Many nutrition rules that we take for granted are more hype than help. It may come as a relief that you can ignore some nutrition advice and still eat healthy!
Advice: Put only the most colorful fruits and vegetables on your plate.
Bottom line: This rule shortchanges white, brown, and tan produce, such as mushrooms, cauliflower, and bananas, which are just as nutrition-worthy as their brighter counterparts. Most of us fall far short of suggested fruit and vegetable servings, so concentrate on including the types you like, no matter how pale. And while we’re at it, let’s stop shaming starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and peas, as nutrition expert Janet Helm so aptly puts it.
Advice: You should eat breakfast every day to control your weight.
Bottom line: The research doesn’t support the claim that eating a balanced breakfast is necessary for weight control, but if it works for you, stay with it. Skipping breakfast probably won’t cause weight gain or prevent weight loss if you stick to your calorie budget throughout the day, but there’s more to breakfast than the number on the scale, including fuel and nutrients for body and brain.
Don’t like to eat when you get up? Divide a balanced breakfast of fruit, yogurt, and a whole grain roll into two morning snacks that you finish before lunch. If you’re not into “traditional” breakfast foods, munch on a slice of leftover thin-crust cheese pizza and fruit, or half a turkey and cheese sandwich and carrot sticks.
Advice: Shop only the perimeter of the grocery store.
Bottom line: Yes, the outer parts of the store have lots of nutritious foods, including the fish counter, produce section, and the dairy case, but the bakery is also located there. The aisles house healthy options including whole grain cereal and pasta, as well as canned seafood and beans, and jars of fruit packed in their own juice. Plan meals and snacks, and head to the grocery store with a list to make it easier to peruse the aisles for nutritious choices. Don’t shop when you’re hungry, or that bakery along the perimeter may be too tempting to walk past.
Advice: You must drink 64 ounces of plain water every day.
Bottom line: Probably not! Water is an essential nutrient, but most of us don’t need to down a half gallon of the stuff every day. Men, and women who are not pregnant or nursing require between nine and 13 cups of fluid daily, about 72 to 104 ounces, respectively. (Physically active people may need more.) Plain water is preferable for meeting fluid needs, but the water in other drinks, such as milk, coffee and tea (even the caffeinated kinds) contributes fluid, so it’s easier than you think to meet your quota.
Advice: Eating at night leads to weight gain.
Bottom line: Only if you overdo it, which is often the case. If you’re extremely hungry (from under-eating during the day; see section on breakfast, above), stressed, or bored, and you reach for high-calorie foods such as cookies, chips, or candy, you may find it difficult to limit your calorie intake. It’s OK to eat at night as long as you’re mindful of your daily calorie needs. If you struggle to control calories after the sun goes down, read this by Yoni Freedhoff, M.D.