The field of nutrition is notorious for having conflicting ideas, opinions, and science. This has resulted in mass confusion about what to eat, how much to eat and when to eat it, in order to be healthy. This Nutrition Myth series aims to dispel some common myths around nutrition, whilst providing some simple universal tips for people to follow.
The Nutrition Myth series will address:
- Do you need to count calories?
- What is the best diet?
- Why do people regain weight after weight loss?
Do you need to count calories?
All foods are not born equal when it comes to your health. A popular school of thought is that as long as your energy intake (what you eat) is lower than your energy expenditure (how much you burn off), you can eat whatever you like and not have to worry about your weight loss. However, calorie counting often leads to overly restrictive diets that make the dieter miserable and fail in the long run. Human physiology is far more complicated than “burn off what you eat”. What’s more important is sustainable changes to your diet that focus on health. One needs a mindset of eating better rather than eating less.
Food is more than just calories. Healthy whole foods are more voluminous per calorie compared to processed food. This means you will feel satiated (full) for longer. They are also more micronutrient dense, to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need to feel your best.
Fitness apps that track your calories and nutrients such as MyFitnessPal can have their uses. They can make people aware of the calorie density and the nutrient composition of foods. For example, some ‘healthy’ foods may surprise you in how many calories they contain (such as olive oil) or how much sugar is in them (such as granola). This knowledge and understanding makes it easier for people to make informed decisions on what to eat. However, use of these apps can be detrimental if you believe you will be healthy and lose weight as long as the numbers look right on the app.
Practical tips for your diet and nutrition
- Whole or minimally processed foods. Base your diet around these types of foods (whole grains, fruit, veg, meat, fish and legumes such as lentils).
- Get enough protein and fibre in your meals. Both of these nutrients will increase satiety, so you feel full for longer and need to snack less.
- Keep your sugar intake low. Public Health England recommend adults have no more than 30g (120 calories) of added sugars in your diet per day.
- Check your other lifestyle factors. Are you getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, overly stressed? People with disrupted sleep routines are more likely to be overweight and suffer from metabolic diseases. Have a read of our blog on 5 ways you can improve your sleep. Exercise helps to control and regulate appetite. Stress creates cortisol in the body, which prevents your parasympathetic nervous system (resting and digesting) from working properly.
- Enjoy your treats! Most of your diet should be whole foods, but there’s nothing wrong with a small part of your diet being “unhealthy”. An overly dogmatic approach to your diet won’t be healthy, enjoyable, or sustainable.
All of this results in a less hungry, healthier, more energetic you. This means you are far more likely to stick to your “diet” and achieve long term sustainable changes to your weight and health. You create a healthy relationship with food, where you can enjoy your food rather than feel guilty about it.
The next Nutrition Myth: “What is the best diet?” will be released next week.