Food & Drink

Clean up these nutrition myths and misconceptions

Spring is (hopefully) just around the corner, and it’s time to throw open the windows, let in some fresh air and do a little spring cleaning. Since March is National Nutrition Month, this is a good time to talk about cleaning up some common nutrition myths and misconceptions.

Here are some comments I often hear in my practice:

1. There are “bad” foods and “good” foods. Food is neither good nor bad, and it’s too simplistic to label it that way. Foods have varying nutritional values. Some are high in calories, so you may need to watch portions. Others are high in sugar, so you need to have them less often and in smaller quantities. Foods like vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals and can usually be eaten in larger portions without much issue. Think more in terms of “everyday foods” and “once-in-a-while foods.” That way you aren’t restricting yourself from foods you enjoy; instead, you’re allowing them in smaller portions less often.

2. Fats make you fat or carbs make you fat. I hear both of these. It’s not specifically the fat or the carbohydrates that are the problem. It’s the excess calories, and those calories can come from fat, carbohydrates, proteins and alcohol. If you eat more calories than your body needs, you’ll gain weight.

3. My metabolism is shot … I’ve tried the (insert name of diet here), but I always regain the weight. Americans spend $35 billion – yes, that’s billion – on diet products and books annually. And the fact that people continue to spend money over and over again just shows how futile diets can be. If you’re concerned about your metabolism, you can have your dietitian test it for you. There’s a simple breathing test that determines your resting metabolic rate that can be done right in the office. More often I find that a person’s metabolism is just fine, but the total intake of calories and mix of protein, carbohydrate and fat isn’t right for them. Everyone has a unique metabolic rate, and you need to get a meal plan tailored to your specific needs, health concerns and activity level. A meal plan for someone who exercises three times a week is not the same as the meal plan for someone training for a triathlon, and it’s different from a person who has diabetes.

Check with your insurance. Many plans now cover visits with a registered dietitian/licensed nutritionist so you can get the answers you’ve been looking for and a plan that works for you.

Shelly Wegman is a registered dietitian at Rex Wellness Centers in Raleigh and Garner. Email: shelly.wegman@unchealth.unc.edu.

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