By Joli Guenther, MSSW, NASM
Unless you want to make studying nutrition your new full time job, separating sound nutritional advice from popular fads and completely bad ideas can be tricky business. Could your good intentions actually be keeping you from getting to your goals? Here are a few myths and mistakes that might be undermining your efforts.
Skip breakfast to reduce your daily calorie intake? Skipping breakfast deprives your body of healthy calories at the time of day you need them the most, making you less productive and more likely to overindulge later on. Your best bet is to find a balanced option (think protein, healthy carbs, and a bit of fat) that gives you about a quarter of your day's calorie intake. Whole grain cereal, dried fruit and milk fit the bill, as do a low fat latte, whole wheat toast and a banana.
Avoiding Dairy? Maybe it's not intentional, but as you count your daily calories do you find yourself wondering whether you really need that yogurt in the afternoon or opting for coffee with cream instead of a low fat latte? If so, you're depriving yourself of electrolytes and minerals, as well as an important source of easily absorbed protein. Recent studies show that milk drinkers are winning their dietary battles more quickly than those who steer clear. The trick is to build dairy into your diet as an important source of absorbable protein and workout refueling carbs. Try refueling with a post-workout yogurt for an excellent carb/protein ratio, low fat milk in your morning coffee, or a bit of real cheese on your lunch time salad. Low fat ice cream or frozen yogurt (in moderation) are great treats to work into your three daily servings that will leave you feeling fulfilled and still on track.
Shakes, Bars, and Meal Replacements? While meal replacements are a convenient way to control your calorie and nutrition ratios, in the long run these artificial foods are hard to sustain. If you'd like a convenient grab-and-go option, look for a bar or shake that's based on whole foods rather than supplements and artificial sweeteners, and use it sparingly for post-workout refueling or an afternoon alternative to the vending machine. For the bulk of your calories, try to develop healthy habits based on real foods, which will provide you with a wider variety of nutrients and give you the knowledge to sustain your weight loss habits in the real world.
Skipping the First Course? When you're dieting it makes sense to limit what you eat at dinner; however, many dieters undermine their efforts by not taking advantage of the opportunity to fill up on high volume/low calorie first course options. While steering clear of the bread basket and mozzarella sticks is a good idea, a low fat vegetable soup or garden salad with a light dressing will take the edge off of your hunger and leave you less likely to overindulge on the main course. For added benefit, try dressing your salad with a vinegar-based dressing which may further curb your hunger and add additional health benefits for your blood sugar.
Weigh In: We'd love to hear from you. What tricks have helped you to clean up your diet and see results? Share your tips with us!