50 Healthy Eating "Secrets" That Don't Work
The worst myths the Internet wants you to believe.
While there are plenty of mysteries in life—What's the deal with the Bermuda Triangle? And what's really hiding at Area 51?—healthy eating might just be the most mysterious. Yes, even over disappearing ships and aliens. Every day there's a new rule or tip making the rounds, but things can easily get confusing: you just heard you should do the complete opposite thing yesterday, after all. So what are you supposed to believe? Before you go crazy, here are 50 healthy eating "secrets" that don't work no matter how hard the internet tries to make them happen. And for the right way to stay healthy throughout your days, here are 20 healthy living you should live by.
Chocolate Will Save Your Life
Chocolate is constantly in headlines as being some sort of health food miracle—but you have to read the fine print to actually see results. Instead of eating as much of the sweet stuff as you want, the key is in the kind you get: Ditch the sugary milk chocolate that has no benefits for antioxidant-packed dark chocolate that contains 70 percent cacao or higher. And, stock up on powdered unsweetened cacao, too, which you can add into everything from smoothies to your oatmeal. Bonus: It's also one of the 10 Essential Power Foods for Men.
You Should Avoid Carbs
The instant someone is trying to shed a couple pounds, they turn right toward carbs—but getting rid of them is a mistake. While foods made up of white flour or are stripped of nutrients—like white bread, white rice, and most baked goods—don't have hardly any nutritional value and are typically stored as fats, carbs made up of whole grains and fiber—like brown rice, whole grain bread, beans, and potatoes—are metabolized more slowly, giving your body energy, says the Cleveland Clinic. And that will keep you from reaching for unhealthy options later on. For more on healthy carbs, check out these 10 that won't derail your six-pack.
You Should Eat on a Strict Schedule
You've probably heard you should eat three specific times during the day or should have six small meals—either way, those rules aren't one-size-fits-all. While those secrets might work for some people, they don't work for everyone and can have you eating too much when you're not hungry just because you think you're supposed to, or could result in you not eating enough and being super hungry throughout the day, leading to a binge later on. The reality? Eat when your body is hungry—not on a schedule that doesn't feel right. If you're worried you'll overeat, don't: Just read these 27 Smart Ways to Control Your Cravings.
Low-Fat Diets Help You Lose Weight
It's tempting to grab anything and everything low-fat, but the healthy-eating secret isn't so healthy after all. Instead of avoiding fats, more and more research is coming out about how great it is for your body—you just have to make sure you're eating the right kind. Research published in The Lancet found eating healthy fats—like nuts, avocados, and olive oil—can actually help keep weight off. Plus, it's way more satisfying than whatever is lurking in the low-fat container in your shopping cart.
You Should Never Eat at Night
How many times have you heard to avoid eating after a certain time at night? The reality is the time doesn't matter as much as what you're actually eating. Instead of cutting yourself off at 8 p.m., focus more on getting the proper amount of calories you need throughout the day without over-doing it. And for more ways to feel better every single day, here's how to conquer the one ailment that plagues so many of us.
You Can Only Have Junk Food On Your Cheat Day
While cheat days work for some people, it's really hard to have a perfect diet those other six days of the week. And being that restrictive can often lead to a whole lot of overeating. Instead of limiting yourself to one day, focus on being healthy every day. You'll be much better off treating yourself to dessert occasionally rather than spending an entire day loading up on all your vices.
Artificial Sweeteners Are Better Than Sugar
Sure, artificial sweeteners don't typically contain any calories—but that doesn't mean they're better for your body than actual sugar. According to a 2017 study published in CMAJ, many substitutes can be 13,000 times as sweet as sugar—and they've been linked to weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes. Instead of doing your body good, you're ingesting something that can totally backfire when it comes to your health.
You Should Avoid Fruit
If there's one thing you know about fruit, it's probably that it's full of sugar—but contrary to popular belief (and the Keto Diet), that doesn't mean you should rid it from your diet. Opposed to downing brownies or other goodies packed with the white stuff, get your fix naturally by grabbing a banana, some berries, or a melon. Fruit definitely has a place in the diet—and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. For help building yourself a healthy snack, try these anti-aging superfoods.
Juice Cleanses Help You Lose Weight
Now that the holidays are in full force, you've probably heard plenty of people talk about the cleanses they're doing. And while they might feel good in the beginning, they tend to backfire in the end. Because juices aren't as filling as eating whole foods, people are often left ravenous—and when they drink up their last juice, they binge on everything they missed during the cleanse. So have juices, but include them in your regular diet.
All Salads Are Healthy
There's something about eating a salad that makes you automatically feel healthy—but salads can easily become the exact opposite. Sure, you start with some greens. Then you add in croutons, fatty dressing, and bacon bits, and the next thing you know you're sitting in front of a 700-calorie lunch. The gist of creating a healthy salad? It should still taste like a salad—not like a mouthful of Caesar.
Calories Don't Count If You Drink Them
Whether it's juice, wine, your latte, or a smoothie, it's easy to forget you even ingested anything in the first place—but liquid calories add up quickly and you could totally get your whole days' worth on them alone if you're not careful. While a 300-calorie smoothie for breakfast is a great option, it might not be the best idea to drink one on top of your already calorie-heavy breakfast. Just be aware of what you're putting into your body whether it's liquid or not. And for more healthy living tips, here are the 20 great resolutions anyone can keep.
Don't Ever Eat Pasta
Serious question: Is life even worth living if pasta isn't part of it? It's not uncommon to ditch the food from your diet—that's what's supposedly "healthy," after all—but that's not the case. Instead of filling up on white pasta, switch to something better for your body like whole grain or brown rice-based options because you really can have it all. Noodles included.
You Can Eat as Much Honey as You Want
While sugar is a no-go, honey is fine, right? Wrong. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it has more nutrients than table sugar—but it's still not a good idea to use it as a sweetener all day, every day. Because it's high in calories, it's best to stick to 1 to 2 teaspoons a day, if that.
Eating Low-Calorie Can Help You Lose Weight
Instead of eating a super low-calorie diet that's going to make you feel unhappy and totally deprived, focus more on filling your body with good, wholesome calories. According to the Cleveland Clinic, not eating enough can lead to muscle loss, binging, and gaining all the weight back—AKA the complete opposite of what you want.
Diet Pills Are Effective
The diet pill market shouldn't even exist: There's no such thing as magic pills that will help you lose weight without any effort or negative consequences. In fact, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, not one of them has ever been proven effective—and taking them can seriously hurt your body. Instead, eat a diet that nourishes you and don't focus on finding an easy way out.
Eat as Much Health Food as You Want
Sadly, just because something is so-called "healthy" doesn't mean you can eat as much as you want. Health food—whether it's avocado toast or oatmeal—still contains calories and going overboard can seriously add up. No matter what you're eating, focus on feeling satisfied—not just eating until you're stuffed because a certain food happens to have a health halo.
Juicing Is Healthier Than Eating Whole Foods
Speaking of juicing, another aspect worth discussing is the fact that some people think it's healthier than eating whole foods—and that's not true, says the Mayo Clinic. The nutrition is exactly the same—except for the fact that you lose healthy fiber when juicing, which keeps you full and satisfied until your next meal. When it comes down to it, juices are healthy—but there's no evidence to prove they're any better than the real thing.
You Can Eat More After Workouts
It's not uncommon to want to eat anything and everything after you leave the gym—you worked up an appetite, after all! But working out shouldn't be viewed as a reward or reason to indulge: It takes a lot more effort to burn off calories than you think, so that burger you grabbed for dinner after Pilates should be more of a treat than a regular occurrence—at least when it comes to your well-being.
You Can Never Eat Fast Food
Sometimes when you're in the middle of nowhere with only a few options, fast food is your only choice—that's life. But while the majority of menu items aren't great for your health, there are ways you can make fast food work for you without hurting your waistline. Instead of ordering a burger and fries, go for a salad and baked potato or bowl of soup.
Nutrition Bars Are a Healthy Snack
Nutrition bars might seem healthy—until you look at the nutrition label, that is. Most are jam-packed with calories, sugar, and weird ingredients you don't want in your body. And while you might feel like you're doing your body good while eating them, you're much better off grabbing an apple or banana when you're on the run.
Skipping Meals Will Help You Lose Weight
Skipping meals might sound like an easy way to drop sound pounds, but it will only hurt you in the end: According to the Mayo Clinic, it not only causes your metabolism to slow down, but it also makes you feel sluggish and causes you to overeat during the other meals. So sit down and enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner—your body will thank you for it.
Cleanses Help With Weight Loss
While cleanses can definitely help you lose weight it's also incredibly common to put it all back on right after you're finished. According to Harvard Medical School, the pounds you initially shed typically come back quickly when you start eating normally again—so instead of choking down a mix of water, lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper, stick to whole, nutritious meals for even better, lasting results.
Protein Shakes Can Help You Get in Shape
Shakes are a great way to up your protein intake, but there's only one problem: They're typically high in calories, so you have to be careful. While replacing breakfast with a 300-calorie protein shake is a quick and easy option, adding all those extra calories in on top of your typical meals could result in weight gain instead of helping you reach your goals.
Detox Diets Are Healthy
Detox diets are super trendy—but spoiler: According to the Mayo Clinic, there's really not much evidence that they're all they're cut out to be. First of all, your body doesn't actually need to be detoxed—and if you feel like you need a fresh start, all that requires is eating a bunch of fruit and veggies, not a crazy diet.
Diet Versions Can Help You Lose Weight
For every soda you love, there's a "healthier" diet version—but they're not as good for you as you think. In fact, you might as well be drinking the real thing. Studies have shown diet sodas have just as much harm, causing weight gain, health issues, you name it. So instead of staying hooked on the sugary beverages, fall in love with healthier options—like cucumber water or water infused with fruit.
Eat Anything as Long as It's Under Your Daily Calories
One big mistake that's easy to make—especially when counting calories—is eating anything you want as long as it's under your set number. Yes, that means one day can be full of healthy options while the next might be donuts, burritos, and pizza—all for the same amount. But according to the Cleveland Clinic, you really are what you eat—and if you use those calories to eat garbage, you're going to feel it.
Negative Calorie Diets Are Healthy
You've probably heard of "negative calorie" foods like celery that claim you burn more calories eating them than they actually contain, but according to the Mayo Clinic, no foods actually have that effect. So with that being said, eat a healthy overall diet—and include those non-starchy veggies. Just don't make them your sole focus.
Only Eat Out at Healthy Restaurants
Eating out at restaurants known for being healthy is great—but it doesn't mean you have a free pass. Even the most wholesome menus still might contain more calories than you think: You don't know exactly how much oil is used to cook your food or how much sodium is in your dishes.
Fasting Always Helps You Lose Weight
Surprisingly, fasting can actually be good for weight loss if you do it right—but most people see fasting as "starving" and that's only going to do harm, says the Cleveland Clinic. If you do want to try the method, do a ton of research ahead of time—otherwise you'll end up not eating enough, causing you to binge (and the plan to totally backfire).
You Can Have as Much Red Wine as You Want
Red wine is full of body-boosting antioxidants, so does that mean you can have a few glasses a night without any repercussions? Unfortunately not. Even with the benefits, a single glass can easily be more than 100 calories—and they add up quickly. Enjoy a single serving, but put the cork in the bottle and save the rest for next time.
You Can Have as Much Red Wine as You Want
Diets always tend to work for a while, then people typically go back to their old ways. So instead of dieting, it might be better to just change your lifestyle: Focus on eating healthy most of the time and enjoying treats in moderation. That way you'll lose weight safely and naturally, won't have crazy binges, and can stick with it long-term.
Always Eat Fresh Fruits and Veggies Over Frozen
Frozen produce tends to get a bad rap, but that shouldn't be the case. According to the Mayo Clinic, it's actually a much cheaper—and sometimes healthier!—way to get your fix. Instead of losing vitamins and nutrients over shipping time, frozen goods are picked at their peak ripeness and flash-frozen so you're eating the produce in its most nutritious state.
Supplements Are Always Beneficial
People tend to pop supplements without a care in the world, but they're not as safe as it seems: According to the Mayo Clinic, the FDA doesn't have as many requirements in disclosing risks—in fact, manufactures don't need to disclose them at all—and if you just take whatever you think you need, you could be doing your body harm. Before you take your pills, check with your doctor to make sure you're actually doing your health some good.
You Can Eat as Many Healthy Snacks as You Want
If a snack is healthy, you can munch on it all day, right? Unfortunately just because it's good for you doesn't mean it's a free-for-all. Instead of mindlessly eating health foods, only eat snacks when you're actually hungry and need something to tide you over until your next meal.
Eating a Bunch of Mini-Meals Can Help You Lose Weight
Instead of eating three regular-sized meals throughout the day, some people swear by eating multiple mini-meals to help them lose weight. While the Cleveland Clinic says it's a great way to keep your cholesterol levels lower, keep your blood sugars levels in check, and make sure your energy levels up, you have to pay close attention to your portion sizes. If you're eating multiple massive meals, it's only going to have the opposite result.
You Always Follow the Food Pyramid
While the USDA's Food Pyramid—now called MyPlate—has been around for years, it might not be best to stick to it whole-heartedly. Instead of eating a certain number of servings of a specific food group just because you feel like you have to, find a plan that works for you.
You Have to Give Up All Your Favorite Unhealthy Foods
Forbidding your favorite foods from your life isn't going to do you any good—in reality, it's only going to make you want them more. Instead of cutting things out of your diet, figure out healthier ways to include them. Take French fries, for instance: They don't need to be fried. When you cut them up and bake them, you have a healthy option you can feel good about.
Counting Calories Is the Only Way to Lose Weight
While counting calories for a couple days is a good way to see what you typically take in, doing it all the time is only going to drive you crazy. Instead, make the calories you do eat count: Fill your body with wholesome goodies instead of trying to figure out if you can squeeze in a second donut.
You Can Use as Many Condiments as You Want
Condiments always feel like free passes, but the reality is all that dressing and BBQ sauce adds up. Instead of pouring on as much as you want, make sure you're sticking to proper serving sizes. Otherwise you'll end up a pile of ketchup that can easily be packed with more than your daily allotment of sugar.
Energy Drinks Have No Consequences
Sure, you'll get a buzz—but there's nothing healthy about energy drinks. Studies have found drinking a can not only results in an abnormal heartbeat and high blood pressure, but they're also so full of sugar and caffeine that they can put your health at risk.
Wraps Are Healthier Than Sandwiches
While eating a wrap seems like a healthier way to eat a sandwich, that's not always the case. The wrap may be thin, but they can easily be upward of 350 calories—and when you pile on all the toppings, you're looking at a lunch that feels light but is bigger than most dinners.
Fad Diets Are Healthy
Fad diets have a way of drawing people in—but you definitely don't want to get caught up in the madness. Eating cabbage soup or grapefruit for days isn't doing your body any good—and according to the Mayo Clinic, any weight you do lose will be gained back immediately after eating normally again.
You Can't Make Healthy Food in the Microwave
Sometimes the microwave is your only cooking option, and that's OK: In fact, experts say since microwaves cook so quickly, they often hold onto more vitamins and nutrients than stovetop cooking does. So the next time you're in a hurry, don't feel bad about going for the quick and easy route.
Raw Foods Are Healthier Than Cooked
There's an idea out there that eating raw food is much healthier than cooked in terms of nutritional value, but that's not always the case: While raw foods are great, cooking actually does a lot of good: For instance, greens are healthier when steamed, says the Cleveland Clinic.
Nuts Should Only Be Eaten as a Treat
Nuts are high in calories, and because of that many people say they're best to be eaten as a treat and that's it. But considering they're a great source of healthy fats and protein, don't limit yourself to only munching on them a couple times a week. A 2013 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found those who ate a handful of nuts a day are 20 percent less likely to die from any cause than those who don't.
You Can Drink Seltzer Without Any Consequences
If you've swapped soda for seltzer, just be careful. While it's a better option health-wise, there are still some consequences to drinking fizzy water: Because it contains carbonic acid, it can wear away at your tooth enamel over time. Luckily it's not strong enough to do a lot of harm unless it has added flavor, but it's something to be aware of if you're drinking it all day, every day.
Organic Food Is Always Healthy
Grabbing anything and everything organic automatically feels healthier. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean it is. If you're over-eating organic food, you're still over-eating—and just because something is labeled as "organic" doesn't mean it's good for your body. Case in point? There are plenty of organic ice creams out there… but, sorry to break it to you, they're still ice cream.
Gluten-Free Works for Everyone
Being gluten-free is super trendy, but the amount of people who actually need to be gluten-free is actually really low. While you have to avoid gluten if you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, there are no other reasons to, says the Mayo Clinic—especially since products made from whole grains are really good for you. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon, do something even better for your health: Only eat wholesome grains—and stop using the diet as an excuse to eat all the gluten-free goodies your heart desires.
It's Healthier Eating Superfoods Than Other Foods
Every so often, a new superfood pops up—but the funny thing? It's actually nothing medical—it's a straight-up marketing term. So while açaí and goji berries are healthy and super good for you, they don't typically offer any more benefits than "average" foods like broccoli and carrots. Those foods just don't get the same treatment in the media. Because, honestly, there's nothing super exciting about broccoli and carrots.
You Should Always Skip Dessert
Have you ever cut dessert out of your diet? Well, there's a good chance it didn't go too well. People can be super anti-dessert, but once you tell yourself you can't have it, you'll just crave it even more. Instead of forbidding the word from your vocabulary, enjoy dessert often—just make it healthier, like by whopping up some homemade banana ice cream instead of eating the real thing.
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