In the world of food, health and nutrition it’s sometimes hard to separate fact from fiction. We uncover the inconvenient truth about some common diet myths.
1. Low fat = low calorie
Myth: Fat free or low fat can only be good, right? Wrong! When you see these claims on food packaging, it’s easy to believe that what’s inside is low in calories. So powerful is this myth that you're probably tempted to eat more of a fat-free or low-fat food because you think it’s got far fewer calories than the regular version.
Fact: The truth is that fat-free and low-fat foods can still be high in calories. Why? Because the fat is often replaced with sugar to help the food keep its texture and flavour. So check the nutrition label to confirm that it's a good choice.
2. Carbs make you fat
Myth: If you cut out carbs, you lose kilos faster, or so the story goes. Carbohydrates have long been seen as the bad guys of the diet world with many weight loss programs advocating that they be dropped altogether.
Fact: Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy and are an essential part of a healthy diet. Carbs, like protein and fat, don’t make you gain weight unless you eat too much of them! So enjoy your carbs but just in moderation.
3. Salads are always a good option
Myth: We all know that vegetables are good for us so that means we can eat as much salad or any type of salad we like... doesn't it?
Fact: Salads from restaurants, takeaway stores or delis are often packed with ingredients that we need to eat in small amounts. Creamy dressings or simply too much dressing, crispy bacon, croutons and cheese to name a few. Salads are a good option when they're composed of fresh mixed vegies and a low-calorie dressing used sparingly.
4. Baked is better than fried
Myth: Crisps and chips and other foods that are baked rather than being fried are better for you and lower in calories.
Fact: Sounds convincing, but many products that advertise ‘baked not fried’ can still be high in fat and calories, so you need to check the nutrition label to make sure it's worth it.
5. If it's 'natural' it's good for you
Myth: No additives, no preservatives, all natural – what could be wrong with that? Choosing chemical-free and organic produce is always a better option... isn't it?
Fact: Honey and butter are 'natural' but they're still high in calories; and natural lollies provide the same amount of energy as regular ones. So while natural products might make you feel better, they're not necessarily a low-calorie choice.
6. Snacking at night causes weight gain
Myth: If you eat after a certain time in the evening you'll pack on the kilos.
Fact: Having a late-night snack may not make you gain weight according to a new study. "Eating at night is no more likely to promote weight gain than eating during the day," says study co-author Judy Cameron, a researcher at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at Oregon Health & Science University. The truth is, it's what you are eating and how much, not when you eat it that counts.
7. Nuts are too fattening for weight loss
Myth: Full of calories, fat and oil, nuts should be avoided when trying to lose weight.
Fact: Nuts might be high in calories and fat, but it is heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids. On top of this, they have a low glycaemic index (GI) so they keep you fuller for longer. Nuts also contain protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, so they’re the ideal addition to a healthy diet.
8. The heavier you are, the less calories you should consume
Myth: Many people believe that the larger they are when they start their weight loss journey, the less calories they should be consuming in order to lose weight.
Fact: In fact, when you weigh more you have to work harder with each step you take, so you actually burn more calories than that of a smaller person. Just as a larger car requires more petrol, so too do larger people. Your online diary will tell you your calorie allocation for the day, but you’ll find as you lose weight your daily allowance will start to decrease in line with your new stats.
9. Healthy foods are more expensive
Myth: Low in sugar, low fat, organic, health stores — they all look and sound so much more expensive, don’t they?
Fact: You’ll often find that a processed, high-fat and high-salt ready meal will cost more than the price of the ingredients if you were to make it yourself. Creating your own dishes gives you control over what goes in and how much, meaning you can monitor just how healthy it is. If you buy in-season fruit and vegetables this will help keep the cost down, as will frozen veg and lots of inexpensive, but healthy beans and pulses.
10. Cutting out snacks helps you lose weight
Myth: It’s a common thought that the less you eat, the quicker you’ll lose weight, so missing out snacks is sure to get those scales on a downward spiral.
Fact: Snacking between meals keeps your metabolism working at its best, meaning you continue to burn calories efficiently. By keeping your energy levels topped up with a range of healthy treats it will stop you from becoming over hungry and eating the first high-energy, high-fat convenience food you see. So it’s not snacking that’s the problem; it’s a poor choice of snacks. Rather than opting for chocolate bars and crisps, choose wisely with healthy snacks such as fruit, wholegrain bread, low-fat yoghurt and raw veggies.