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Pick One of the Most Popular Diets of 2014 to Kick Off 2015

By Serena Solomon | December 29, 2014 7:26am
 Here are six popular diets from this year, according to the number of Google searches and Instagram hashtags.
A Menu of Diets for 2015
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NEW YORK CITY — If you’re planning to go on a diet, you will probably research it through a Google search.

Once you’re on the diet, you will likely use Instagram to taunt your friends with colorful and healthy food from your new eating plan and hopefully boastful photos of its results.

Here are six diets or eating plans that either showed up on Google’s most searched diets of 2014, have a strong showing through an Instagram hashtag search, or both:

The Paleo Diet
Hashtags on Instagram: 2.9 million

The Paleo Diet continues to lead the charge, coming in for the second year in a row as the most googled diet of 2014. The Paleo lifestyle — paleo is short for Paleolithic — focuses on food eaten by our ancient ancestors before the agricultural revolution, meaning processed sugar, wheat and dairy are all out.

“This diet is based off of eating like the cavemen did, such as whole foods like plants, meat and seafood,” Maria Bella, a dietitian at Top Balance Nutrition in Midtown, said.

The diet is rich in antioxidants and is naturally gluten-free (a dietary choice that turned up at No. 3 in 2014 Google searches and has more than 3 million hashtags in Instagram). However, it can be expensive and lead to deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D, according to Bella.  

Robyn Youkilis, an East Village-based certified wellness and healthy cooking advocate, supported maintaining a “paleo-ish” diet: sticking mostly to its rules while allowing occasional treats.

“If you are at the best bakery in Paris, you eat a croissant,” she said.

The Sugar-Free Diet
Hashtags on Instagram: almost 700,000

Sugar became this year’s big food evil.

“A lot of people did a sugar-free something,” said Lisa Moskovitz, a Midtown-based dietician.

She said a focus on how sugar impacts the mind and body, not just weight, had many people taking on sugar detoxes. The eight-week program “I Quit Sugar” by Sarah Wilson made it to the New York Times bestseller list. It took readers through a program in which not just processed sugar, but also fruit and “healthy” sugars like agave were eliminated for several weeks in order to break the body’s reliance on it.

However, these detoxes have “instilled a fear of sugar,” according to Bella, who suggested sticking to two servings of fruit per day and keeping clear of processed sugar. 

Hashtags on Instagram: 500,000

With brightly colored and creative meals, the Whole30 became the darling of Instagram in 2014. Whole30, an uptight version of Paleo, is designed as a nutritional reset over 30 days and is detailed in the book “It Starts with Food,” which has been hovering in a top 10 position for most of the year on the New York Times bestseller list.

The program cuts out sugar, grains, dairy and alcohol along with ingredients often found in processed foods like MSG and sulfites, according to the Whole 30 website.

For Bella, the diet earns points for being high in protein and fiber and low in saturated fats, but those who commit to the Whole30 can experience mood fluctuations as well as calcium and vitamin D deficiencies, she warned.

Intense and temporary programs like the Whole 30 can show participants how good their bodies can perform when fueled right, according to Youkilis.

“It’s really important that they have that experiment so they know how they can feel and that it is possible,” she said.

The Military Diet
Instagram hashtags: about 10,000

The Military Diet showed up at six in Google’s list of most-searched diets and eating programs in 2014. Also known as the three-day diet, the Military Diet works by putting a cutthroat cap on calories — 750 to 1,000 — for three days with the following four days switching to a free-for-all where anything can be eaten, according to the diet’s website. A typical low-calorie meal from the three days might be a cup of coffee, one slice of toast with peanut butter and half a grapefruit. 

“Essentially, it is working for the same reason any other diet would work — they are cutting calories,” said Moskovitz, adding that it’s “not the healthiest diet out there.”

The diet can be very restrictive and lacks recommended amounts of protein, but can cause temporary weight loss, according to Bella. 

The Mediterranean Diet
Hashtags on Instagram: 7,000

The Mediterranean diet is not a rigid fad diet cooked up by modern day nutrient theories. It’s a cultural diet that has been around for thousands of years. The diet is balanced with fish, fruit, wholegrain breads, meat and cheese, and is naturally low in sugar.

“Mediterranean diet is probably the healthiest and there is also research on it that it can lead to a decreased risk of heart disease,” said Moskovitz. The diet reached No. 4 on Google’s 2014 list of popular searches.

The healthy fats that come from nuts and oils are an important element of the Mediterranean, but this can also get people into trouble.

“The Mediterranean diet and the Paleo folks promote fat as being very healthy — true,” wrote Bella in an email to DNAinfo. “But many people lose sight of the quantity and end up gaining, not losing weight, ending up in my office perplexed.”

She suggested sticking to one serving of fat per meal like a tablespoon of olive oil or a handful of almonds.

Intermittent Fasting
Hashtags on Instagram: Almost 125,000

There's a range of programs that fall into the intermittent fasting category and all of them include some time with no or very little food. For example, in order to prepare for his role as Wolverine, actor Hugh Jackman used a program that allowed for eight hours of eating followed by 16 hours of fasting each day. The 5:2 Diet, another fasting plan, will have you on a weekly regime of five days of regular eating with two days where calories are capped at about 500.

"I see this as something that is going to get more popular in 2015,” Moskovitz said.