11 Healthy-Eating Myths That Just Aren’t True

There’s so much advice floating around on what to eat (and not eat), it can be hard to sift out the truth. We asked five dietitians to tell us which healthy eating myths drive them crazy—and why they’re not true.
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Myth #1: Carbs are bad for you.

Truth: Carbohydrates are essential to a healthy diet, providing energy for your whole body. But it’s best to get carbs from healthy, minimally processed foods, like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, whole grains and dairy. We Americans tend to eat more refined grains and sugar than we should — sources of carbohydrates that aren’t good for you.

 

— Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D.

Read More: Why You Need Healthy Carbs

Myth #2: A vegetarian diet is an automatically healthful one.

 

Truth: It can be, but it depends on what you’re eating.

 

Eating a plant-powered diet can have incredible health benefits, ranging from lower rates of heart disease and diabetes to some types of cancer. However, omitting meat doesn't give you a "get out of jail free" card in terms of nutrition. You can be vegan and eat nothing but Skittles and fries. It's as much about the foods you eat as it is the ones you don't.

 

— Rachel Meltzer Warren, M.S., RDN, author of The Smart Girl's Guide to Going Vegetarian

Myth #3: It's healthier to eat egg whites rather than whole eggs. 

 

Truth: The yolk is where a lot of the nutrition is!

 

Most people don't know that the yolk actually contains over 40 percent of the protein — and more than 90 percent of the calcium, iron and B vitamins — in a whole egg. It also contains all of the egg's healthy fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). Plus, that extra fat will help to keep you full and satisfied for longer than you would be with just the whites!

 

— Anne Mauney, MPH, R.D., registered dietitian and blogger at fANNEtasticfood.com

Myth #4: Processed foods are bad.

 

Truth: There’s a difference between processed ramen noodles and processed ready-to-serve brown rice.

 

Who has the luxury of preparing all of our foods from scratch? If we ate no processed foods, we’d have to grind our own wheat berries before baking our own bread. Instead of swearing off all things processed, pick your processed foods discriminatingly. I love ready-to-eat steamed beets in my salads, and cans of black beans. I choose my kale prewashed and packaged in plastic bags. Frozen and canned foods provide a quick, healthy way to eat more fruits and vegetables. Choose fruits, vegetables, tuna and other fish, and beans. Pick up packaged quick-cooking whole grains, like brown rice, barley and farro. Read labels to limit added sugars and sodium and excess fats. — Jill Weisenberger, M.S., RDN, CDE, FAND, author of The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition

Myth #5: Fruit has too much sugar.

 

Truth: It's all about the total package.

 

The sugars naturally found in fruit come tied up with fiber, which fills you up and blunts the impact the sugar has on your body. Plus, you'll get valuable vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. When you remove the fiber (i.e., orange juice versus a whole orange), it's a completely different story.

 

— Rachel Meltzer Warren, M.S., RDN, author of The Smart Girl's Guide to Going Vegetarian

Myth #6: Granola and yogurt is a healthy breakfast.

 

Truth: Granola and yogurt can certainly be a healthy choice, but it depends on the products being used.

 

Often granola and yogurt is really just dessert in disguise, due to the large amount of sugar found in many brands! Look for a plain, full-fat Greek yogurt for a protein punch without added sugar, and aim to choose a granola that has less than 10 grams of sugar (maximum) per serving. Then, add fresh fruit for sweetness instead, and some nuts for healthy fat and staying power!

 

— Anne Mauney, MPH, R.D., registered dietitian and blogger at  fANNEtasticfood.com

Myth #7: Artificial sweeteners are a good choice.

 

Truth: They save calories … at a cost.

 

Artificial sweeteners give food a sweet taste without extra calories, but they might not be all that good for you. Research on the subject is mixed, but there’s some evidence to suggest that they may change your perception of sweetness (making you crave higher levels of sweetness) and alter your gut bacteria. You’re better off weaning yourself from highly sweet foods and enjoying the taste of fruit and less sweetened drinks.

 

— Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D.

Myth #8: Eat all your daily protein at one meal.

 

Truth: While most people do consume the recommended amount of protein each day, we are not doing a good job spreading it out.

 

A typical eating pattern is a tiny bit of protein for breakfast, a little more for lunch and a huge amount for dinner. Getting enough protein at each meal gives your body more opportunities to create new muscle. It also may help control hunger, which helps with weight management. Aim for protein at each meal. Since breakfast is the most-difficult meal for many people to consume adequate protein, try cottage cheese or Greek yogurt and fruit; turkey sandwich, Tex-Mex wrap with eggs, black beans and salsa; smoothie with base of soy milk, cottage cheese or yogurt.

— Jill Weisenberger, M.S., RDN, CDE, FAND, author of The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition

Myth #9: Kale has lots of protein.

 

Truth: Kale is an excellent source of some nutrients, but protein ain’t one.

 

One cup of chopped kale has 2.9 grams [of protein]. That's a bit more than many other vegetables. But when you look at that against the roughly 46 grams that the average adult woman needs per day, you can see that the two or three kale leaves in your smoothie are not making much of a dent. 

 

— Rachel Meltzer Warren, M.S., RDN, author of The Smart Girl's Guide to Going Vegetarian

Myth #10: Eating fat will make you fat.

 

Truth: Your body needs fat.

 

While, gram per gram, fat has more calories than carbs and protein, fat provides you with a feeling of fullness and helps your body absorb nutrients like vitamins A, D and E. Think plant fats for optimal health, like nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocados, and just watch your portion size.

 

— Michelle Dudash, RDN, chef and author of DishwithDudash.com, a clean-eating newsletter

Myth #11: Calories are bad.

 

Truth: You need calories to live.

 

While too many calories can cause weight gain, the right amount of calories gives you the fuel you need to power through your day. Think more about the quality of calories and you'll probably find yourself worrying less about the quantity.

 

— Michelle Dudash, RDN, chef and author of DishwithDudash.com, a clean-eating newsletter

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