8 Nutrition Myths You Need to Know About
As a Registered Dietitian I am constantly hearing false information about nutrition or about the newest diet craze and I am here to debunk all of those myths for you right now!
Nutrition Myth Number 1: Skipping meals and eating very low calories daily will help you lose weight
Skipping meals can easily be one of the most detrimental things you can do for your weight loss goals and for your health. Whenever we go for a long period of time without a meal or snack, our bodies think that we have no access to food and it may be a long time before we do. In an effort to preserve our fat stores to make sure we have enough energy to get us through this famine, our body drops our metabolic rate preventing us from burning calories. So while you’re struggling to make it through the day because you have skipped lunch, your body is burning only 1200 calories instead of the 2000 calories you could have burned if you ate lunch (for example).
The same thing happens when you reduce your caloric intake dramatically. Yes, in order to lose weight, you will need to eat fewer calories, but the deficit in the number of calories your body needs and you consume should be minimal. For example, if your body needs 2000 calories to maintain its current weight, you can drop your caloric intake to 1600-1800 calories a day. This will produce a weight loss of 1 pound every other week.
I know this is probably not what you want to hear, but this kind of weight loss is safer and you’re more likely to stick to your new lifestyle change. If you reduce your caloric intake from 2000 calories to 1200 calories a day or even worse, 500-800 calories a day that some of the fad diets out there recommend – you have essential crashed your metabolism! Your body will do exactly what it does when you skip a meal which is lower its metabolic rate to preserve its stores. If you do this over a long period of time, your metabolic rate will not be able to recover and when you go back to consuming the number of calories that should maintain your body weight, you will gain weight and probably more than where you started. Now let me ask you this question, what would you rather do, eat 1600 calories and lose weight slowly in a healthy way, not shocking your body and keep the weight off over the long run or eat 800 calories, crash your metabolism, feel lethargic and sick, not be able to sustain that so you return to a normal calorie level and gain more weight?
In both of these scenarios mentioned, skipping meals and eating a very low calorie diet you are also losing valuable nutrients that come along with food.
Take away message: You don’t eat food; you don’t eat nutrients. Something to keep in mind is that being healthy is not just about being a healthy body weight. It is not just about calories, but also about valuable nutrients that are found in the foods that we eat.
Nutrition Myth Number 2: Juicing and Cleanses are good for you
When you juice or do a cleanse, you are removing food groups from your diet for a period of time.
Let’s start with juicing: Juicing can be part of a healthy diet if done the right way and in accordance with your personal goals. What some people don’t understand is that juicing will NOT help you lose weight, that is unless you have removed all other food groups from your diet, in which case you will lose weight in the short term as well as lose valuable nutrients and head down the path of being malnourished. Fruits and vegetables are extremely important foods and have a huge number of valuable nutrients in them, but we need to eat our fruits and vegetables in their whole food forms for the most part. When consuming fruits and vegetables in their whole food forms, you are getting more of a feeling of satisfaction and fullness for a couple reasons. 1- Whole fruits and vegetables have fiber in them which you often lose when you juice and 2-your brain is able to sense that you ate whole foods and you will feel fuller longer than if you drank juice. In addition, let me ask you, how many oranges does it take to make a glass of orange juice? The answer is a lot! While fruits and vegetables are definitely healthy and I encourage you all to increase your whole fruit and vegetable consumption, too much of a good thing can be bad and when consuming these in an excess amount can prevent you from losing unwanted weight.
Now onto cleanses: There are so many different cleanses out there that one can’t even keep track. Doing a cleanse insinuates that you are ridding your body of unwanted material that will in turn make you healthier. Whether it be a juice cleanse or a different type of cleanse, most “cleanse” or “detox” diets will ask you to remove most of the food groups from your diet for a period of time. These food group items all provide your body with something different, different micronutrients, macronutrients and phytochemicals. Removing these important things from the body for a period of time can lead to poor health, reduced immunity, fatigue and lethargy and overall poor health.
Take away message: A good “detox” or “cleanse” diet would be to eat a diet of appropriate portion sizes, natural whole foods and rid the body of processed food. In other words, an overall healthy diet. Maintain this for the long term and you’re on the right track. You will lose unwanted weight, feel energized and your body will thank you for all of the valuable nutrients it has received.
Nutrition Myth Number 3: Following the newest diet craze will help you drop those unwanted pounds
It seems like every day there is a new diet trend. If we think about it, we have not come a long way in the sense of appropriate dieting. For such a long period of time, we as a society, have placed so much emphasis on losing weight and being slim that we will do anything, and I mean ANTYHING to lose those unwanted pounds. From eating nothing but vegetable soup, cereal for 3 meals, juicing, cleanses, removing food groups, diet pills- the list can go on and on. If it is said to make us lose weight, we will try it. The problem with this is that most of these trends are unhealthy. Will they make you lose weight? Most of them will make you lose weight but at what expense? Your health. I cannot stress this enough. It should not be about losing weight as fast as you can but more about being and staying healthy and fit so you can prevent chronic diseases and live a long healthy life. If you are being promised a quick fix to all your weight loss problems, RUN the other way. This is a huge red flag because weight loss is NOT fast, it’s a long journey but one you will be proud of at the end.
Take away message: A healthy lifestyle is the way to go. Ditch the newest diet craze and eat a balanced diet full of whole and natural foods. It should not be about losing weight as fast as you can but more about being and staying healthy and fit so you can prevent chronic diseases and live a long healthy life
Nutrition Myth Number 4: All fats are bad fats
We were once told to eat a low fat diet and it would not only make us lose weight but make us healthier in the long run. Now we know that not all fats are created equal. Eating a diet rich in healthy unsaturated fats will provide your body with much needed nutrients including essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins. It will keep your body overall healthy, will not lead to heart disease and will not contribute to weight gain (as long as eaten in a healthy amount- remember anything when eaten in too large of an amount can lead to weight gain no matter how healthy it is for you). For more information on what types of fats you should consume check out my blog post on how nutrition can help prevent heart disease.
Take away message: Eat a diet rich in healthy unsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds and fatty fish. Your body will thank you! But remember too much of a good thing is bad so don’t overdo it!
Nutrition Myth Number 5: Breakfast cereals are a healthy breakfast
Now when I’m talking breakfast cereal I am not talking about natural unsweetened whole grains like oatmeal. I am talking about the processed, sugar laden food items we find on our grocery store shelves that is marketed to our children. Next time you are in the grocery store, take a look at the food label of any cereal box you can find. It’ll be a very hard task to find one that you know what each and every ingredient is, not to mention one without added sugars. Breakfast cereal is an ultra-processed food item that is full of chemicals and added refined sugar taking over one of the most important meals of the day to get vital nutrients. Even if the box says it is a whole grain I’d recommend staying away from it. Next time you go to reach for breakfast, try some unsweetened yogurt with fruit and nuts, make an omelet with some sautéed vegetables, or grab some oatmeal and sweeten it with a bit of honey and fruit, but whatever you do, stay away from those breakfast cereals!
Take away message: Stay away from processed sugar full breakfast cereal! These promote inflammation which can lead to chronic diseases.
Nutrition Myth Number 6: If it’s healthy, eat it in a large amount. More is always better!
We have seen this time and time again. We find out something is healthy for us so we go crazy eating it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks! The newest healthy food trend shows up in many of the food products on our grocery store shelves. When consuming one specific food item or nutrient in large amounts you are displacing other foods and nutrients from your diet. A key to a healthy diet is variety. Each food item and food group contains different nutrients that your body needs to function so when you eat the same food item meal to meal, day to day you are missing out on the other nutrients from other foods. In addition to this some nutrients can be toxic in large amounts- again confirming that too much of a healthy thing can be bad for us. In most cases, you will not see toxic effects from nutrients coming from whole, real foods. However, seeing toxic effects is a real possibility when taking supplements in pill forms because the concentration of that nutrient is very high.
Take away message: Be wary about taking large amounts of supplements and remember variety is key!
Nutrition Myth Number 7: Doing crunches will give you a flat belly
I bet there are a ton of people out there that can tell me they do crunches to no end but yet they still have this spare tire that just won’t go away. I’m here to tell you that no number of crunches will give you a flat belly if your diet is not up to par. Doing crunches or any ab work for that matter WILL build your ab muscles so that you can get that definition that you want, however, it WILL NOT show unless you lose the fat around your mid-section. Losing the fat around your mid-section can be aided by those workouts but without a healthy, clean diet that fat will stay put and you will never see the definition of those muscles you have spent so much time building. Am I saying for you not to do crunches? Absolutely not! What I’m saying is clean up your diet as well as do your crunches and that’s when you will see results! Need help cleaning up your diet? Check out my pre made meal plans or schedule an appointment with me for a more personalized approach!
Take away message: Fill your diet full of whole natural foods, ditch the processed items and keep doing those crunches!
Nutrition Myth Number 8: Sleeping less than 8 hours a night is OK
Now I know you’re thinking that this post is about nutrition myths and sleeping has nothing to do with nutrition. Wrong! Sleeping has a lot to do with nutrition. Think about this scenario for a minute. You go to bed late and you wake up early. You get a total of 5 hours of sleep. Maybe you can function for one day, provided you have a large amount of caffeine to get you through the day, but when you do it again you are unable to function. Your tired, cranky and your body is running off of caffeine. How motivated are you to stick to your healthy eating plan? How motivated are you to go to the gym? How motivated are you to cook yourself dinner? Most likely after a night of poor sleep, you feel that you can’t concentrate well and most likely the last thing on your mind is going home and cooking. Wouldn’t it be easier just to stop and get fast food on the way home? Or just go to that vending machine at work? Your body at this point is in a fight or flight mode and has released a large number of hormones to keep you going. One of these hormones is the hormone Ghrelin. This little gremlin as I like to call it, is also known as the hunger hormone.
Under normal circumstance the amount of ghrelin produced is controlled by presence of food. For instance, when the stomach is empty, ghrelin is secreted making you feel hungry. When the stomach is stretched, the secretion of ghrelin stops and so does your hunger. Short sleep duration is associated with high levels of ghrelin- meaning when you don’t sleep long enough you are going to feel hungrier. Mix an increased amount of hunger with decreased concentration and energy levels and this is a perfect storm for you to fall off of your healthy eating lifestyle and to reach for whatever is the most convenient.
Take away message: Get your 8 hours a sleep a night so that you are fully prepared to face anything the following day has in store for you!