Can quality focused eating help weight loss?
Clinical Nutrition • • 1 minute to read • By Dr Akshay Alawani, INFS Faculty
Author- Dr Akshay Alawani ANutr, Faculty Head, INFS
‘Qualitative eating’ refers to a dietary strategy focused on evidence-based quality guidelines. It is not an official term, but it is used here as an umbrella term covering all qualitative approaches to dieting.
Qualitative eating is one of the two possible dietary approaches one can take to lose weight. Another approach, which is also very commonly used by new-age fitness apps and fitness coaches, is quantified eating. Quantified eating usually involves counting calories and determining ‘specific’ quantities of several nutrients, and aiming to eat close to those target numbers.
Mediterranean Diet (Med-Diet) is one of the most successful qualitative dieting strategies. It has been successfully used to induce weight loss in several experiments. It has also been effective in improving health markers in patients with chronic disorders like diabetes, dyslipidemia and hypertension. Like other qualitative strategies, the credit for Med-Diet’s success goes to its evidence-based guidelines. Its structure (as shown in the figure) focuses on eating relatively larger quantities of components like polyunsaturated fats, fibres and proteins. These are the food groups whose intake has consistently shown to be positively associated with health benefits. Moreover, it also suggests minimizing saturated fats, free sugars, alcohol and red meats. These food groups have shown negative associations with several chronic diseases.
Compared to quantitative eating, qualitative eating strategies are easier to communicate for health professionals like physicians and nurses that do not have diet planning skills. However, nowadays, apps have made quantified diets more accessible, and they generate the charts in a few minutes. Many different apps also try to customize diets to customers’ liking.
However, the flexibility quantified charts offer is still far from dieters’ daily habits. Dieters also need to pay much closer attention and effort to each meal. Sticking to such charts for more than six months has proved to be a consistent challenge. On the other hand, this same control helps the practitioner bring about the best possible reduction in weight which eventually translates to better blood reports. Hence, such interventions have proven to be highly beneficial within the timeframe of 12-24 weeks. Besides, the flexibility in guideline-based interventions can also work against the individual who has a poor sense of boundaries.
Both qualitative and quantitative approaches have their pros and cons. However, evidence has shown that both quantitative and qualitative methods can be used to achieve energy deficit (which is the foundation for weight loss).
Several recommendations use a combination of both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Med-Diet has shown excellent weight loss outcomes when it is prescribed with calorie restriction. Eatwell guide by UK government authorities shows how an ideal plate should look. However, it also suggests limiting energy, sugar and saturated fat to specific quantities.
After contemplating factors like past experience with dieting, behavioural pattern, flexibility needs, and travel frequency, an individual customized strategy that contains both quantitative and qualitative elements can be considered. For example, it is unnecessary to put further restrictions on a dieter if few well-designed qualitative guidelines successfully demonstrate steady weight loss. Similarly, it also makes no sense to prescribe qualitative dieting to someone who quickly loses sense of boundaries or is known to overeat significantly. Also, a highly motivated individual who already has a great sense of quantity and calories can experiment by sticking to a few simple guidelines for weight maintenance.
Next time you look at the daily diet, think about what helps you maintain a healthy life with comparatively lesser mental effort and motivation.
To conclude, both qualitative and quantified approaches can be utilized to get the best out of you!
D’innocenzo, S., Biagi, C. and Lanari, M. (2019) ‘Obesity and the mediterranean diet: A review of evidence of the role and sustainability of the mediterranean diet’, Nutrients. MDPI AG. doi: 10.3390/nu11061306.
Esposito, K. et al. (2011) ‘Mediterranean diet and weight loss: Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials’, Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders. Metab Syndr Relat Disord, pp. 1–12. doi: 10.1089/met.2010.0031.
Quintana-Navarro, G. M. et al. (2019) ‘Long-term dietary adherence and changes in dietary intake in coronary patients after intervention with a Mediterranean diet or a low-fat diet: the CORDIOPREV randomized trial’, European Journal of Nutrition 2019 59:5. Springer, 59(5), pp. 2099–2110. doi: 10.1007/S00394-019-02059-5.
Romagnolo, D. F. and Selmin, O. I. (2017) ‘Mediterranean Diet and Prevention of Chronic Diseases’, Nutrition Today. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 52(5), pp. 208–222. doi: 10.1097/NT.0000000000000228.
Tuttolomondo, A. et al. (2019) ‘Metabolic and vascular effect of the mediterranean diet’, International Journal of Molecular Sciences. MDPI AG. doi: 10.3390/ijms20194716.
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