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The Healthiest Foods For The Most Popular Eating Plans

According to an RD.

By: Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC

From paleo to plant-based, the amount of eating plans out there can be dizzying.  And while many dietary plans can be extremely beneficial when followed correctly, focusing on the wrong foods can wreak havoc on your health.

Within popular eating plans, there are some shining food stars that should have a place on your plate frequently. Eating foods that are loaded with nutrients and are not processed is a great general rule-of-thumb when following a healthy lifestyle. Fried foods and foods that contain saturated or trans-fats should be limited as well (or avoided in some cases). 

When digging into specific popular eating plans, there are some key foods that can give your diet a boost in the nutrition department. So, whether you are following a Mediterranean Diet, the Keto diet, or any diet in between, focusing on certain foods will serve you well on your eating journey. 

Here are the healthiest foods people should eat when following five popular eating plans. 

RELATED: The Top 10 Recipes To Try if You Just Started a Clean Eating Plan 

The Healthiest Foods For The Most Popular Eating Plans 


The term ‘plant-based’ refers to a diet or meal plan that is primarily composed, but not entirely, of plant foods. Plant-based foods become the central, integral part of your meals. A ‘plant-based’ diet emphasizes foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lentils, and legumes while minimizing the amount of animal products such as dairy, meat, and eggs. 

When following a plant-based diet, focusing on foods that pack a punch in the protein department is key. Some healthy plant-based proteins to focus on include:

Lentils: for protein, fiber, and antioxidants

Peanuts: for protein and folate

Walnuts: for protein and omega-3 fatty acids

Chickpeas: for protein, fiber, and antioxidants

Tofu: for calcium and protein

Of course, all of the fruits and veggies you are eating on this meal plan will serve you well, too. 


A Mediterranean diet is not a restrictive diet but rather one that mimics eating patterns of those who live by the Mediterranean Sea. As such, food choices like beans, nuts, seafood, olive oil, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and emphasized. Processed foods, sugary foods, and fried foods are limited.

When following this dietary pattern, your plate should frequently contain these important foods:

Olive oil: for healthy fats

Tomatoes: for vitamins and antioxidants

Dates and Figs: for fiber and minerals

Beans: for protein, fiber, and antioxidants

Almonds: for protein, healthy fats, and fiber


The ketogenic diet, or keto diet, is one that is high in fat, low in carbohydrates, and moderate in protein. Following a keto lifestyle is extremely popular, and many people lose weight rather quickly when following it.  

However, there are quite a few “keto-friendly” food items that are not the healthiest and don’t offer much in the nutrition department. Keto cookies and cakes are still cookies and cakes and should be treated as such. 

The healthiest foods to eat when following a keto lifestyle include healthier fats that are unsaturated, low-carb veggies, and antioxidant-rich foods.  

Some key foods to focus on when following a keto lifestyle include:

Salmon, Trout, or Other Oily Fish: for omega-3 fatty acids

Green Leafy Vegetables: for vitamins and minerals

Blueberries: in small amounts depending on your carbohydrate allotment for antioxidants

Nuts & Seeds: for protein, fat, and minerals

Cheese: for fat, protein, and calcium  


The Paleolithic diet, known as the Paleo diet for short, is one that mimics how the hunter-gatherers of the past ate. Foods include meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and other foods that can be obtained only by hunting and gathering. Some food choices, including dairy and soy-containing foods, sugar, and grains, are avoided. Processed foods are not included when following this lifestyle as well. 

If you are on the Paleo train, some foods that are going to support your health include:

Eggs: for protein, vitamins, and minerals

Avocado: for healthy fat and fiber

Grass-fed Beef: for protein, iron, and zinc

Berries: for antioxidants and fiber

Almond milk: with no added sugar to be used as a dairy alternative 

Whole 30 / Clean Eating

Especially when a new year starts, following the Whole30 lifestyle becomes extremely popular. Many feel like following Whole30 helps reset them at the start of a new year. Many view Whole 30 as a similar lifestyle to Clean Eating since both have a similar focus.  

The Whole30 lifestyle encourages many fresh foods and limits sugars, alcohol, processed food, soy, beans, and many other foods. 

Some of the best foods to focus on when following Whole30 include:

Oranges: for vitamins and hydration

Free-range Chicken Breast: for protein

Eggs: for protein, vitamins, and minerals

Wild-caught Salmon: for omega-3 fatty acids

All vegetables (even potatoes): for vitamins, minerals, and fiber

Note: You can even have coffee on Whole30, and coffee does provide an antioxidant boost! The key here is to avoid adding sugar or dairy. Enjoy it black or with a splash of Whole30-approved unsweetened coconut milk. 

Bottom line

Following a meal plan is a popular choice for many people who need a little direction on their eating journey. No matter which lifestyle you are incorporating, choosing foods that are minimally processed, nutrient-dense, and most importantly, delicious will help you eat in a healthy way. Along with proper exercise, stress management, and quality sleep, eating the right food can have a profound impact on your health and well being. Kudos to you for making the effort!

At FitOn, we don’t believe in dieting. We believe in just eating healthy meals all the time. You can try our delicious, nutritious meal plans with FitOn PRO.