There’s plenty of well-intentioned health advice out there, but unfortunately a lot of it is misguided. Once a dieting myth works its way into the mainstream, it can be very difficult to uproot.
Regardless of whether you consider yourself an amateur nutritionist or a total newbie when it comes to dietary concepts, it’s important to make the healthiest decisions for your body based on the most accurate information available. Your health is simply too important to sacrifice on the altar of public misconception. So before you make any changes to your diet this New Year’s day, make sure you haven’t been misled by one of these dieting myths.
Myth #1: Skipping meals is a great way to lose weight.
At first glance, it seems logical: If you skip a meal, you won’t consume any calories during that meal. This will reduce your calorie intake overall, and that will help you lose weight.
In reality, it’s not that simple. Skipping a meal is more likely to leave you famished by the time you eat your next meal, which may lead you to eat even more than you would have had you eaten the meal you skipped. Regardless of whether you’re trying to lose weight or just improve your diet, for most people the best bet is to eat multiple, healthy, well-rounded meals a day.
Myth #2: The lower your calorie intake, the greater your weight loss.
If you eat less, your body won’t have any extra calories to store as fat, right?
In truth, restricting your calories too much can slow your metabolism. It can also diminish muscle mass, which further inhibits your metabolism from firing on all cylinders. Once again: If you want to be healthier and lose weight, eating enough of the right foods is crucial. Maximize the benefit of the calories you consume by opting for whole foods, lean meats, and other nutrient-dense options.
Myth #3: When it comes to weight loss, all fat is bad.
Fat’s been put through the ringer for decades, ever since educational campaigns warned people of a possible correlation between saturated fat and heart disease. This concept has been pretty thoroughly debunked. More recent studies find that consuming moderate amounts of saturated fat doesn’t actually correspond to an increased risk for heart disease. Trans fats, however, should be avoided because they raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol.
If you’re worried eating fat will make you fat, think again. A number of studies have found that eating fat doesn’t cause weight gain. Instead, we’re more likely to gain weight if we consume more calories than we expend—no matter if those calories come from fats, carbs, or protein. Besides, some fat is essential for keeping our bodies healthy. And if weight loss is what you’re after, fat can help with that, too. It boosts satiation so you feel fuller longer. Of course, not all sources of fat are created equally. Whenever possible, opt for healthy sources of fat such as olive or coconut oils, avocados, nuts, and fish.
Myth #4: If you’re dieting, desserts and other rich foods are off the table.
Who wants to stick to a diet that requires you cut your favorite foods? A healthy diet is one you can stick to over the long haul, and that requires balance. (In fact, deprivation diets are most likely to fail.) So long as you mostly opt for healthy food choices—and, in the case of weight loss, eat fewer calories than you expend—your diet can include any and all of your favorite foods.
Myth #5: Healthy food is too expensive
Yes, those organic peppers come with a hefty price tag. But when you plan your healthy shopping list carefully, research suggests you can actually spend less money on healthy food than people who regularly eat fast food. To lower your grocery bill, shop in bulk whenever possible for items such as grains and nuts; choose cheaper produce options such as cabbage, oranges, and carrots; and purchase non-meat protein sources such as beans and legumes more frequently than meat. Consider planning your meals in advance so nothing goes to waste.
Myth #6: What you eat is more important than what you drink
It’s reasonable that food is the main focus of dieting. But it’s important to remember that along with the food we eat, the beverages we consume can play a big role in our diet. Even if you eat the healthiest foods in the world, you could still wreak havoc on your diet by drinking sugar- and chemical-laden sodas every day. In fact, sugary drinks are a major contributor to a variety of health issues. If you’re trying to improve your diet, then the best beverage around is water. Water is calorie-free, and drinking plenty of it will stave off dehydration and improve alertness, creativity, and focus.
As these myths demonstrate, it’s important to do your research before changing your diet. Above all else, remember that balance is key. Any dietary changes you make should be sustainable and enjoyable so you can stick to your health commitments over the long haul.