Are all calories counted equal? Is breakfast the most important meal for the day? What’s the ideal time of day to exercise?

We are a country obsessed with finding answers to weight-loss success. and obsession can lead us to believe anything. We are overwhelmed with diet and nutrition information in newspapers, magazines and journals and on television. All of this information can make it difficult to sort out the fact from fiction.

Here is some information that will hopefully clear up some of the confusion about weight loss and nutrition.

Myth No. 1: Carbohydrates are the enemy.

Fact: When looking at studies of low-carbohydrate diets, there is no difference between long-term weight loss on a low-carb or high-carb diet. In the end it boils down to calories. Fewer calories mean more weight loss. Any diet that tells you to eliminate an entire food group is not a very sound diet. By following a balanced eating plan, you will not have to stop eating whole classes of foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables – and miss the key nutrients they contain.

Myth No. 2: Skipping meals helps with weight loss.

Fact: People who skip meals, especially breakfast, tend to be heavier than people who eat at least three meals per day. Eating three balanced meals per day with planned snacks as needed may decrease your chances of becoming extremely hungry and possibly overeating later in the day. Portion control is a better strategy for decreasing calories than skipping meals.

Myth No. 3: I can’t eat after a certain time of night.

Fact: If you eat 2,000 calories over 24 hours, it doesn’t matter what time you eat them. The cause of weight gain is extra calories over a long period of time, not one day. However, many people are tempted to overeat in the evenings. Try not to eat in front of the television, or in bed.

Myth No. 4: Carbohydrate-free or fat-free means I can eat as much as I want.

Fact: Carbohydrate-free or fat-free does not mean calorie-free. Many low-carb or low-fat items have just as many or more calories as the full-carbohydrate or full-fat items. There may be added sugar or other ingredients in these products to enhance their flavor and quality. The best thing to do is read the label for serving size and calories before overindulging.

Myth No. 5: I don’t need to exercise to lose weight.

Fact: Losing weight and keeping it off are hard. The most successful weight-loss plan includes exercise. You must burn more calories than you eat. As little as 20 to 30 minutes of activity per day can help you reach your weightploss goals. Health, not just weight, should be a part of your weight-loss plan. Exercise is good for your body and your mind, and by skipping it you’re missing out on one of the healthiest habits you can do.

A registered dietitian can help you debunk the dieting myths and set you on your way to a sensible eating plan that will keep the pounds off for good.

Tracey Shaffer, RD, LD, is a Hy-Vee dietitian at the Blue Springs location. The information provided should not be construed as professional medical advice. Email her at tshaffer@hy-vee.com.