The anti-deprivation diet: focus on healthier foods

Diet deprivation creates a toxic relationship with food. Learn how to shift from ineffective restricting to eating wholesome and satisfying meals.

People enjoying a healthy lunch around a table

Diet deprivation creates a toxic relationship with food, sometimes preventing long-term weight loss and hindering health. Learn how to shift from ineffective restricting, to filling up your plate with wholesome and satisfying meals. 

Ditch diet deprivation 

In reality, there are no “good” or “bad” foods, rather some are better to eat more of and some less of as part of a well-balanced diet. When we negatively label food, or tell ourselves we can’t ever have it, it sets us up to fail. 

When we try not to think about something, it's normal to think about it. Psychologists call this the “white bear problem” because if someone were to tell you not to think about a white bear, chances are the picture would stay in your mind (1). 

Same goes for restricting certain foods. Oftentimes this causes them to gain power over us, calling us back with intense cravings. If we chronically feel deprived, from restricting a certain food or too many calories, it can lead to overeating. This could be because we missed the food so much, have been lacking certain nutrients we weren’t getting, or fear another restriction coming (2). 

Please note: if you experience any warning signs of disordered eating please contact your physician and/or mental health care provider. 

More mindful eating 

Developing a difficult relationship with food as a result of restricting can perpetuate the unhealthy yo-yo dieting, or a cycle of losing and regaining weight (3). This can add layers of frustration and de-motivation. One way to improve the relationship with food and our bodies is to eat mindfully. 

Mindful eating is paying attention to what we eat, without judgement. It’s an approach that focuses on the sensations of the food, such as taste, texture, and look. The intention is to shift away from rules about food to being present while eating and how the food makes us feel (4). 

To increase awareness of what we’re eating and how it makes us feel, try tracking food intake. It can give insight into what factors could be driving food choices. Tracking can also help identify when a meal makes us feel energized, satisfied, and feeling our best. An easy and effective way to track food intake is through a nutrition app.

What foods to focus on

Filling up on healthy foods can create a sense of satiety. Natural and whole food based ways of eating, such as the Mediterranean diet, has characteristics that can curb hunger and cravings, aiding in overall weight management and disease prevention (5). 

Lean protein 

Protein food sources help promote feelings of fullness and longer lasting energy than carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates. As a bonus, protein foods take more energy for our bodies to break down and use, meaning more calorie expenditure (6). 

Lean protein sources: low-fat dairy, eggs, fish, tofu, and poultry. 

Unsaturated fats

Out of the three macronutrients, fats take the longest to leave our digestive tract which can help increase satiety. The key is to focus on healthy fats. Studies have suggested that unsaturated fats increase satiety, in comparison to saturated fats which don’t (7). 

The American Heart Association also recommends replacing foods high in saturated fats (cakes, pastries, cookies, full-fat dairy, red meat) with foods high in unsaturated fats to help boost heart health and decrease inflammation

Unsaturated fat sources: nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, and oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring. 


Fiber is the part of plants that can’t be digested by our bodies. Instead, it either passes through our digestive tract or feeds healthy gut bacteria. Since we can’t digest it, it adds bulk to meals without extra calories. It also helps control blood sugar levels, which can help overall energy level. 

High fiber foods: whole grains (oats, quinoa, whole-wheat bread), nuts, seeds, beans and fruits and vegetables. 

Fruits and vegetables 

As part of an overall healthy diet, eating fruits and vegetables can help lower total calorie intake, therefore help with weight management. Eating fruits and vegetables also helps reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke (8). Fruits and vegetables also provide essential vitamins and minerals that are important for good health. 

Aim to fill half of a plate or bowl with vegetables and include a piece of fruit with some meals or snacks in order to reach the recommended minimum of five per day (9). 

Check out this delicious healthy, vege-full version of pizza: Why pizza when you can cauliflower

Integrate an inclusive meal plan  

Restrictive dieting can disturb balance in the body and cause physical, emotional, and spiritual distress (10). Rather than focusing on what to cut out, aim to fill-up on foods that provide healthy sources of calories and nutrients. 

Find a meal plan suited to include the foods that make you feel your personal best with Lifesum.

Question 1 of 8What’s your primary goal?

What’s your primary goal?

10 references (hide)

All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice. If you have or think you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, do not use the Lifesum app and seek immediate medical help.

Read this next

Screenshot from the Lifesum app
  • Apple AppStore:
    4.6 average rating
    Google Play:
    4.4 average rating
  • Editors’ Choice, App Store 2018
  • Best of Google Play 2017 & 2018

Gain control of your nutrition intake and boost your health.

Learn more