10 Top Myths about Good Nutrition

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How’s your nutrition savvy? Take this short quiz to find out. (True or False)

FALSE 1. Bread, cereal, rice and pasta raise your insulin levels and cause you to gain weight.
FALSE 2. French fries don’t count when it comes to eating vegetables for health.
FALSE 3. Avocadoes are too high in fat to be good for you.
FALSE 4. If I don’t like fruit, I can’t eat healthy.
FALSE 5. The only reason to drink milk is for the calcium it contains.
FALSE 6. Fatty fish contains too many calories.
FALSE 7. All the hype about soy foods is just that – hype.
FALSE 8. Nuts are fattening.
FALSE 9. Butter is an absolute no-no when it comes to healthy eating.
FALSE 10. Eating a little sugar causes you to want more.

On the surface, all of these statements are false. But there are some kernels of truth that may be important to understand, to help you make choices for staying fit. Let’s look at each statement individually.

1. Bread, cereal, rice and pasta raise your insulin levels and cause you to gain weight. (FALSE)

The advice that grain-based foods are off-limits if you want to manage your weight ranks among the most misguided advice floating around these days…and one of the most guaranteed to throw you off track in achieving health and fitness goals. True, eating carbohydrate-rich foods like bread, cereal, rice and pasta causes your body to release insulin. That’s good! You need insulin to convert carbohydrate – the body’s basic source of fuel – to energy. It’s not the insulin that’s the problem – it’s eating more energy (otherwise known as calories) than you need – regardless whether they come from protein, fat or carbohydrate. Check out our FitBriefing “Push Protein, Cut Carbs?” to learn more.

Bottom line: For healthy weight management, eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re satisfied and move your body regularly. A healthy eating plan based on grains, especially whole grains, can help you feel more satisfied so you don’t eat more than you need

2. French fries don’t count when it comes to eating vegetables for health. (FALSE)

It’s true that French fries account for the majority of vegetables that Americans eat. And that’s where the problem lies. If enjoyed too frequently, their higher-fat content can contribute to overeating. And remember, variety is the first principle of healthy eating. If your past experience with vegetables leaves you less than excited, it may help to realize that a little fat can go a long way towards making them a real taste delight. Compare these two dishes: Fresh spinach lightly sautéed in olive oil, fresh garlic, salt and pepper vs. fresh spinach steamed and sprinkled with lemon juice. Our guess is that most of us would enjoy the first dish best – and therefore eat it more often!

Bottom line: Enjoy French fries occasionally if you like them, but be adventurous! Expand your vegetable horizons to find other taste treats that also spell good health.

3. Avocadoes are too high in fat to be good for you. (FALSE)

Avocadoes are definitely high in fat. But they taste sooo good! And it’s a great type of fat – monounsaturated, which scientists believe may play an important role in helping reduce risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease. Getting enough fat is also critical to feeling satisfied without overeating. You don’t need a lot — and too much fat, regardless of the type, can be problematic. Just a few slices of avocado is all that’s needed to punch up a sandwich or salad.

Bottom line: Accent your meals with avocadoes – they’re grrreeeaaat!
(To borrow a phrase)

4. If I don’t like fruit, I can’t eat healthy. (FALSE)

Again, variety is key to healthy eating. But sometimes you have to start slow to make any improvements. If you truly hate fruit, be sure to eat plenty of vegetables. Then, work on trying different fruits in small portions. Research says children have to taste a new food 8 to 10 times to learn to like it. And it can truly be just a taste – they don’t have to eat a whole serving. That’s good advice for adults, too. Forcing the issue often backfires to make us resistant to trying something new.

Bottom line: Do your best. Take small steps forward. You won’t get anywhere by trying to do more than you really can.

5. The only reason to drink milk is for the calcium it contains. (FALSE)

True, milk and milk foods are a great source of calcium – and that’s critical to women’s health. But milk foods are also a wonderful source of protein. And protein can be just what you need to help you feel more satisfied at meals or snacks. Remember the milk and cookies Mom used to serve? The combination really works to help you feel satisfied with just a few cookies, rather than having to polish off the whole bag.

Bottom line: Appreciate milk and milk foods for the calcium and protein they provide. Enjoy them for their taste and how they make you feel.

6. Fatty fish contains too many calories. (FALSE)

The American Heart Association now recommends that you eat fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel and sardines at least twice a week to help reduce risk of heart disease. They’re a real taste treat when prepared well. Check out our recipe for Maple Glazed Salmon from our cookbook Recipes for Living. It’s a favorite among the women who come to Green Mountain.

Bottom line: Enjoy fatty fish to your heart’s content as part of a healthy eating plan.

7. All the hype about soy foods is just that – hype. (FALSE)

If there were ever a food that has been linked with health, it has to be soy. From curing hot flashes and memory loss to reducing osteoporosis and heart disease, soy is the wonder food of the moment. Research does suggest that soy foods that contain isoflavones (check the label), as part of a healthy eating plan, may help protect against heart disease, but unfortunately research on the other benefits is still inconclusive.

Bottom line: If you like soy foods, enjoy them. But don’t feel like you’re missing out if you just can’t learn to like the taste.

8. Nuts are fattening. (FALSE)

Ah, nuts…one of the small pleasures of life. (You can tell we love food!) Unfortunately, nuts have a bad reputation because of their fat content. But again, like avocadoes and fatty fish, it’s a great type of fat. If you can’t seem to eat nuts in moderation, try them as garnishes – sprinkle them on salads or bread chicken breasts or fish in them and bake.

Bottom line: Enjoy nuts in small amounts for their great flavor, crunch and nutrition!

9. Butter is an absolute no-no when it comes to healthy eating. (FALSE)

Okay, so butter isn’t the healthiest fat. But its taste…well, enough said. Small amounts of butter can fit in a healthy eating plan…and make a huge difference in how much you enjoy eating healthy and therefore how consistently you do it! See our Healthy Recipes for some examples of how to include butter in moderation. When taste is important and you’ve already used enough butter, try olive oil. It’s yummy and matches avocadoes, fatty fish and nuts in type of fat.

Bottom line: It doesn’t matter how healthy a food or eating plan is, if it doesn’t taste good, you won’t eat it on a regular basis. So if you like them, use foods like butter in moderation to help make healthy eating something you want to do.

10. Eating a little sugar causes you to want more. (FALSE)

If soy is the wonder food of the age, sugar has got to be the bad guy. At least in terms of its reputation. But science shows no ill effects from sugar beyond causing cavities…and that’s really only with sugary (or any high-carbohydrate) foods that stick to your teeth. If you crave sugar, examine your eating pattern. Do you eat enough carbohydrates? If not, you may crave them – sugar in particular. Do you feel guilty when you eat sugar? If so, you may be a victim of the “forbidden fruit syndrome.” You know, forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest…and you want it more as a result.

Bottom line: Give yourself permission to eat what you want, including sugar. (See our Fitbriefing “Eat What You Want.”) But realize that to be clear what you really want, you need to be eating regular, balanced meals. That way, you’ll likely find that too much sugar doesn’t feel good… and small amounts can help you enjoy eating without overeating.

These tidbits of information give you a glimpse of the types of discussions about eating and food that take place at Green Mountain. If you’d like to hear more, visit us! You’ll get a lot more out of it, too, that can help you make fitness a reality in your life.


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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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