Trying to eat healthy can be difficult and confusing. There are so many contradictory ways of healthy eating that trying to pick one that is actually healthy for you can make your head spin. What’s worse is that most diets that are meant to make your fitter and healthier require you to drastically restrict your calorie intake or remove entire food groups (such as carbohydrates or fats) from your diet; making it difficult to stick to a diet in the long run.
All of this contradictory and sometimes unreliable information leads to people making some serious health mistakes while believing they are eating healthy. So if you’ve been trying to do just that lately and have been keeping up with the latest health trends, make sure that you aren’t making any of these common healthy eating mistakes.
· Avoiding All Grains
Diets such as Keto and Atkins have become increasingly popular in the last few years. These diets require you to restrict the number of carbohydrates you consume to an extremely low amount – even the healthy carbs. This means that all types of grains are off the menu; even those containing relatively low carbohydrates such as oats and quinoa. However, unless you are allergic to wheat or suffer from celiac disease, there is no reason to avoid all types of grains.
Although it is better to steer clear of refined grains such as white bread and pasta, as they’ve been stripped of most nutrition, whole grains should be a part of a healthy diet. These preserve the bran, germ, and endosperm not present in refined grains. These key parts found in whole grains provide important fiber, B vitamins, and other nutrients, along with carbohydrates for energy.
About one-third of the essential B vitamin thiamin in our diet comes from whole bread and cereal. Eliminating these types of grains from your diet will limit the diverse types of fiber you can get, which can hinder your gut health. Some observational studies have also shown that people who eat a regular serving of whole grains have reduced risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The Fix: Don’t skip on the carbs and include a sufficient amount of healthy wholes grains such as oats, millet, quinoa, bulgur, wild rice, and even popcorn to your diet.
· Choosing Low Fat
Considering that fat packs in more than twice as many calories per gram as compared to proteins and carbohydrates, cutting it out may seem like the obvious choice if you’re trying to lose weight. It’s simple math, right? Not exactly. Fat is one of three essential micronutrients and is responsible for carrying out various functions in your body. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble – this means that fat is required to enable our bodies to absorb these vitamins. Therefore, even though olive oil, avocados, and nuts contain many calories, they also provide essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins.
Another issue with choosing products labeled “low fat” is that people tend to eat more of these foods. Not only does this defeat the purpose of avoiding fat (eating twice as much low-fat food will provide you with much more calories than eating a single serving of their full-fat counterpart), but it also prevents you from reaping all the benefits of fat. Additionally, these low-fat products are usually high in added sugar, which shouldn’t be a huge part of a healthy diet.
The Fix: Instead of cutting out fat completely, consume it in moderate amounts while counting the number of calories you’re consuming in the form of fat. About 20 to 35% of your daily calories should come from fat. Whereas 45 to 65% should of it come from carbohydrates and 10 to 35% from proteins.
· Blending and Juicing Everything
Australian entrepreneur, author, filmmaker, and wellness advocate, Joe Cross made an entire documentary about his liquid diet. In Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, he documented his journey of living on raw fruits and vegetable juices for 60 days, and how it changed his attitude toward nutritious foods and basically changed his life. This caused a new “health” trend to emerge, where blending and juicing everything was considered to be the best way to lose weight. And without wasting any time, people started jumping on the bandwagon. However, most people don’t realize that even for Cross, the liquid diet was just a way to kick-start a positive relationship with food – not a long-term solution.
A completely liquid diet does little good for people who are not either very sick or dangerously obese. Even without getting into the scientific side of it, trying to sustain on such an extremely restricted diet can detract from the sociability and enjoyment of sharing food with friends and family, while also refraining you from the simple pleasures of chewing and crunching.
That’s not even the only issue with the diet. Long term liquid diets can lead to nutrient deficiencies since juices lack many important nutrients. If you are only living on fresh juices, you’ll likely be consuming about 600 to 1,000 calories per day. Although this can help you lose weight in the short term, the severe caloric restriction will eventually slow down your metabolism and is extremely difficult to sustain for more than a few days. They also contain little to no protein and fat, which can lead to weakness in other diseases.
The Fix: Juices are certainly healthy, and can be a part of a healthy diet. However, consume them in moderation and do not use them as a replacement for proper meals.
· Skipping on The Yolk and Only Eating Egg Whites
Not too long ago, eating just the egg whites became all the rage in the world of health trends. The misconception that egg yolks contribute to increased levels of cholesterol and blood pressure and the fear of high calories caused these golden parts of the eggs to find a home in people’s garbage. However, not only does eliminating egg yolks significantly contribute to the food wastage problem of the world, but it also steals some powerful nutrients that could have benefitted your body.
Although the yolk does contain a significant amount of the egg’s calories, it also contains about half of its protein content, along with a chockfull of essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. These include carotenoids and lutein, which are essential for eye health. ‘And what about cholesterol?’ you ask? According to the U.S. dietary guidelines, “available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol.” They’ve also stated that “Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” So if you’ve been throwing out your egg yolks thinking they’re bad for you, you too have been led astray like all of us.
The Fix: The solution is as simple as it gets – next time you cook eggs, don’t throw away the yolk.
· Believing All Salad to Be Healthy
Just because it is called a salad and had some leafy green somewhere in the bowl does not mean that it is a healthy choice. In fact, you’d be surprised to learn how many restaurants serve “salads” that contain more calories than most of the decedent entrée on their menus. Salads that contain friends chicken, prawns or tofu, candies nuts, four types of cheese, and an abundance of creamy dressings is far from being a healthy choice.
This is especially true if you’re trying to keep a check on your calories and macro and micronutrients. A tablespoon of Caesar dressing contains about 80 calories, while the same amount of ranch contains 75 calories.
Even if you substitute crispy chicken for grilled chicken, the McDonald’s Caesar salad contains about 360 calories – the same amount of calories as their bacon ranch junior chicken. The Burger King’s garden grilled chicken salad skips on most of the unhealthy ingredients and the calorie infusing dressing, and consists of grilled chicken, iceberg lettuce, and lite balsamic vinaigrette. However, it contains a good dose of cheeses, which causes the salad to rack up an astounding 320 calories.
The Fix: Having a salad is still a healthy option in most cases, and having it at a restaurant once in a while is not bad for you in any way. However, don’t make it a habit of ordering salad to-go regularly – especially if you aim to lose weight. Instead, make your own salad at home with a healthy serving of vegetables, grilled chicken and healthy, low-calorie dressings using ingredients such as Greek yogurt, lemon, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and honey mustard as the base. You can also add spices like paprika powder, cayenne pepper, mustard powder, cumin, turmeric, and various herbs to boost the flavor.
· Eating Too Little
Most people are aware that eating too many calories causes weight gain and other health issues. This causes some people to go to the other extreme end and heavily restrict the number of calories they consume daily. The truth is that your body isn’t a math equation. So don’t fall for claims that eating 600 calories a day is a good way to lose weight. In fact, it can actually sabotage your weight loss. Eating too little causes your body to switch to “starvation mode”. This means that it tries to conserve as much energy as possible for as long as it can.
Your body will start storing fat as it believes it won’t be getting any more of it. This will cause your body fat to remain the same – or even increase in some cases. Most people eventually get frustrated after a few weeks on such a diet, which causes them to return to their normal eating behaviors and even overeat. This causes them to gain more weight than they had before. It will also cause your metabolism to slow down drastically and leave you feeling weak and lethargic at all times. Going into starvation mode can also cause several health issues, including:
- Electrolyte imbalances (especially potassium deficiency)
- Abnormally low blood pressure and slow heart rate
- Heart rhythm abnormalities
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Swelling in joints
- Brittles bones
- Soft hair growth over the entire body
- Trouble concentrating
The Fix: The most effective way to lose weight is to create a calorie deficit by consuming fewer calories than you expend. However, the deficit shouldn’t be any more than 20% of your calorie requirement. So if your daily calorie requirement is 2,000 kcal, you shouldn’t be consuming any less than 1,600 kcal. It is recommended to cut about 10-15% calories for sustained weight loss. It may take a while for you to reach your goal weight using this method, but it will prevent the weight from coming back in the long run.
Don’t worry if you’ve been making any of the above mistakes. The truth is that most people have no clue what it really means to eat healthy, and it’s not their fault. There’s a multibillion-dollar industry that relies on selling diet trends and novel food ideas that usually contradicts itself in some way or another.
The good thing is that now you’re aware of the most common health mistakes and can take the initiative to change your lifestyle. Just remember – whenever you come across a new health trend, don’t just jump on the bandwagon. Do the proper research beforehand and weigh the pros and cons of it before incorporating it into your lifestyle.