Looking to lose weight, build muscle, and eat healthier? You’ve probably heard an earful from friends and family giving you diet recommendations to help you out. The problem is, many of these tips may seem like a good idea but are actually quite the opposite. Here are the 10 worst diet tips to follow and what you can do instead.
You Need More Willpower
Jackie London, MS, RD, CDN author of www.dressingonthesidebook.com Dressing on the Side (and Other Diet Myths Debunked): 11 Science Based Ways to Eat More, Stress Less, and Feel Great About Your Body debunks this diet tip, saying, “In initial sessions with clients, I always find that one or all of these three reasons fuels overeating, or tricks people into believing that they have ‘no willpower,’ when really it’s got absolutely zero to do with anything!” These include not eating enough or any breakfast, skipping meals or snacks, and not being accountable for yourself.
Instead: Learn to manage these pitfalls. Eat a good breakfast combining protein, fat, and fiber-filled carbs, eat every 3-4 hours by utilizing healthy snacks, make yourself accountable, and utilize technology to help with meal timing and scheduling.
Get Rid of the Yolk
“There’s nothing ‘bad’ about eating just the egg whites, but you’ll be missing out on several key nutrients if you do!” says registered dietitian, Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, and author of The No-Brainer Nutrition Guide For Every Runner. Rizzo explains that over 40 perent of an egg’s protein is found in the yolk, as well as fat-soluble vitamins, like Vitamin D, E, A and choline. The fat found in the yolk helps with the absorption of these important nutrients. Lastly, the yolk contains two antioxidants – lutein and zeaxanthin – which are believed to slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, a disease that develops as you get older.
Instead: Rizzo recommends, “no matter which way you like to enjoy it, skip the egg whites and eat the entire egg!”
Cut the Sugar!
London says, “One of the biggest trends I’ve noticed among clients is that many assume they have a personal ‘problem’ with sugar, when actually, they’re doing one or all of these three things.”
First, consuming sugar from unlikely food sources without knowing that those foods contain sugar, like condiments and sauces. Second, attempting to Band-Aid a love of sugar with items that are just not going to cut it (like a banana when you want a donut) and subsequently eating way more than they need over the course of a day as a result of “avoiding sugar.” Lastly, not filling up enough on nutrient-dense foods at those meals to keep you satisfied enough to consciously eat real dessert without worry.
Instead: Making a conscious decision to eat quality sugars is most important. London says, “For most of us, sugar adds up in our diets in ways that have much more to do with our lifestyle than they do with our making a conscious decision to have something sweet.”
Cut Out Pulses
“Many fad diets such as the keto diet suggest cutting out pulses—chickpeas, lentils, beans, and dried peas—because of their carbohydrate content,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a nutrition partner with USA Pulses. “But pulses are beneficial for you in many ways. They’re a good source of filling protein and an excellent source of fiber, which also helps to satiate you and can help keep your digestion healthy.” Pulses are also nutritious, and you can include small portions on a keto diet, according to Gorin.
For instance, a quarter cup of cooked black beans contains just 10 grams of carbs, which is definitely workable with the keto diet. “You might also see nutrition advice to avoid pulses because they contain anti-nutrients,” says Gorin. “These are natural plant compounds found in pulses that can actually help your health, as some function as antioxidants. You don’t need to worry about these because most anti-nutrients are inactivated by soaking or cooking—and many are found in foods that you wouldn’t eat raw.”
Instead: Make pulses part of your healthy eating plan and throw in some hummus, a three-bean chili or lentil soup.
Don’t Eat at Night
Anyone ever tell you not to eat after 7 or 8 p.m.? Eating at night can sabotage weight loss efforts if you already consumed all your needed calories. However, if you haven’t eaten enough during the day, or if you only have time to work out at night, you should be eating a pre- or post-workout meal or snack. Your meal or snack should be healthy and well balanced, as high fat foods (like fried food) can sabotage a good night’s sleep.
Instead: Take a look at what you eat throughout the day and make a judgment call. If you don’t eat enough during the day or exercise at night, eating in the evening may be for you.
Cleanse to Trim Down
Fewer calories and taking diuretics and/or enemas for a week or more will lead to weight loss, but those pounds will climb right back up again. In addition, you won’t be learning how to change your long-term behaviors to healthy ones. It’s also a misconception that a cleanse will help rid or detox your body of chemicals and other “bad things” floating around in your body. Luckily, that’s the job of your liver and other organs in the body.
Instead: Opt for small healthy changes to your diet every week, to help you build lifelong healthy habits. It may take a little longer to lose weight, but the weight loss should be sustainable long-term.
Cut Out Grains
You may have gotten advice to cut out all grains, with assurance that you can get all the fiber you need from fruits and vegetables. However, according to Melissa Joy Dobbins MS, RDN, CDE, there are different types of fiber with various roles or functions. “Grains provide certain types of fiber that fruits and vegetables do not,” says Dobbins. “You need both whole grains and enriched grains to get the variety of nutrients including fiber, vitamins and minerals that each group provides.” Interestingly, Dobbins also explains that some nutrients, such as folic acid or iron, are found in higher amounts or are better absorbed in enriched grains than whole grains.
Instead: You don’t have to avoid grains or only choose whole grains. Aim for three servings of whole grains per day, and also include a few servings of enriched grains, such as breads, cereals, and rice.
Eat the Same Thing Every Day
Even if your daily diet is well-balanced on paper, there’s a good chance it still doesn’t contain everything you need. Different foods provide different nutrients that your body needs to be healthy and build muscle. It’s nearly impossible to meet all your nutrient needs by eating the same foods day after day.
Instead: Choose a diet that is varied and balanced with different proteins, fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and healthy fats.
Cheat Once a Week
The definition of the word cheat is to violate the rules deliberately, to mislead, and to deprive by trickery. All these terms are negative—food, weight loss, and healthy eating should never be equated to trickery or deprivation. In addition, cheat days can lead to overindulging so much that you ruin all the hard work you’ve done throughout the week.
Instead: Instead of eating anything you want in one day, opt to eat a small indulgence once a day. For example, grab two small cookies or a slice of pie for dessert.
More Exercise Equals Weight Loss
Just because you hit the gym hard this week doesn’t mean you should be indulging in a fried chicken dinner with all the high fat sides that go along with it. Oftentimes the calories you take in after an indulgent meal is much more than the exercise you just did. Additionally, eating artery-clogging meals high in calories is no way to learn healthy eating habits, which should balance your exercise regimen.
Instead: Balance exercise with healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. If you are still hungry after a meal, have more lean protein, vegetables, or even whole grains.
BY TOBY AMIDOR, MS, RD