Teachers are stressed to the max, so any healthy habit is worth its weight in gold. Amid all the trends and fads, one habit is sure to make a teacher's life more manageable: clean eating. Here are some of the benefits and limitations of teacher diets for educators looking for clean eating tips. Just remember: you shouldn't make drastic changes to your diet before consulting your doctor. (No, the school nurse doesn't count.)
Further Reading: 6 Teacher Fitness Tips for Busy School Days
The Flexitarian Diet
Educators love a collaborative endeavor, so they're bound to appreciate flexible vegetarianism, also called the flexitarian diet. Flexitarians reap the health benefits of a balanced diet with a lot of variety and few restrictions. The diet mostly comprises plants and eschews sweets, but there's still room to indulge in a juicy hamburger every now and then. This diet has few limitations and almost no health drawbacks or added dietary expenses, making it easy for busy teachers to adapt to. We give it a gold star.
This one's not a teacher diet, per se; it's an eating plan that dictates when you should eat and provides different schedules of fasting to accommodate any lifestyle—even the fast-paced teacher's lifestyle. Reported benefits include sharper focus and increased energy and productivity. But intermittent fasting's best results come when its coupled with other healthy habits, such as regular exercise, proper sleep, and eating nourishing foods. In other words, you can't fast and then eat a dozen of the administrator's homemade chocolate chip cookies every day and still expect results.
Whether you're restricting your daily eating period, fasting for 24 hours twice a week, or significantly reducing your calorie intake on two nonconsecutive days, intermittent fasting can help your body repair cells and produce human growth hormone, according to Healthline.
The Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet—keto, for short—has gained a loyal following for its consistently impressive results. Based on an eating plan that maximizes good fats and minimizes carbohydrates, the keto diet cues the body to enter ketosis, a metabolic process wherein the body burns fat instead of glucose for energy. Healthline notes that consistently restricting carbs and inducing ketosis can help treat diseases such as type 2 diabetes, epilepsy, and some cancers. Keto has few short-term risks, but because it limits fibers and fruits, it can make waste elimination difficult. (Fewer trips to the restroom during the school-day might actually be a good thing, now that I think about it.)
People who've practiced keto have also reported downsides such as headaches and hanger—you know, when you're so hungry you're angry. Just what teachers need—more headaches and annoyances, right? We give this diet a B-.
The Paleo Diet
People call the paleo diet "the caveman's diet" because it mimics the dietary patterns of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. The diet's rooted in eating clean, whole foods such as vegetables, lean meats, seafood, and eggs. If you're wondering where the carbs and dairy are—well, you won't find them on the paleo menu. So goodbye, drive-thru cheeseburgers.
Paleo is healthy and great if you have a dairy intolerance. Because you're upping your protein intake, you'll feel fuller longer, so your grumbling tummy won't embarrass you during that next after-school meeting.
The downside? Paleo is expensive. You're eating a high-meat, high-quality-veggie diet, so you can expect to spend a little more of your hard-earned—hey, wait, where'd everyone go?
The Mediterranean Diet
If you blanched when I mentioned how much paleo cost, you'll likely run right out of school when you hear the price tag on the Mediterranean diet. With its emphasis on fresh, unprocessed foods, this diet might have you hitting up the grocery store much more often than usual. (Two words: grocery delivery.)
Despite its high cost, though, the Mediterranean diet is a fan favorite among teacher diets. The foods are tasty, there are few restrictions, and it encourages the daily consumption of red wine. I repeat: Daily. Wine. And Business Insider reports that the Mediterranean diet can improve your cognitive function and mobility. This one gets an A+.
Because I require the energy to repeat myself 70 times in a span of six minutes, the nutritional gap veganism leaves in its wake doesn't always do this exhausted educator any favors. On the other hand, I appreciate not eating animal products—and if a diet is good enough for Beyoncé, it's good enough for me.
Veganism is more environmentally conscious than most diets, so it can double as activism. Ensuring proper nutrition is doable with careful planning and thoughtful food combinations, but getting past the initial learning curve can be difficult. After reading a hundred essays that all end with "In conclusion," I don't have the brain cells for the learning curve.
But Beyoncé is looking fierce, so there's that.
Many teachers have tried Whole30 because it requires less time than standardized test prep. Whole30 resets your eating habits and promises better sleep, more energy, and weight loss. It also severely restricts your diet for 30 days. Dairy? Nope. Grains? Negative. Alcohol? Not even a little. And if you cheat, you have to start over at day one. It's tough, but it's worth it: at the end of the 30 days, you should feel physically and mentally healthier. If you've got the grit, this diet could be great for you.
Further Reading: 5 REALISTIC Ways for Teachers to Get Healthier This Year
If you're dedicated to turning over a new nutritional leaf this school year, I wish you much success and urge you to always prioritize holistic self-care. It'll make the classroom a lot less stressful. I promise.