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From Keto to Whole30 to Vegan: What is the Best Healthy Diet? Experts Weigh In

The nutrition world can be so confusing. It’s hard to keep up with healthy eating habits when you’re constantly being told conflicting information about your diet. Is fat good or bad? Should you eat carbs? Is it better to be plant-based or eat meat? Which diet is the best for overall health: Keto, Whole30, Vegan, Mediterranean, Paleo, Dash or Flexitarian? Sometimes it feels so overwhelming, you may be ready to jump ship and settle into life as a breatharian, subsisting only on air and sunlight – of course you shouldn’t do this, and yes, this is a real thing! Well, as nutritionists, we’re about to break down the above listed diets to make them as digestible (pun intended) as possible.

The Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet began as a treatment for epilepsy in the 1920s. Now, people turn to it for weight loss, cancer recovery and even alzheimer’s prevention. The keto diet’s emphasis is on eating high fat, moderate protein and low carb. The idea is to kick the body into ketosis, so it burns ketones, rather than glucose (the fuel most commonly burned), which is why it’s important to limit protein, starchy veggies and fruit. Many people have found that eating keto has helped with mental clarity, athletic performance and weight loss. But, this diet is no walk in the park, it does require a lot of effort and some math if you want to truly be in a state of ketosis; you can always use keto strips to test if you are there or not.

What to Eat:
● Low-glycemic veggies & fruit (e.g. leafy greens, cucumbers, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, asparagus, berries)
● Healthy fats (e.g. avocado, coconut, extra-virgin olive oil, olives, cheese, yogurt, cream, butter, select nuts and seeds)
● Protein, eaten in moderation (e.g. beef, seafood, poultry, eggs)

What Not to Eat:
● Grains
● Beans, legumes, pulses
● Refined and natural sugars
● Starchy veggies (e.g. sweet potato, squash, beets, potatoes)
● High-glycemic fruit (e.g. pineapple, melons, bananas)

Get the recipe for 30-Minute Keto Kung Pao Chicken

The Vegan Diet

The vegan diet relies on eating plant-based: so not only steering clear of meat, but also removing animal by-products from your diet, including eggs, dairy, poultry, meat, fish and even honey. The purpose is to live an ethical, cruelty-free life that does not harm animals; this often trickles beyond the diet and can involve vegan makeup, clothing and home decor. Being plant-based means eating lots of veggies, but it is possible to be vegan and still eat unhealthy. While the focus is on plants, there’s no real objection to eating deep fried, sugary and refined carbs. So, if veganism is right for you, then it’s best to stay away from the refined stuff and stick to whole foods.

What to Eat:
● All veggies & fruit
● Beans, legumes, pulses
● Grains
● Nuts & seeds

What Not to Eat:
● All animal products & by-products (e.g. meat, fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy, honey)

Get the recipe for Vegan Lasagna Roll Ups with Almond Ricotta

The Whole30 Diet

Whole30 is a 30-day nutrition reset program to help restore the gut, energy levels, metabolism and curb unhealthy cravings and habits. For 30 days, your commitment is to eliminate all grains, refined and natural sweeteners, beans, legumes, pulses, dairy, preservatives and additives, and any and all junk food, even if the ingredients are on the “ok” list. The goal is to eat real food, like lots and lots of vegetables, some fruit, moderate portions of meat, poultry, fish, seafood and eggs, and to use real food like fresh herbs to flavour your meals. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, this program can be challenging, but there are resources out there to aid you through it.

What to Eat:
● Lots of vegetables
● Some fruit
● Moderate amount of meat, poultry, fish, seafood and eggs
● Lots of healthy fat (e.g. coconut, extra-virgin olive oil, avocados)
● Herbs and spices

What Not to Eat:
● Refined, artificial and natural sugars (e.g. white sugar, splenda, maple syrup, honey)
● Alcohol
● Grains (e.g. wheat, oats, corn, quinoa, rice)
● Legumes (e.g. chickpeas, peanuts, lentils, soy sauce, edamame, tofu)
● Dairy
● Carrageenan, MSG, Sulfites
● Baked goods or treats (even if they’re “healthy”)

Get the recipe for Instant Pot Whole30 Chicken Tikka Masala

The Mediterranean Diet

If you love the cuisines of Spain, Greece and Italy, you will love the Mediterranean diet. This particular style of eating has been widely researched and touted as the heart-healthy diet for its emphasis on healthy fats like extra-virgin olive oil, olives, nuts and fish. People have also had success with weight loss on this diet. The emphasis is on lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, whole grains, nuts, legumes and extra-virgin olive oil. Poultry, dairy and eggs should only be eaten in moderation, all refined sugars are big no-no’s and red meat should rarely be eaten, if at all.

What to Eat:
● Lots of vegetables and fruit
● Healthy fats (e.g. extra-virgin olive oil, olives, nuts)
● Whole grains
● Beans, legumes, pulses
● Fish
● Poultry, dairy, eggs in moderation

What Not to Eat:
● Red meat (eaten only a few times a month, if at all)
● Refined sugar and grains

Get the recipe for Bobby Flay’s Grilled Snapper Vera Cruz

The Paleo Diet

The paleo diet is based on what hunter-gatherers ate during the paleolithic era, and has since become popular, partly thanks to CrossFitters who swear by this style of eating. The main idea is to eat real, whole foods that are unprocessed, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and animal protein, and to eliminate all grains, legumes, beans, dairy and refined sugar. The thought is that this style of eating may help with disease prevention and weight loss. While refined grains and sugars may be out, you can still enjoy starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots and beets, and natural sweeteners like maple syrup and honey.

What to Eat:
● Lots of vegetables and fruit
● Animal protein (fish, seafood, eggs, meat, poultry)
● Nuts and seeds
● Healthy fats

What Not to Eat:
● Grains
● Beans, legumes, pulses
● Dairy
● Refined sugar and grains
● Processed foods
● White potatoes

Get the recipe for Grain-Free Paleo Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

The DASH Diet

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) was created by the National Institute of Health to help lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol. It’s a simple and sustainable diet to follow that promotes long-term health benefits by emphasizing vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, poultry, fish, lean meats and low-fat dairy. Refined sugars and sugar-sweetened beverages, high intakes of salt, fatty cuts of meat, full-fat dairy and tropical oils like coconut and palm should be cut out. The main goal is to eat a diet that is rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fibre and protein.

What to Eat:
● Lots of vegetables and fruit
● Whole grains
● Beans, legumes, pulses
● Poultry, fish, lean meats
● Low-fat dairy

What Not to Eat:
● Refined sugars
● Lots of salt
● Lots of saturated fat and fatty meat
● Full-fat dairy
● Tropical oils (e.g. coconut oil and palm oil)

Get the recipe for Healthy Buddha Bowl with Creamy Tahini Dressing

The Flexitarian Diet

The flexitarian diet is kind of like being a flexible vegetarian– the purpose is to eat mainly plant-based, but incorporate animal protein when your body feels that it needs it. The goal to having more plant-centric meals is to reduce your carbon footprint, prevent disease and often as a side effect, lose weight. The diet emphasizes lots of plants like fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, pulses, whole grains, nuts and seeds and then animal protein like eggs, fish, poultry, meat and dairy in more minimal amounts when you need it. This diet doesn’t really have any hard or fast rules, there’s no all or nothing, just feel out when your body is craving healthy forms of animal products, and when it isn’t.

What to Eat:
● Lots of vegetables and fruit
● Whole grains
● Beans, legumes, pulses
● Nuts and seeds

What to Eat in Minimal Amounts:
● All animal products (poultry, fish, meat)
● Refined sugars, refined grains and processed foods

Get the recipe for Ina Garten’s Roast Chicken Cobb Salad

So, which diet should YOU follow?

Here’s the truth: as you look through each of these diets, there are many common threads: eat lots of vegetables, consume healthy fats and eliminate refined sugar and grains. The “best” diet doesn’t really exist, because there’s no one size-fits-all approach that’s going to be good for everyone. Every ‘body’ is unique, digests food differently and needs varying amounts of nutrients, so it’s important to think about what you feel best eating, and what your health goals are. As nutritionists, the best advice we can give is to make veggies the star of your plate and load up on produce that’s bursting with colour, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and phytonutrients, and then decide which ingredients you’d like to accompany these foods, whether it’s whole-grains, nuts, legumes or meat. As long as you eat whole foods and listen to your body, the rest will follow.

Hungry for more? Achieve a glowing complexion with these nutritionist-backed tips on the 10 best natural foods for dewy skin. You can also peek inside these health experts fridge for meal prep inspiration (it’ll change the way you grocery shop!).

Greek-Style Baked Beans With Tomato Sauce and Feta

Dried beans are a hidden treasure. Well, I guess they’re not really hidden, but you should know that they’re like gold. They’re cheap, healthy, easy to make and have the longest shelf life ever. You can find so many kinds too — red kidney, beautiful borlotti AKA cranberry beans, orca beans, chickpeas… the list goes on and on. For this recipe, I was able to find dried Greek gigante beans. Naturally, they were begging for an herby tomato sauce full of dill and oregano. If you can’t find dried gigante beans, large white lima beans work just as well here. The sauce is simmered and added to the boiled beans, then covered in feta cheese and baked into a bubbly gorgeous casserole, which can be served as a side dish or appetizer with crusty bread. If there are any leftovers (I’d be surprised if there were), you can heat the beans up in a pan and serve with an egg for breakfast.


Greek-Style Baked Beans With Tomato Sauce and Feta

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Soak Time: 12 hours
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 13 hours, 15 minutes
Servings: 4-6


2 cups dried gigante beans (or large white lima beans)
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp olive oil + some to finish
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
26 oz can or box strained tomato sauce
1 cup chopped dill
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano OR 1 Tbsp dried oregano
½ tsp salt
½ cup water
⅔ cup crumbled feta cheese
Chopped parsley, to garnish
Crusty bread, to serve


1. Rinse the dried beans to remove any dirt or impurities, and then place them in a large bowl and cover with tons of water. Leave on the countertop overnight or at least 9 hours to rehydrate.

2. Drain the beans and transfer them to a large pot. Cover the beans with at least 3 inches of water and add in the bay leaf. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.


3. Once the water is at a rolling boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remember: the time will depend on the kind of bean and how long you’ve soaked them for. Check the doneness of the beans after 10 minutes. They should be soft, but not mushy. Drain the beans and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.

4. In a medium sauce-pot with lid, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in the onions and saute until softened and slightly browned, about 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, dill, parsley, oregano, salt and water. Once the sauce is simmering lightly, turn down the heat to low and cover the pot with the lid. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt.

Related: Healthy Mediterranean Recipes to Bookmark Right Now

5. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Transfer the cooked beans with bay leaf and herb tomato sauce into a casserole or baking dish and combine.


6. Bake for 25 minutes until bubbly. Remove for the oven and add crumbled feta cheese on top. Return the dish to the oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. The sauce will be bubbly and hot.

7. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with crusty bread on the side.


Published November 2, 2015, Updated December 22, 2018