Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Don’t Be Fooled by Common Nutrition Myths

As a registered dietitian, I find I spend a fair amount of time with clients debunking myths they’ve accumulated over the years. With so many “quick-fix” diet options out there many times people don’t know where to start and what information is correct. I’ve compiled some of the most common myths here:

1.) Watching your weight means no snacking.
Result: Less weight-loss success, more hunger, fatigue

Snacking is vital to a healthy and active lifestyle, helping to manage hunger by keeping your metabolic engine running at a more constant pace. Any healthy-eating plan should allow for one or two snacks per day: something nutritious and satisfying.

What to snack on: Sticking close to the 200-250 calorie range, choose calcium-rich low-fat dairy foods, full-of-fiber nuts, or naturally sweet, low-calorie fruit.

2.) Skipping meals can help lose weight
Result: Slowing metabolism, over-eating, too many calories

Many people think that by skipping a meal, they will be eating less food and therefore lose weight. If you skip a meal, your body will think that you are in starvation mode and therefore slow down the metabolism to compensate. Eating small frequent meals help to balance your calorie intake and also keep your blood sugar level balanced. Instead of eating 3 big meals, try to eat 5 - 6 smaller meals throughout the day.

3.) If I exercise I can eat whatever I want
Result: More calories in than out

Weight loss is a matter of calories in versus calories out. So long as you expend more calories in your daily activities than you take in eating, you can lose weight. To lose one pound of weight, you must eliminate 3,500 calories by increasing the calories you burn in your activity, reducing how much many calories you eat or some combination of the two.

4.) You can eat more foods if they are low fat or fat free.
Result: See the words fat free= consuming much more than you should.

Low fat or fat free does not mean calorie free. Many times, these products are slightly lower in calories than the full fat version but this is not always the case. Usually, when the fat is taken out, sugar and other carbohydrates are added in to keep the taste. The next time you compare the calories of these products, you might be surprised that they are the same if not more. Remember that weight comes down to calories, not fat!

5.) All vegetarians are healthy eaters.
Result: One can make food choices that contribute to weight gain by eating large amounts of high-fat, high-calorie foods as well as food with little or no nutritional value.

Research shows that people who follow a vegetarian eating plan, on average, eat fewer calories and less fat than non-vegetarians. However, the term vegetarian is not synonymous with health, as there are a lot of high fat, high calorie ‘vegetarian’ food items on the market. Healthy nutrition comes down to choosing nutritious foods within the recommended amounts and limiting foods high in fat, sugar and calories. These facts hold true for those people who choose to include animal products into their diets as well as those who do not.

Those are just a few of the common questions I get each day. If you have any other myth vs. reality questions please contact me directly at ambermassey@texashealth.org or if you have a question visit www.texashealth.org/askamber.

Amber Massey RD, LD
Registered Dietitian
Executive Health Program
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth

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