Confused by the latest nutrition advice? Our duo of dieticians gives you the straight skinny behind the current headlines.
Myth: Go gluten-free to lose weight.
Fact: While gluten-free eating is necessary for those with celiac disease (an immune disorder that involves an inability to metabolize wheat protein) and gluten intolerance issues, it’s not an ideal diet for weight loss, according to the American Dietetic Association. Nowadays, many products that are labeled gluten-free are processed and have little nutritional value. Focusing on whole foods is the best option, and if your body can tolerate grains like whole wheat, oats and barley, why leave them off your plate?
Myth: Only shop the perimeter of the grocery store.
Fact: Supermarkets do stock fresh foods like produce, dairy, meat and seafood on the outer aisles of their stores. But the middle aisles also hold many healthy and economical pantry basics like whole grains, beans, cereals, spices, peanut butter and canned vegetables and fish. So don’t be a slave to the store’s layout (but do stick to your shopping list!).
Myth: To be healthy, avoid salt at all costs.
Fact: With the new Dietary Guidelines further lowering sodium recommendations, salt is the latest “bad guy” ingredient. But the majority of sodium in our diets comes from processed foods like hot dogs, sausage, bacon, lunch meat, frozen meals, fast food and canned goods. Before you banish the salt shaker, choose lower-sodium products or better yet, make your own pizzas, salad dressings and soups using different spices. Even if you season with a little salt, your homemade options will still slash your sodium intake.
Myth: Wild-caught fish is better for you—and the earth—than farm-raised.
Fact: In many cases, farm-raised fish and seafood are the most sustainable options, depending on the origin of the fish, as several wild species have been commercially overfished almost to the point of extinction. Nutrient-wise, fish rich in omega 3s are an excellent choice, but since we eat so little fish (compared to beef and chicken), increasing intake of any sustainable fish is a smart move. Use the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide at the market and when eating out. Visit Spryliving.com/seafoodguide for details.
Myth: White foods are nutritional zeros.
Fact: While it is better for your pasta, bread and rice choices to be “dark” (whole wheat) vs. white, there are plenty of other white foods that are nutrient-rich. Cauliflower, onions, turnips, mushrooms, bananas and, yes, even potatoes, are loaded with vitamins and minerals, and deserve a spot on your plate.
Myth: Late-night eating makes you fat.
Fact: It’s not when you eat so much as what you eat, and how much. Your body won’t process a balanced dinner of reasonable portions eaten at 8 p.m. any differently than the same meal eaten at 6 p.m. Some people, though, tend to take in extra calories through post-dinner snacks and sweets. If that sounds like you, try portioning your snacks into individual zip-top bags or treating yourself to a bubble bath instead of the Ben & Jerry’s.