When it comes to dieting, the food we eat and the worries we have about getting the right levels of nutrients into our bodies, it seems there is a lot of conflicting information out there.
Everyone is a self-confessed dietitian or nutritionist these days, which doesn’t help the high levels of confusion consumers feel.
Real, qualified dietitians – and we mean the ones with proper medical qualifications, not just a wellness vlog on YouTube with 7 million followers – have many concerns about some of the diet myths that circulate online.
Here, we clear some of these up and tell you the truth about the diet myths nutritionists hate.
There is a myth that certain foods need to be branded as ‘superfoods’ and that the more we eat of them, the better we’ll feel.
The truth is that Superfoods are a bit of a myth. You can eat all the blueberries and spirulina smoothies you like, but if you’re following them up with pastries, cakes and burgers the rest of the time, you’re not going to be any healthier.
Instead, focus on getting a wide variety of good fresh fruits and veggies into your diet from different sources. Make sure you eat as many different coloured fruits and veg as you can too – for flavour and interest on your plate.
Remember – a lot of superfoods are simply fads. You couldn’t move for Goji Berries and Acai a few months ago and in a few weeks’ time, something else will take over from them as being the next big health food craze. Most nutritionists will tell you not to get sucked in.
This is another big no-no for many qualified dietitians and nutritionists. Unless there is a real, medical reason for you to be on a restricted diet, and here we’re talking about meal plans that perhaps remove all gluten, dairy and wheat from your diet then you shouldn’t avoid any of those food stuffs.
If you suffer from Coeliac Disease, or have a genuine wheat or dairy allergy then you should avoid foods containing any of those elements at all costs.
However, if you’re just excluding dairy, wheat and gluten to feel less bloated or because you think it will help you lose weight quicker then you’re actually depriving your body of good nourishment and dietary elements that you need to stay healthy.
Dairy products contain essential calcium and Vitamin D, and there is actual research to say that many of us are lacking in this.
Similarly, whole grain breads and cereals will give slow release energy that can help us feel fuller for longer and keep us going – avoiding sugar crashes.
Similarly, restrictive diets can include meal plans that severely curtail the amount of calories consumed, particularly with diets that encourage you to have meal replacement drinks or shakes in conjunction with one proper meal a day.
These types of diets will give speedy weight loss results, but the minute you stop the plan and start to eat relatively normally again, you will put the weight back on, plus more.
Weight loss and body shape
Weight loss is not all about being super slim. Societal norms teach us that a slender frame is more pleasing to the eye and that you can only be healthy if you’re thin as a rake. This is simply not true.
Dieticians will tell you that in some ways, we have little control over the size of our frame, purely from a genetic point of view. It’s perfectly possible to be a little overweight, yet active and be healthier than someone who is slim, but takes no exercise.
However, it is still much better to be the right weight for your height and to eat the right foods, in the right amounts combined with gentle exercise for good overall health.
Vegans and Vegetarians
There is a common misconception that people who have a vegetarian or vegan diet simply can’t get enough protein to survive.
How many times have you heard people make jokes about vegetarians being too weak to do anything?
It’s perfectly possible for a vegetarian or vegan diet to contain good sources of plant based protein that will provide ample amounts of energy.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, think about incorporating nuts, seeds, beans and pulses into your meals every day to get long, slow release energy that will keep you feeling fuller for longer without energy slumps.
Thinking about going sugar free? It’s all the rage right now.
Don’t – well, at least don’t cut out all the beneficial natural sugars from your diet.
True, everyone can benefit from not eating nearly so much refined sugar and cutting right back on fizzy sodas, processed cakes and biscuits.
In reality, the naturally occurring sugars we find in wholesome fruits and veggies, as well as diary produce are good for us and won’t cause sugar crashes.
It’s the hidden ones in processed foods and drinks we need to be careful of and avoid.
Make good, sensible changes to your diet.
Swap the donut for some natural yogurt and a piece of fruit, or homemade, unsweetened granola. Instead of buying a can of soda, take on board a freshly squeezed juice, or still mineral water mixed with fruit juice.
Another confusing dietary craze is for banning carbs to lose weight fast. Again, dieticians will tell you if you restrict an entire food group from your diet of course you’ll lose weight quickly. But the moment you start to eat pizza again, the weight will quickly creep back on.
Carbs provide us with essential nutrients and energy. It’s perhaps not banning carbs we need to think about but more, the carbs we choose to eat.
Opt for brown or wholegrain versions of your favorite carbs. Brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and wholegrain bread contain all of the natural nutrients from the flour they’re made from, not to mention more fiber.
When cutting out a food group like this, you’re likely to crave them more and this can lead to a cycle of wanting to binge eat. Tell yourself not to think about pizza. What are you doing now? You’re thinking about pizza!
It’s important not to eat refined carbs, but even then, a once-in-a-while pizza or cake will do you little harm. Stick to low calorie, healthy carbs with every meal and you’ll feel satisfied and less likely to binge eat later on in the day.
All Fats are Bad
We all need fat in our diet. That’s a fact. It’s how much of it we eat generally that’s the problem. Not all fats are bad.
The ones we find in foods like nuts, seeds and fruits like avocado are really beneficial to us in the long term. Incorporating these into our diets in the form of salads, salad dressings and healthy snacks mean we’ll get a good release of energy and fuel that our brains and body need.
It’s saturated fats found in processed meats, chips, fries and cakes that are doing us more harm in the long term. Indulging in these foods every day can be harmful, not just to our waistline, but also to our hearts and livers. However, small amounts of these from time to time will do us good – remember the old adage of a little of what you fancy…?
Unsaturated fats give us energy and help our brains function properly. Omega 3 fats found in oily fish and flax seeds are an absolute essential for heart health and cognitive function and should be included in our diets every day, or at least two to three times a week.
The ‘Celebrity” endorsed diet
You’ve picked up the latest Sunday supplement in your paper and it tells you about a model who ate nothing but mung beans and vegetable water for three months and lost 116 pounds.
You bet they did. But you can also bet they made themselves hideously ill in the process.
Celebrity diet fads are something that drive dieticians mad.
Many of the celebs we see are already slender and toned and need little in the way of dietary help. So it’s wise to take their words with a pinch or two of salt (and a tablespoon of olive oil).
It’s more than likely that their physique has been achieved by hard work in the gym and the help of a personal chef who has prepared their food for them, than some off the wall eating regime that can really only ever make any sane person attempting it, miserable beyond belief.
Keep it Simple!
Dieticians want you to know that the best way to achieve long term weight loss is to eat properly:
- Eat 3 sensible meals a day.
- Don’t cut any food groups out.
- Exercise regularly.
- Control your portion sizes.
- Remember that weight loss should be done safely – aim for 1-2 lbs a week and you’ll really see the results long term. Slow weight loss over a year is much healthier than a quick loss over a few weeks.