Here’s a little secret between us: You don’t have to count every single calorie or cut every carb to lose weight. You should probably avoid all those fad diets you keep hearing about, too. Nutrition research is just learning you can’t have a one-size-fits-all prescription. Your best bet: Consistently stick to simple, classic, and time-tested ingredients, and know what rules were meant to be broken. Here are the top 5 diet myths you can skip, and what you should do instead.
Bad Diet Tip #1: Count every single calorie.
It’s easy to think that the more calories you eat, the more weight you gain. But not all calories are created equal. All foods (yes, even that fruit smoothie) have calories. And some low-calorie foods also come with a ton of sugar, making them pretty bad for you. So how do you decide what foods will help you drop pounds and which will just add more? Well, it’s not how many calories you consume, but where those calories are coming from. Good calorie sources come with nutrients. Bad calorie sources don’t. An ice cream bar with 200 calories and no actual nutrients probably won’t be too nice on your waistline. But a chicken and broccoli dish with the same 200 calories and protein, healthy fats, and vitamins will fuel your body and curb cravings.
New tip: Count the nutrients in your calories, not just the calories themselves.
Bad Diet Tip #2: Don’t eat any fat.
Not all fats are bad. Fats, like the kind in nuts, avocado, and salmon, can actually help you lose weight rather than gain it. These foods keep you full while lowering your cholesterol and boosting your brainpower at the same time. Healthy fats are essential for fueling your body and keeping it running as smoothly and efficiently as possible. What’s the fat you do need to avoid? Trans fats, which you’d most likely find in fried and frozen foods, potato chips, and pre-packaged snacks. Trans fats are added to foods to make them taste better or last longer, and they lead to weight gain, energy crashes, and health problems down the road.
New tip: Avoid trans fats, not healthy fats.
Bad Diet Tip #3: Only eat salads.
You don’t have to default to salad for every meal if you’re trying to lose weight. Not all salads are created equal: Some salads are piled with unhealthy ingredients on top of the standard lettuce, like sugary dressings. The bottom line? Watching what actually goes into your salad is more important than just ordering any leaf-and-crouton combo with a low-calorie count. Stick with low-sugar dressings and skip the croutons. And as with all meals, look for natural, whole ingredients: Salads with dark green leaf bases (think spinach, arugula, etc.), a variety of different colorful veggies (nothing fried, please), and a solid amount of lean protein, like eggs, salmon, chicken, turkey, tempeh, or steak will always fuel your body right.
New tip: Pay attention to the actual ingredients in your salad, rather than “salad” as a whole.
Bad Diet Tip #4: Cut all your carbs out
Just like calories, not all carbs are made equal. You don’t have to avoid all carbs, just the ones that are bad for you. Refined carbs—the kind found in sugary foods, highly-processed pastries, soda, and cake—are what you should try to eliminate, since they don’t have the necessary nutrients to help your body digest properly. Instead, these carbs can spike your blood sugar, make you hungrier, and contribute to ugly mood swings. Meanwhile, good carbs—like non-starchy veggies and a moderate portion of legumes (beans)—are filled with nutrients that keep you full for longer, since they’re slower and generally easier for your body to digest.
New tip: Cut refined carbs, and eat nutrient-rich, low-glycemic veggies, and other carbs in moderation.
Bad Diet Tip #5: Portion everything.
You don’t have to rigorously measure out everything you eat. At Freshly, we follow a paleo-inspired diet that focuses on high-quality, whole ingredients, and trusting our bodies to do the rest. But one ingredient that we absolutely think you should measure? Sugar. Just cutting out sugar alone will do a wealth of good for your body, brain, skin, and energy. Once you’ve done that, focus on delicious proteins, heart-healthy fats, and nutrient-dense carbs. Your body will burn fat, get stronger, and cleanse out all the toxins itself.
New tip: Focus more on the kind of food going into your body, rather than restricting your portions.