes or you need to be low sodium, you can dial down some of these ingredients on a dashboard somehow and the food shows up made just for you.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah. Sounds pretty good in my book.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. Well, I mean, I know it’s got to have a cost associated with it, so I guess if you get into it and that’s your thing… If you’re sticking with it, isn’t that part of a 2021 idea that if you start something, don’t just start it January 1st and give up by the 9th, you know? Stick with something to see if you get some results from it.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah, absolutely, and it’s all about what’s going to work for you, and I think you made a good point with that. For some people, these meal deliveries or meal prep kits might fit into their lifestyle and it’s something that they’re able to keep up and that’s really the key as we dive into more diet trends here, is that when we choose something, we want to make sure that it can last in the long term, right? The reason people try so many different diets all the time is that they don’t work, right? Otherwise, why would you try a new one?

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. And I think it is contextual, don’t you think? Because I know people who have done the low-carb thing and it works like a charm.

Shanthi Appelö:
Oh yeah.

Chuck Gaidica:
And then there are other people who have done something slightly different or just a very balanced Mediterranean diet. Works like a charm. I mean, everybody’s body is not the same. We’re not all wired the same.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah, absolutely. And I think something to think about there, though, is just to be careful with some of those bold claims that we’re faced with, with different diets.

Chuck Gaidica:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah.

Shanthi Appelö:
Because there’s nothing wrong necessarily with low-carb diets, but there’s different levels of extreme with it. There are some where you might have a rather low carbohydrate amount, but you’re still able to eat all the foods without restricting a food group, right? So, there are plenty of low-carb diets out there that still allow you to eat fruits and vegetables and include some grains or beans. But there are some that actually are so restrictive to where you can’t fit fruit into that lifestyle. So, I’m just thinking about that, that there are, like you said, so many different things that work for different people, but just being mindful of what is going to be good for your body.

Chuck Gaidica:
So, I want to talk about plants for a minute. Not just the vegetables we buy, but we’re seeing a push… Part of it is, I guess for climate concern. Part of it is just for concern of animals. Part of it is that it’s sustainable for us to grow plants. We’re seeing fast food outlets come up with their version of a burger. We know about that stuff that’s out there now.

Shanthi Appelö:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Chuck Gaidica:
What is your view on what’s happening there with plant alternatives and eating more plant-based product?

Shanthi Appelö:
Well, the United Nations last year put out a document basically calling on people all across the world to move towards more sustainable diet trends.

Chuck Gaidica:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Shanthi Appelö:
So, meaning more plant-based proteins rather than animal-based proteins. That doesn’t mean that we have to cut it all out of our lives, but basically they just called us to make decisions to help our planet, right? So, I think that really drove a lot of people towards wanting to move towards a more plant-based lifestyle, because we have seen the benefits and we also have seen the effect it has on the planet. So, for example, it’s like 21 to 37% of all of the total greenhouse gas emissions are actually from our food system. That can be things like just transporting it, packaging it and having our crop and livestock, things happening on a farm. So, it can also be food waste. So, 21 to 37% of all greenhouse gas emissions are due to food.

Chuck Gaidica:
So, you say something interesting, though, which is it’s not a all or nothing proposition. Again, there is this idea of balance. I would have to admit that I’m… How can I put the way I eat? I probably lean veggie. I’m not a vegetarian. I’m not a vegan. But I… I’m still having wild salmon in a pouch for lunch. They’re great. They’re easy. I’m still having some meat. But I probably lean toward black beans and hummus and other stuff to bring me some protein and fiber. But I’m not a vegetarian. So for me, that tends to work. But I am kind of leaning in on this veggie idea and frankly, I feel great. I feel good about it.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah. I mean, it makes you feel good, right?

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah.

Shanthi Appelö:
And when we’re doing something good for our bodies and also for the planet, it makes us feel good. But I think, to your point there, it’s important to realize that just because there is this call to eat more plant-based doesn’t mean that we have to change our whole lifestyle to become a vegetarian or vegan overnight, or even that we have to to begin with. There are definitely different types of meats that have a lesser impact on the environment more so than livestock. So, chicken and fish are better options in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, and they do provide a lot of great health benefits as well. What a lot of people like to do is… When we’re thinking about moving towards more of a plant-based lifestyle, and I think this is something we’re going to continue to see grow more as we head into 2021, is that you can kind of try meatless Mondays for a start. You can try to make breakfast without meat.

Chuck Gaidica:
Oh yeah.

Shanthi Appelö:
And just small little steps to get there, right?

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. No. That’s a good idea to kind of dip your toe in the shallow end. We all don’t have to jump in. Because again, I don’t want to sound like I’m haranguing anybody, but I’ll just speak for me. If I’ve got a New Year’s resolution… I mean, when you set yourself up for that and right after the holidays, you say, “This is it. I’m going to do it and I’m jumping in the deep end,” you’ve already set yourself up for a little failure because how many of us can really live up to the standard we just set for ourselves? It’s really tough.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yes. Yes. Goal setting is extremely important when we think about wanting to make health goals for ourselves because we have to think about whether there is something we can actually do. If we set ourselves up for success like you said… If we put these high pressures on ourselves to succeed to completely changing to a vegan lifestyle or something like that, it can end up with disappointment if we don’t make those goals and it can be… Set you back even further in your lifestyle changes. So, that’s a really good point.

Chuck Gaidica:
Where do you see influencers, celebrity or otherwise, working their way into this narrative of… Well, it could be any diet or any lifestyle change, but especially the vegetarian kind of idea? Is this something you think is good because they’re bringing attention to it? Or do we have to be careful or mindful of who they are?

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah. So, with celebrities, they have a big influence, especially now that we have the rise of Instagram and other types of social media where influencers… They make it almost look like something is an unpaid advertisement sometimes that you’re watching, right?

Chuck Gaidica:
Right.

Shanthi Appelö:
You do have to be careful, and what I will say is just to look at someone’s credentials. That’s going to be one of the biggest things there. For example, a registered dietician completes a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. They have 1,200 hours of supervised practice in advanced settings and oftentimes they also have… It’s becoming required to also have a master’s degree. So, when we think about that, we just want to think about did this person get their certificate online? Is it like a one-hour course you can do and call yourself a certified something? Or is it someone with a strong background? And also, you want to see where they’re getting their information from. So, if there’s something from the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association or Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, those are all really reliable sources. So, we do want to think about where their information is coming from too. But there are definitely a lot of great influencers out there that provide you with good ideas and just kind of help motivate you.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, and there’s an authenticity to somebody, and I’ll just use Oprah as an example. I mean, here’s somebody who has spoken out loud about having weight struggles her whole life. Now, to be fair, if you dig down below the surface, while she’s representing a company she bought part of the company. You know?

Shanthi Appelö:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Chuck Gaidica:
So, she has a vested interest in promoting that particular approach.

Shanthi Appelö:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Chuck Gaidica:
But I think that there are some people who have no credentials that you just have to kind of navigate. Is this authentic to them or are they really just hoping you click on a link and buy the stuff that they’re pitching, you know? And that’s sometimes pretty hard to discern.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yes. I agree with you completely. That’s a really good point there.

Chuck Gaidica:
So, let’s talk about different diets or lifestyle changes we know about and what you see happening to them right now or what you see could be twisting them into something maybe slightly different or not for the new year. How about low carb diets? What are you seeing there? Is anything changing?

Shanthi Appelö:
You know, every single year there’s a different spin on a new low carb diet, and I think it might be helpful just to explain how they work a little bit and why they’re effective.

Chuck Gaidica:
Okay.

Shanthi Appelö:
The evidence really does suggest that they are effective and it really comes back to that what is sustainable, right? Because oftentimes, if a low carb diet is too extreme, it doesn’t work out in the long run. But basically what happens is that when you cut carbohydrates from your life, it’s our body’s main fuel, and we also have a storage form of carbohydrates called glycogen and that’s found in our liver and also in our muscles. And so, we kind of drain that storage form of glycogen, which is bound to a lot of water. And so, in the very beginning of a low carb diet, we actually shed a ton of water weight there because we’re losing our glycogen stores. And so, some people might lose 10 pounds in a week and they feel great because they’re less bloated.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah.

Shanthi Appelö:
And so, of course we’re cutting out some foods. We might also cut our serving sizes and also calories, and with that we might also see some weight loss. So, they work, absolutely. But it just depends on how extreme they are. And so, just being mindful of what actually would work. So, asking yourself, “Could I go out to eat with friends on this diet? Could I celebrate events with my family and still have a good time?” So, just thinking about things like that. Low carb diets… It’s interesting. So, for example, I talked about how our liver has storage form of glycogen. Now, before someone undergoes gastric bypass, oftentimes what happens is that they’ll go on a low carb diet for a month or so before in order for the liver to shrink in size so that it’s easier to go in and perform the surgery.

Chuck Gaidica:
Oh.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah. So, there’s a lot to it. I mean, there’s some truth to what’s going on in our body there.

Chuck Gaidica:
So, while you say that, though… And I tend to lean low carb. It’s… You can’t do it if you’re really going to eat an apple and peanut butter in the morning. They’re still carbs. But if I stayed on oatmeal and bananas, which sounds healthy, my entire life for breakfast, I’d have trouble. I get stuck. So, I know I personally have to lean a little bit toward lower carb, but then I’ve also met people who, honest to goodness… Shanthi, they’re saying, “I’m having six eggs for breakfast. I’m eating bacon. I’m having a steak for lunch. I’m eating processed meat products in between for snacks.” And they’re losing weight and you just scratch your head and you go, “Oh my gosh. Are you going to be able to do this for the rest of your life?” And when they stop, wow. I often see the weight not only comes back, but it kind of comes back as a tsunami. There’s more.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah. Oftentimes what happens is that when you’ve deprived yourself for so long and you’re seeing results…

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah.

Shanthi Appelö:
You take that first bite of a slice of pizza and you feel freedom.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah.

Shanthi Appelö:
Freedom is ringing. And then, that can often turn into a, like you said, tsunami of other habits. And you made another good point there about some low carb diets. We have to think about other diet qualities that surrounds them. So, if you’re eating six eggs for breakfast and a ton of bacon, yeah, you might lose weight, but how good is that really for our heart, to stuff ourselves with bacon and all that saturated fat?

Chuck Gaidica:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Shanthi Appelö:
So, just being mindful of all of those. Now, in that same vein, I think that we’re going to see more diets relating to our circadian rhythm. So, think intermittent fasting. There might be different types emerging. So, the typical is going to be you can eat for eight hours in a day and then you’re cut off. So, you might see some different time spans there and you might see some different ways that maybe people are able to eat what they want on the weekends but be more restricted during the days. But really catering to how our body’s natural rhythm works and our sleeping patterns and our daily activity and things like that.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well so, you are one of these people you were talking about a few minutes ago. You’re highly trained. You’ve got a lot of experience. And here comes this phrase, circadian rhythm, and in the old days, we would just hear something basic like don’t snack at night after you’re done with dinner, whatever that means for you, six or seven. Especially now, with crazy news from politics to the pandemic to whatever, I can see how people could be grabbing a bag of chips all the way through the 11:00 news. Bad stuff. Right? I mean, it’s just… You’re off your circadian rhythm. We just didn’t know it had a name.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah. Yeah. It is a cool name. Thank you for explaining that, actually, because it is kind of a big word there. But yeah. So, basically there is some research that suggests… I think definitely more research needs to be done to really iron down how this works and how we can work with it. But basically our bodies have a natural cycle of sleep at night, we’re active during the day. And it gets into this circadian rhythm and if we cater to that with our eating habits, our body kind of knows what’s going to hit it, if you will.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah.

Shanthi Appelö:
And so, researchers are really looking into this and seeing how we can benefit from that. But when it comes to restricting our eating to a certain number of hours during the day, we also restrict that nighttime snacking and maybe provides some more rigor for people who need more structure.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. And I think you hear intermittent fasting… I don’t want to go too deep on this, but I should just say me. When I heard it before, I used to think, “Wow. I don’t know if I want to fast.” And then if you do the math, if you just stop eating and snacking by 8:00 and you wake up the next morning and you don’t have breakfast til 8:00, that’s 12 hours of fasting.

Shanthi Appelö:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Chuck Gaidica:
It’s just… That’s the rhythm. I mean, that can become a natural thing and it’s not hard, for me anyway, to push myself toward that process.

Shanthi Appelö:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Chuck Gaidica:
So, that’s been an easy way for me to think about it without thinking, “Oh man. I got to go three days without food or something.” That seems kind of wacky.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah, absolutely.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah, and it really goes back to that… What you said earlier, leaning towards a more lower carb lifestyle works for you and so if that works for you, that’s something that really is beneficial because ultimately, as long as you’re eating healthy and you’re seeing the results you want, that’s really what we’re looking for, right? Something we can stick to.

Chuck Gaidica:
So, food sensitivity is a big one. I guess the biggest part of that is we hear about gluten-free. First it was the low fat thing, which is in everything from your salad dressings to… Go figure. Whatever. And now gluten-free is a thing. We happen to have a son who really does have the disease where he’s got to be gluten-free.

Shanthi Appelö:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Chuck Gaidica:
So, that’s an issue for us. Well, this year’s holidays are kind of a mess. But usually when we gather, we just make everything gluten-free. But talk about sensitivity, because it’s not just gluten some people may have a problem with that doesn’t help them when they’re trying to lose a few pounds, right?

Shanthi Appelö:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah. So, this idea about food sensitivity is really attractive to people because it’s like, “Okay, if I can just figure out what it is, then I can cut it out and feel better.” So, understandable, right? So, there are a lot of food sensitivity tests out there that basically test your blood and sees what kind of foods you’re more sensitive to. But it sounds like magic, right? You’re like, “Ooh, I need that.” But sometimes those are a little skewed because when we have a lot of something in our diet… For example, I’m just going to say lettuce. Now, if you’re having that often, the markers for that might be more turned up.

Chuck Gaidica:
Oh.

Shanthi Appelö:
And so, with that, it might show up that you’re sensitive to lettuce, where you might not actually be, because it just happens to be that you had a lot of that lately. So, they’re not perfect tests and so the best way to really determine whether you’re sensitive or not is probably not going to be one of those. It’s probably going to be something where you’re keeping a food diary and figuring out how you feel after certain foods. But they cater to so many people because they’re like, “Well, if you do this, we can create this quick fix for you where you’re going to feel better.” And ultimately, we all want to feel good.

Chuck Gaidica:
But you know, you are giving us… I don’t know if I would call it a quick fix or a hack, but you are giving us an idea for food sensitivity if we’re not inclined to go to our doctor and say, “I need a blood panel drawn on X, X and X.” Or he tells, or she tells us that. Then maybe the way to do this is to subtract something out of our diets and keep track that I started feeling better when I removed lettuce. Well, maybe that was it, or maybe it was the chemicals used to spray on lettuce or goodness knows what it is that’s affecting your body.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah, absolutely. There are definitely a lot of fun things to try.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah.

Shanthi Appelö:
And you’re your body’s best detective, right? So… But I will say just mental notes doesn’t really do it. Keeping a food diary is definitely going to be key there.

Chuck Gaidica:
And you can do that. To be honest, I’ve got… I’ll tell you which one it is right now. I’ve got my phone right here. I’ve got the Lose It! app on my phone.

Shanthi Appelö:
Oh.

Chuck Gaidica:
So, I track my food every day. And you know what that does for me, to be honest? It gives me a diary. It does show me what I’m eating and it gives me all the inputs of the food. But it also… It sends me little messages. Like, I’ll wake up and it’ll say, “You know, I notice when you eat apples, you actually do better in weight loss.” And I’m like, “What? How did you know? What?” And it starts to… It starts to become intuitive that I’m doing something good. And I’m not sure that eating apples makes me lose weight, right? But it is seeing a healthy trend and I kind of find it funny that I’ve got a pal now in my smartphone that’s coaching me.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica:
You know. It’s kind of fun.

Shanthi Appelö:
Exactly. And you make such a good point with that because you’re naming one of the best weight loss techniques out there, which is tracking. Being accountable not only to yourself but to your diary is a way to keep yourself honest and just staying on track because sometimes… And honestly, as humans, we all do this. We underestimate the amount of calories we consume. So, we might look at something and be like, “Oh yeah. That’s 200 calories.” And then you forgot the bite of peanut butter you had, which was 120. And so, it all adds up and we might think to ourselves later, “Oh, well, I didn’t have that much today.” And so, it’s really important to keep track like you’re doing, with an app. Whatever works for you. And that’s proven time and time again to be one of the best strategies out there.

Chuck Gaidica:
So, you look at all this stuff in the universe, and it’s got to be bombarding you from different sources, right? You’ve got the United Nations. You’ve got everybody that’s sending you stuff that… They’re professionals. When you look for the best diet for most people, what jumps to the top in your mind?

Shanthi Appelö:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Shanthi Appelö:
You know, over and over again, we are seeing the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension diet. And with those, they are full of fruits and vegetables. They are plant-forward, so they still include meat if you’d like. But the key to why these are so successful is that they have balance in terms of nutrients, but they are also something that doesn’t restrict you from any food group. So, that is going to be the biggest point here. And if you look at all the different websites and a lot of credible ones that put out best diets at the end of each year, you’re going to see Mediterranean diet and DASH diet over and over again there in the top two spots.

Chuck Gaidica:
Is DASH diet related to Mediterranean and it just alters sodium level? Or am I off? Is that something…? Is it a completely different approach?

Shanthi Appelö:
They’re very similar, actually, in terms of what they include in their diets. But DASH diet is specifically aimed towards those that are trying to control their hypertension. But they do have very similar qualities and they… The DASH diet does provide a little bit of a different structure as well.

Chuck Gaidica:
But you know what’s encouraging here is either diet probably, but the DASH diet in particular, I’ll bet you when you’re looking to boost your immune system… Because we’ve heard that underlying hypertension has been a big deal relative to COVID, right? So, if you’re looking for a significant change that could give you immune-boosting properties too, maybe that’s a good choice for you.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah, absolutely. And you make a good point there because if we’re taking care of our underlying conditions, we’re going to end up healthier, right? So, if you have Type 2 diabetes or hypertension or something like that, if you’re taking care of that first by eating healthy, by getting activity, you’re going to end up better in the long run in terms of preventing all kinds of infection.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. Well, now tell us, as you look at diets, again, across the board, questions and bullet points… Questions. However you want to think of them. We should be thinking about and asking ourselves about a particular diet maybe before we start it. What would some of those quick things be that we can assess is this a good diet for us?

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah. So, the biggest one is going to be can I adopt this into my lifestyle? Is this something that I can do three to five years from now or is this something that I want to be a quick fix? Is it eliminating any food groups? And what happens when we eliminate food groups is that we lose important nutrients that we do need. The other thing is can I enjoy time with my family and friends? That’s a huge one. I think in any case, it’s so important to have an intentional conversation with your family and friends about how they can support you in your new lifestyle change because I know I have food pushers in my family. They’re like, “You’ve done so good. You can have just one.” So, just thinking about ways that you can be supported, but also thinking about how you can still enjoy time with them if you’re too restricted in what you’re doing.

Shanthi Appelö:
And then, the last one is going to be is this a one size fits all diet? Is it something that can be adapted to your specific needs based on your age, weight? Or is the same diet prescribed to someone who weighs 100 pounds less than you and are completely different age? So, just thinking about that.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, you know, and there’s a silver lining there… I mean, I’m an optimist, so I look for silver linings in a lot of places, including this pandemic period.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yes.

Chuck Gaidica:
But if… I remember back in the day when I was trying to take a Tupperware container to work with lettuce and tuna fish. It just feels clunky. It looks kind of wacky. And I mean, now I don’t think people care. Maybe it was just my own baggage. But when you’re at home… If you’re working from home, one of the silver linings of this time could be that you can do just about anything you want to do and you could prepare quickly. You could have it delivered. You can make it yourself. I mean, you’ve got a lot more options, maybe, than, “I left for work at 8:00 this morning and I’m not back til 6:00.” You know what I mean? There may be an upside to this.

Shanthi Appelö:
Oh my goodness, yeah. I think that’s a great way to look at it because if… I don’t think anyone would disagree in saying 2020 really threw us all for a loop.

Chuck Gaidica:
Oh my gosh. Yeah.

Shanthi Appelö:
So, yeah. I think there are silver linings. I mean, my partner and I, we haven’t been able to go to the gym, but we use laundry detergent containers. We use seltzer bottles.

Chuck Gaidica:
Do you? Yeah.

Shanthi Appelö:
All kinds of things to do home workouts.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah.

Shanthi Appelö:
So, there’s a way to make it work, absolutely.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. So, tell us when we are opening… Whether it’s a magazine online, when we’re getting an email with an influencer, when we see what could be a fad diet, how do we spot one? What are the tips that show us like, “Oh, this may not work.”?

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s a great point. I think one of the best ways to detect nutritional nonsense, if you will, is if they have those really bold claims or quick fixes. So, if they say you’re going to lose 20 pounds in one month and keep it off, it might be too good to be true, right? And so, if they have a secret ingredient, that’s another one. Like, “Ooh, the nutrient your doctor doesn’t want you to know about.”

Chuck Gaidica:
Oh. Yeah, yeah. Right.

Shanthi Appelö:
It’s like, “Wait.” If it was such a… Why should this be a secret? Everyone should be doing it if it’s something great, right? And then, severe restrictions is another one. A lot of people can have a lot of great success if they have rigid rules, but typically for the long term, that’s not going to go down very well. And then, another one is if it’s claiming to change your body’s chemistry. So, think diet pills here. If it’s saying that you can do this juice cleanse or apple cider vinegar diet or whatever because it’s going to change your body’s metabolism, it’s probably not going to work.

Chuck Gaidica:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Shanthi Appelö:
You know, what I like to say is sit back, relax and let your kidneys do the detoxing. We have a body part specifically designed to help detox your body and help things moving along, so…

Chuck Gaidica:
And you know, I… I am always amazed. I don’t ever buy those magazine rags at the checkout at the grocery store, right? But they’re still there, which amazes me. But they always tend to have something about food. The quick 20-pound weight loss or we discovered the secret thing in some berry in Africa somewhere. And when I see that stuff, I think, “Well, why wasn’t that berry in southeast Michigan?” Like, why? They go away because I’ve never been to that part of the world. I don’t really know if it works or not. But they do make it sound like it’s this super-duper discovery. And maybe, if there were some peer-reviewed research that comes out. But it’s always funny to me that it’s in a far-off place that none of us can check on.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah, absolutely. And, I mean, we have to relate to people and… I mean, I do this myself. I’m like, “Man, that sounds easy.” Whatever it is. It doesn’t even have to be diet-related.

Chuck Gaidica:
Sure.

Shanthi Appelö:
But if we can do something that’s easy and quick and it’s better than spending your time meal prepping and exercising over and over again, it might sound attractive, but there are so many other health benefits more so than just weight loss that we think of whenever we are active and eat healthy. I mean, it’s powering our bodies for a longer life.

Chuck Gaidica:
So, we’ve covered a lot of great territory, right? But give us some takeaways of things you think we should concentrate on. We’re just days away, couple weeks away from the beginning of a new year. Thank goodness. You know, we get out of the dumpster fire of 2020. But what is it that we should be thinking about that we can get on a plan, a change for a healthier lifestyle, diet and stick with it?

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah. So, setting a goal and thinking about that goal being all-encompassing to your health rather than just diet-focused or exercise-focused. Thinking about something that’s going to be realistic, and also making sure you check in with those goals as the year goes on so, like you said earlier, you’re not starting it January 1st and quitting January 20th. But I think the biggest piece here as we’re seeing new food trends emerge in 2021 is going to be that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. And I’d like to just add one. You’re the expert, but let me add one, because this is something I’ve wrestled with my whole life. If you step on a scale and you’ve lost 1.2 pounds in a week, many of us go, “Oh, come on. I mean, that’s just… That is so pathetic.” And then you do the math and you think, “Wait a minute. If I did this for 50 weeks in a row somehow, with a couple weeks off for just being fun, that’s 60 pounds of weight loss in a year.”

Shanthi Appelö:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Chuck Gaidica:
I don’t give myself, I guess, enough grace. Maybe that’s under the category of self-care. I’m maybe not as easy on myself, saying, “Wow. That… Actually, it wasn’t five or 10 pounds like the magazine promised, but boy, if I stick with this, that’s a pretty good way to have a nice trend here over the course of a month or two or three. That’s not bad.”

Shanthi Appelö:
Exactly. Yeah. And what you’re describing is that slow and steady and also safe weight loss that’s the best for that long term success that you’ll see years and years after rather than regaining that weight after just six months.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. That’s good. I’m glad, then. I’m glad. I’m going to be nice… Nicer to myself in 2021.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah. You have some great thoughts there, Chuck. You really do.

Chuck Gaidica:
I told you. I’ve been on two diets my whole life, so I’m experienced. Hey, it is so good to talk to you again. Much happiness and success in the new year and Shanthi, thanks for always helping us understand how to navigate some of this stuff that seems daunting, you know?

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah. Thank you, Chuck, and thank you for your personal input. It’s always great to hear that, too, and just being so open. I appreciate it.

Chuck Gaidica:
Oh, you’re very welcome. Be well. That was Shanthi Appelö who was with us from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. And we want to thank you for listening to this podcast, A Healthier Michigan Podcast. It’s brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and if you like the show, you want to know more, you can jump online. You can check us out at ahealthiermichigan.org/podcast. You can leave us reviews or ratings on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher and you can get new episodes, old episodes, on your smartphone or tablet. This is Episode 69, so lots of great content if you’re trying to get out there and walk and put your steps on for the day. Whatever it is, be sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. I’m Chuck Gaidica. Stay well.