My stomach’s not a wastebasket!

An engine will only run right if given proper fuel. Put something in that it isn’t designed for and it will either run poorly, or not run at all. Our bodies are like that. Everyone knows, you have to eat to live. However, we shouldn’t just eat anything. A wastebasket is where you put junk. This should not be your stomach.

When people begin to eat healthy, they often make many wrong assumptions. I’m going to explain why a few of them are false or misleading as well as how to correct the problem to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

1. I should eat XXXX calories, and as long as I am at or under that, I will be fine. No. Quantity is important. However, quality is more important. You can eat 1600 calories of junk or 1600 calories of healthy foods. Both are still 1600 calories, but your body will do much better with the healthy foods.

What to do? While you should pay attention to how much you are eating, do not obsess over it.  Make sure you are eating a high quality diet including lots of fresh fruits and veggies, along with moderate amounts of whole grain carbs and lean protein everyday. Avoid processed and fried foods as much as possible. Keep a food journal to help keep track of what and how much you are eating. You may be surprised where calories are sneaking in or how much a small food switch can make in nutrition.

2. All carbs are bad. If I cut them out, I’ll be healthy and slim. No. While white carbs have a lot less nutrition than whole grains, they by themselves are not the problem. The problem is that white carbs (white rice, white flour) have all the calories but no fiber. Fiber fills you up and keep you full longer. Without fiber, you tend to overeat. Plus, the majority of traditional snack foods are carbs. Few people measure how many chips, crackers, pretzels, etc they eat. Often, they are eaten while busy doing other things, so again, you tend to overeat. Carbs can also be comfort foods to many people and lead to emotional eating. Another thing is calorie laden toppings and spreads put on them. Not even whole grains will help much if loaded with toppings such as mayo, cream cheese, or butter.

Your body uses carbs for energy. Without them, you body looks to other less efficient sources like protein. It takes more energy to digest protein and convert it to energy. This is why a low or no carb/high protein diet causes weight loss. However, it is an imbalanced diet that is hard on your body. Plus, like most diets, when you go off the diet, you will gain weight back since you haven’t really changed your eating habits that led to putting on the weight in the first place.

What to do? Switch to whole grain versions of pasta, bread, and rice. Keep in mind that “wheat bread” isn’t necessarily whole grain. This marketing ploy just means it is made from wheat flour. Read labels, be sure it says whole grain. Don’t eat while busy. Control your portion sizes. I know this can be hard sometimes, but if you want to eat less, this is important. Especially don’t much while watching tv, playing on computer, etc. Or if you do, measure your snack and don’t go back for more when that’s gone.

3. If I skip meals, I’ll lose weight faster. No. Skipping meals deprives your body not only of calories, but also nutrition. It can lead to binging and overeating later in the day.

What to do? Rather than cutting meals, cut portion sizes. You may even want to increase the number of times you eat during the day. Studies have shown it is healthier to have 3 smaller meals and 2 healthy small snacks than 3 large meals. Eating more frequently keeps your blood sugar more steady. It also provides are more constant source of energy and nutrition for your body throughout the day. Eating a more nutritious meal, usually will have fewer calories. Again, keeping a food journal, especially at first, can help you keep to your calorie goal without going over or under too much as you get used to eating more frequently. They also give you proof if you diet is as healthy as you think it is.

4. Fat free or sugar free are always better. No. While it is important to reduce fat and sugars in your diet, you should not try to cut it out all together, especially fat. Your body actually needs a certain amount of fat to absorb certain vitamins (fat soluble only can be used in fat). Plus fat adds taste. What many companies do is add chemicals and additives, especially sodium, to make up for the fact that the taste has changed by removing fat or sugar. Sugar free may have added fat. Fat free may have added sugar.

What to do? Try low fat or reduce portion size instead. Save the sugary items for special treats and cheat days. Usually low fat still has enough original flavor that there aren’t extra additives.  Or try healthy substitutions. I make yonaise. It’s half mayo and half plain yogurt. Still tastes creamy, but saves a lot of calories without additives. When making homemade recipes, you can often cut out up to half the sugar without changing the taste or quality.

5. If it’s organic, it’s healthy. No. While organic fresh produce may be healthier since it’s less likely to have pesticides or other chemicals, organic processed foods are still processed foods. They still have additives and lots of sodium.

What to do? Avoid all processed foods. Learn to make homemade. If you have busy week, cook big batches on weekends and freeze them in serving or meal size containers to heat and eat during the week.

6. Eating healthy costs more. Yes. Unfortunately, this seems to be the case.

What to do? However, there are a few things you can do to help lower the bills.

A. Take advantage of sales. You may have to change your menu plans, but that’s better than paying more, especially if it’s just one or two items to switch.

B. Buy produce that’s in season. This can save up to half sometimes, so be flexible.

C. Don’t overbuy fresh produce. Just because you got a good deal, won’t be such a good thing if you don’t eat it all before it goes bad. Only buy what you know you will use.

D. Don’t buy processed foods. They may be (slightly) more handy but they aren’t as healthy and you pay more in the long run compared to homemade.

E. When shopping consider an 80/20 principle. 80 percent of the food should have no label like from the produce section or be whole foods like fresh lean meats, eggs, rice, dry beans, and oatmeal. Bagged veggies (frozen or fresh) without sauce count here as well, but not canned The other 20 should be healthy things with labels like whole grain pasta, cereal, and bread; natural cheese; low sodium spaghetti sauces; and dairy. Avoid heavily processed foods. You’ll do most of your shopping from the outer aisles.

F. Make a shopping list and stick to it. Impulse buying can be very expensive. You list can be vague in places like produce to take advantage of what’s on sale, but other things should be specific including quantity.

7. Juice is more healthy than soda. No. Most people know soda, even diet ones, aren’t good for you. They are loaded with chemicals and have no nutritional value at all. However, juice is also not very good for you. Most juice has removed the fiber. Plus, since it takes several pieces of fruit to make a glass of juice, it has a lot more calories. I was surprised to learn that some juices have added sugars. Many juices have the same calorie content as soda.

What to do? If you want fruit, have the fresh fruit instead. All the flavor of juice but with fiber and fewer calories. Water is still the best drink. If you want flavor, add a little fresh juice like a lemon wedge. Or consider herbal tea. Most of them have few if any calories and are made from natural ingredients.

8. I should have a protein bar or shake if working out. No. Unless you are a professional or serious amateur athlete in training, you are probably getting adequate protein already from your diet. Supplementing your protein does not significantly improve performance. Nor does it help weight loss. In fact, many protein supplements have as many or more calories than candy bars! So, by adding protein supplements, you are wiping out all your hard work exercising off the calories. Your body can only process or use a certain amount of protein. Any additional intake is just removed as waste or converted to fat. This is hard on your body in large quantities.

What to do? See a dietician if protein is a serious concern for you. Don’t believe all the marketing hype. Increase your natural protein intake slightly from things like lean meat and nuts.

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