Debunking Fad Diets with Tracy Lockwood Beckerman

From detoxes to diets, January is chock full of trendy eating patterns promising a healthier start. We chatted with registered dietitian Tracy Lockwood Beckerman to break down the best way to kick start our new year and get tips on what foods to eat (and avoid) for better ZZZs.

We believe that sleep is a key player in our overall health & wellness. What impact does diet have on our ability to sleep well? Are there certain foods we should look to or avoid?

I too believe that a nourished and full belly (and body!) can often lead to a nourishing and full night’s sleep. If someone is not well fed because they are dieting or restricting their intake, it’s very likely that their sleep will also become impaired, broken and interrupted. High potassium foods like watermelon, banana and avocado can help the muscles in your body and brain relax, helping to contribute to good night’s sleep. Foods rich in magnesium like almonds, pumpkin seeds and even dark chocolate may help relieve stress, which is always helpful to lock in a good night’s sleep. Foods that may impair a good night’s rest are often ones that are difficult to digest like spicy foods, high fat foods (like meat) and fried foods. Plus, you should make sure to leave plenty of time for blood sugar levels to lower after dessert time. Don’t be surprised if you are eating a super sugary treat close to bedtime and find yourself too wired to get some shut eye; it’s simply the body’s natural process of lowering and stabilizing your blood sugar before it can rest.   

In January, many people are quick to try the newest fad diet, be it a juice cleanse or otherwise. What advice would you give to those who want to partake?

Only take on diets or eating practices that you can envision yourself continuing to actively do a year from now. Otherwise, it’s likely not a sustainable or long term eating pattern.  

We’ve all heard that you’re not supposed to eat within three hours of going to bed. What effect does this have on our overall health and digestion? Is a midnight snack really that bad?

When your body is busy metabolizing and digesting food, it’s possible it’s taking away from resting, rebuilding and recovering, which is what it should be focusing on come bedtime. Some folks may experience heartburn before bed or even pent up gas and indigestion in the morning if they eat too close to bed, while others may not have any negative symptoms. Everyone’s digestive system is different so it’s best to tune into how your body feels if you eat a meal or snack right before hitting the hay. 

Within the past few years, there has been a big push towards clean and healthy eating. What are the common mistakes that you see people make when trying to eat ‘healthy’?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the overly crowded nutrition and “healthy” food space. My advice? Don’t think too hard! Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean Googling ingredients or nutrition facts. It can simply mean eating more real foods, like fruits and vegetables and less foods that come in a package. 

What diet do you feel is the best for our overall health & wellness? How do we ensure that we are maintaining balance in that diet from day to day?

I stand by eating with more of a Mediterranean slant, focused on plentiful fruits, vegetables, fish, beans and nuts and moderate amounts of wine. The Mediterranean diet has been associated with a litany of health benefits like a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic disease and a boost in brain health and blood sugar regulation. This diet has also been well studied, so we know it’s not an overnight, sensationalized diet that a celebrity endorsed. That’s why I feel so strongly about recommending this type of eating pattern. It’s sustainable, it’s reliable and it’s stood the test of time. 

Putting less pressure on yourself to balance your diet every single day and simply trying to integrate the practices and way of eating into your lifestyle will allow you to adapt to it. Plus, if you have a day here and there where you just aren’t “feeling it,” know that there’s always tomorrow to do better! 

Intermittent fasting has become quite popular. Do you believe in this practice? Why or why not?

As a registered dietitian and mom who understands the importance of fueling my body, balancing my hormones and normalizing my eating patterns, I personally don’t support IF. I believe if you are someone who doesn’t have any history of disordered eating, who eats to live and not lives to eat, and can still model normal eating behaviors for their family, IF may be a potential, short-term route for you. I’ve seen too many people try it out and “fail” or “fall off the wagon” and then feel beyond discouraged afterwards so I don’t recommend it.

 Are there any health & wellness trends that you’re interested in trying in 2022?

I’m excited to continue to see a shift in more plant-based eating and more plant-forward meals and snacks like foods made from mushrooms, fruit skin and jackfruit. I’m also looking forward to trying out upcycled foods which are ingredients that have been repurposed into a new marketed food or snack rather than being thrown out, helping to make a positive impact on the environment.