There’s a lot of information available about diets, nutrition and weight loss. So much, in fact, that it can sometimes be hard to determine what’s true and what’s not. Whether it is in your latest fitness magazine, a column in the newspaper or on the 6 o’clock news, everyone seems to have an opinion. Below are seven common myths discredited to help you make healthy choices, change your daily habits and learn some things you didn’t know before.
Myth: Fad diets will help me lose weight and keep it off.
Fact: Fad diets are not the best way to lose weight and keep it off. These diets are typically not sustainable and may not provide all of the nutrients your body needs. Research suggests that safe weight loss involves combining a reduced-calorie diet with physical activity to lose a half pound to 2 pounds a week. Healthy, lifelong habits help you lose weight and keep it off.
When trying to lose weight, you can still eat your favorite foods as part of a healthy eating plan. Not every food choice needs to be perfect, but a good balance will help you stay healthy. Find ways to limit the calories in your favorite foods, such as:
• Bake foods rather than fry them.
• Use low-fat milk in place of cream.
• Eat smaller portions.
Myth: Grain products such as bread, pasta and rice are fattening. I should avoid them when trying to lose weight.
Fact: Grains are divided into two subgroups, whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel – the bran, germ and endosperm, and still have all of the dietary fiber, iron and B vitamins in them. Examples include brown rice and whole-wheat bread, cereal and pasta. Refined grains have the bran and germ removed. This is done to give grains a finer texture and improve their shelf life, but it also removes many of the nutrients. People who eat whole grains as part of a healthy diet may lower their chances of developing some chronic diseases. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary guidelines recommend making half of your grains whole grains.
Myth: If I skip meals, I can lose weight.
Fact: Skipping meals may make you feel hungrier and lead you to eat more than you normally would at your next meal. In particular, studies show a link between skipping breakfast and obesity. People who skip breakfast tend to be heavier than people who eat a healthy breakfast.
Myth: Eating healthy food costs too much.
Fact: Eating better does not have to cost a lot of money. Many people think that fresh foods are healthier than canned or frozen ones. However, canned or frozen fruits and veggies provide as many nutrients as fresh ones, at a lower cost. Some healthy options include low-sodium canned veggies, fruit canned with no added sugar, beans, lentils, peas or canned seafood that is easy to keep on the shelf. Check the nutrition facts on canned, dried and frozen items. Look for items that are high in calcium, fiber, potassium, protein and vitamin D. Also, check for items that are low in added sugars, saturated fat and sodium.
Myth: Dairy products are fattening and unhealthy.
Fact: Fat-free and low-fat cheese, milk and yogurt provide just as much nutrition as whole-milk dairy products, and they are lower in fat and calories. Dairy products offer protein to build muscles and help organs work well, and calcium and vitamin D to help strengthen bones. Most Americans don't get enough calcium and vitamin D. Consuming dairy products is an easy way to get more of these nutrients. Based on USDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines, you should try to have three cups a day of fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products.
Myth: Lifting weights is not a good way to lose weight because it will make me "bulk up."
Fact: Lifting weights or doing activities like pushups and crunches on a regular basis can help you build strong muscles, which can help you burn more calories. To strengthen muscles, you can lift weights, use large rubber bands (resistance bands), do body weight activities such as sit-ups or pushups, or do household or yard tasks that make you lift or dig. Performing strengthening activities two or three days a week will not "bulk you up." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults should work on strengthening muscles at least two times a week for good health.
Myth: Physical activity only counts if I can do it for long periods of time.
Fact: You do not need to be active for long periods to achieve your 150 minutes of activity each week. Experts advise doing aerobic activity for periods of 10 minutes or longer at a time. You can spread these sessions out over the week. Plan to do at least 10 minutes of physical activity three times a day on five or more days a week. This will help you meet the 150-minute goal. While at work, take a brief walking break. Use the stairs. Get off the bus one stop early. Go dancing with friends. Whether for a short or long period, bursts of activity contribute to the total amount of physical activity you need each week.
Weight loss and nutrition does not have to be a confusing topic. Always consult a registered dietician, physician or health care provider if you have questions about making healthier food choices or becoming more physically active. For more information, visit the National Institute of Health’s website at http://www.nih.gov/. Some other reputable sources include http://www.choosemyplate.gov/, the Food and Drug Administration, www.nutrition.gov, or the Food and Nutrition Information Center through the USDA at https://fnic.nal.usda.gov/.
Andrew Warlen, MPH, is the director of the Independence Health Department.