It’s the start of a new year and you want to make some healthy changes, starting with your diet. Which food trends are really healthy, and which are just misconceptions?
NoVA-based nutritionist Romy Nathan debunks some diet myths and weighs in on the eating trends you should be adopting.
DON’T: Do not eliminate whole foods or macronutrient groups
“When starting a new diet or meal plan, people often try to avoid all food groups, usually complex carbohydrates or all added sugar,” says Nathan.
Often, this diet backfires because it’s not sustainable, he says.
“It’s one thing if you have an allergy or a true intolerance, but it’s usually not something you can keep forever,” says Nathan.
While added sugar is definitely something to try to avoid, Nathan says there’s a common misconception about carbs.
“People think that eating carbs will lead to weight gain, but that’s not necessarily true,” she says. “Carbohydrates won’t make you gain more weight than any other macronutrient.”
Carbohydrates hold more water weight in the body.
“People think, ‘Oh, if I cut out carbs, that’s going to help me lose weight,’ but when you go back to carbs, you’re probably going to gain the water weight back.”
Remember that grains and other complex carbohydrates are important for getting nutrients and fiber in your diet, as well as healthy sources of essential vitamins, says Nathan. “They also help with satiety and a healthy gut because our gut bacteria feed on fiber.”
DON’T: Don’t eat too much protein
Another common thing people do when trying to eat healthy is add a ton of protein to their meals.
“Many people seem to have the idea that they should eat a lot of protein at the same time. I see people get 35-40 grams of protein at one meal and then skip other meals, and that’s just not healthy,” says Nathan.
The human body can only use 20-25 grams of protein at a time, says Nathan.
“If you want to focus on building muscle, you’re going to have about 25 grams of protein every four hours,” he says. “That way, your body can maximize the protein you’re taking in.”
Otherwise, it’s just kept or wasted, Nathan adds.
DON’T: Don’t skip breakfast/healthy snacks
This is the million dollar question. Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Nathan says he often sees people skip it.
“I see a lot of people skip breakfast, eat a little protein at lunch, eat a ton of protein at dinner, and nothing at bedtime,” she says.
But you can make better use of your protein intake if you spread it throughout the day, Nathan, starting with breakfast and ending with dinner before bed.
Allowing enough time between meals and consuming the right amount of protein will ensure that you maximize your nutritional benefits.
DON’T: Rely on supplements
Supplements are great when you have a medical reason to eliminate a food group or have a vitamin deficiency, but it’s important to make sure you understand what something is and why you’re taking it, says Nathan.
Be sure not to rely on them as a way to “get healthy,” she adds.
“People sometimes overdo it with supplements and make the mistake of thinking they’re healthy because they’re taking their vitamins,” says Nathan. “It’s important to remember that whenever possible, you should rely on getting nutrients directly from food sources.”
DO: Load up on calories ahead of time
“It’s better to load up on calories earlier in the day, rather than waiting to eat the most food at dinner,” says Nathan.
In other words, have breakfast.
“Many people tend to eat their heaviest meals at dinner, but if you’re eating more calories at breakfast and lunch than at dinner, you’re moving and burning calories throughout the day, not after dinner. people tend to sit and relax more.”
Eating more calories at the beginning of the day will also help you have consistent energy levels throughout the day.
And it’s so easy to put together a breakfast or a late night meal, says Nathan.
DO: Include plant-based foods
Adding plant-based foods to your rotation is one of the eating trends you should try, says Nathan.
“Remember, you don’t have to go vegan and never eat meat,” says Nathan. “Meat is also useful. The more plants and fruits and legumes you can incorporate into your diet, the better it will be for your overall health.”
Plant-based foods have been shown to benefit cardiovascular health, weight control, blood pressure, and diabetes prevention.
“Maybe if you’re not eating meat now, try adding two or three meals a week for lunch or dinner and go from there,” says Nathan. “Following the Mediterranean diet is a great way to do that.”
Feature image courtesy of nadianb/stock.adobe.com
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