This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
Social media is full of dieting fads and healthy eating trends — many which are ineffective, not based in fact, or just plain harmful. But a new concept has emerged that appears to genuinely help people make healthier choices and create balanced meals — without the restriction and deprivation that often come with it.
What is the 'Eat what you want, add what you need' TikTok trend?
Called "Eat what you want, add what you need," the viral trend involves eating whatever it is you may be craving — and then adding additional ingredients to make the meal or snack more nutritious and filling.
If the thing you are craving is pasta, for instance, you would fill your plate with additional protein and fibre to create a balanced meal while also satisfying your craving. The idea is to create meals that are all at once physically, mentally and emotionally satisfying.
Who started it, and what are people saying?
TikTok user @lizaslosingweight first introduced the idea in October of 2022, and her original video about it has garnered more than 100,000 views. Liza frequently shares videos of herself applying the concept to her daily meals, and she also stitches clips of other TikTok users trying out the trend in their own homes.
Mina Schofield is a 33-year-old from Guelph, Ont., who has adopted this healthy eating philosophy in her own life.
"All my life all I've ever been told is to count your calories, exercise and don't eat the 'bad' foods," she explained. "This was how I adopted disordered eating in my early 20s and have been avoiding that ever since — but this idea made sense to me and my life."
Schofield was scrolling on TikTok when she came across @lizaslosingweight. The creator was talking about being a big girl with a big appetite, and she was sharing recipes that helped her feel full and satisfied while sustaining her on a healthy weight loss journey.
"I want to be able to enjoy what I eat, but also find a way to be mindful and have balance within my meals," Schofield said. "This really resonated with me."
Schofield was diagnosed with hypothyroidism last year and is currently looking into whether she may have additional hormone imbalances, including PCOS. She's been told by doctors that it would be difficult for her to lose weight naturally as a result of these health issues, and they've recommended she go on Ozempic or undergo gastric bypass surgery.
But these treatments can have serious side effects, so Schofield made it her mission to see for herself if she has the ability to lose weight naturally by focusing on her protein intake and balancing her meals.
"Physically, I've been able to shed about eight pounds naturally in three weeks," Schofield said. "Mentally, it has changed the eating game for me. I always had such a negative outlook on food, but this has really made it clear that there are no bad foods — you just have to balance your plate."
She said the concept has made eating fun again, and she enjoys thinking about what she's craving and how she can add what she needs to it.
On one occasion, for example, when she was craving pierogis, Schofield added chicken bacon and dill pickle salad mix to ensure she was getting protein and fibre.
When she wanted buffalo chicken dip but needed to add carbs, fibre and protein, she doubled the chicken breast and filled out her plate with a side of veggies and Tostitos chips.
There are no bad foods — you just have to balance your plate.Mina Schofield
A nutritionist weighs in
"Depriving yourself of foods you love is a recipe for disaster," said Rachel MacPherson, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, exercise nutritionist and macros-based nutrition coach from Nova Scotia.
She said it's crucial to not view certain foods as "good" or "bad" — and to not view food as the enemy. Instead, she said it’s important to understand what a particular food does or does not do for your body so you can make informed decisions regarding what you choose to eat.
This concept, in MacPherson's opinion, is one way to do that.
For example, protein and fibre help you feel full and satiated, and they take longer to break down when adding them to any meal, she said. Fibre slows down the digestive system and keeps your blood sugars more stable, and she said research has shown that it's actually the single most effective part of your diet —helping to maintain digestive health, a balanced weight, better blood sugar levels and more. Protein is, meanwhile, essential for supporting all the tissues in your body and helps with muscle building and maintenance, MacPherson added.
Depriving yourself of foods you love is a recipe for disaster.Rachel MacPherson
But foods that have fewer nutritional benefits can actually be good for you, too — at least in a psychological sense. Pleasurable foods can enhance your quality of life and well-being, MacPherson said, so it's important to ensure you're not depriving yourself of the foods you enjoy most.
"If you deny yourself foods you love, then they become a sort of off-limit temptation that can mess with your willpower and mindset," she explained. "Planning to purposely and mindfully eat foods you love will ensure you enjoy them and create a better mindset around food."
The "Eat what you want, add what you need" concept, at its core, is a version of the popular "intuitive eating" method in that it does away with restriction and allows you to listen to your body and eat what feels right to you, just with a few slight adjustments to ensure your body gets everything it needs.
"I hope more people learn about this and are able to adapt it to their lives — especially those of us who have grown up with such negative connotations around food and diet culture," Schofield said. "It doesn't have to be so hard; it can be fun. And that's how you make a lifestyle change."