The world is full of nutrition advice–dispensed by dietitians, doctors, personal trainers, bloggers, moms at the bus stop, complete strangers in line at Whole Foods. Some of it is good (eat more green leafy vegetables!). Some of it is bad (don’t eat bananas, they’re too high in sugar!). And some pieces of advice gets passed around so much, nobody stops to consider whether they actually make any sense. Here are five that make me cringe:
“Only shop the perimeter.”
If I only shopped the perimeter, I’d eat fruits, vegetables, fish, milk, meat, eggs, and cheese. Oh, and donuts! (The bakery happens to be on the perimeter of the store too.) If I avoided the middle aisles, I’d never again buy beans, lentils, brown rice, whole grain pasta, olive oil, nuts, nut butters, oatmeal, canned tomatoes, whole grain bread, spices, frozen fruit, flaxseed, dark chocolate, or cereal. And we’d never floss again either. The intention of this advice was to encourage people to eat more whole, unprocessed foods. But though a lot of junk lives in those middle aisles, so do a lot of healthy staples.
“Schedule ‘cheat’ days.”
I’m not a fan of the term “cheating” when it comes to eating. Ditto for the phrases “I was good”, “I was bad”, or “I’m on a diet”. A diet so restrictive that you need to spend an entire day eating all the foods you’re normally not allowed to have is just not sustainable in the long term. It sets you up for failure, which makes you feel bad about yourself (and drives you straight toward the very foods you’re trying to limit). It’s okay to plan a special eating occasion, like a trip to the ice cream shop with your kids on the weekend–but not because you’re “cheating” or “being bad”.
“Don’t read nutrition labels.”
There’s a notion that it doesn’t matter what the numbers say on the food label as long as it’s unprocessed or largely unprocessed. While I definitely don’t suggest obsessing over calories or counting up fiber grams, I do think numbers are valuable. It’s important to know, for instance, when your vegan carrot cake muffin contains 750 calories. Or that the bag of cashews holds 10 servings. Sugar also matters. An ingredient list can include only four ingredients but still be loaded with added sugar. Every four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon–and ideally, women should shoot for no more than 6 teaspoons a day (9 for men), even if those sweeteners have wholesome-sounding names like fruit juice concentrate or organic evaporated cane juice.
“Switch to sea salt to get less sodium.”
By weight, sea salt and regular table salt contain similar amounts of sodium. Varieties of sea salt that have large, coarse granules may have less sodium per teaspoon simply because you can’t get as many granules in the measuring spoon. While we’re at it, brown eggs aren’t any better for you than white (they’re just laid by a different breed of hen). Ditto for white sugar and brown sugar (brown sugar is simply white sugar with molasses added to it).
“Never eat white flour. Your body can’t digest it.”
Yes, you should focus on choosing whole grains, because they have more fiber, protein, and vitamins. But there’s room for a little white flour in your diet too. And yes, YOUR BODY CAN DIGEST IT.
Is there any nutrition advice that drives YOU nuts?