Thanks to diet culture, most people have heard of and follow some arbitrary food rules in their life. These rules tell us what we should eat, when we should eat, and how we should prepare our meals. While some of the advice can be genuinely helpful, a lot of it is based on myths or more restrictive than it needs to be. Instead of living and dying by hard and fast food rules, you learn from friends, family, or Pinterest. Check out what doctors and scientists say are the food rules you can break.
All Processed Foods Are Bad for You
You may have heard from many supposed health experts that processed foods must be avoided at all costs. However, processed foods aren’t as bad as you may think. You may be picturing jars of Cheese Whiz or boxes of cookies, but processed foods is a broad category. According to the FDA, processed foods are defined as foods that have been combined with at least one other ingredient or changed in any way from its natural state. This means pasteurized milk is a processed food, as are smoked salmon, whole wheat bread, and greek yogurt.
Avoid the Centre Aisles of the Grocery Store
Most grocery stores follow a similar layout: fruits, vegetables, and produce are around the perimeter, while packaged foods and pantry items are in the middle. This has lead to a push among the health-conscious to only shop on the outer aisles and skip the center altogether in an attempt to keep their carts full of fresh foods. However, this is a case of good advice that can go too far.
Your diet can include items like rice and beans, found in those dreaded center aisles, and the convenience and affordability of packaged foods is something that should not be dismissed. Only eating fresh vegetables and lean meats is great in theory, but can be expensive for the average family without swapping in frozen veggies or a can of soup from time to time.
You Don’t Need to Take Any Vitamins
Conventional wisdom is that you will receive all the vitamins and minerals your body needs with the proper diet. That may be true in theory, but in practice, there are lots of reasons why you might need to take a vitamin supplement alongside your diet.
For example, adults with osteoporosis may require additional calcium their diet can’t provide, and many women suffer from low iron or anemia and require additional supplements. Probiotics can also be useful for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, and those with Crohn’s disease or celiac can use supplements to help absorb nutrients better. Needing extra vitamins or supplements doesn’t mean you have a poor diet — you may just require an extra boost.
Don’t Eat Before Bed
An old wives’ tale says you shouldn’t eat before bed, often telling you not to eat after 8 or 9 p.m. But doctors say it’s not actually bad for you. Some people may suffer from indigestion if they eat before bed, but otherwise, it’s fair game.
Depending on your schedule, it might even be necessary! If you finish dinner by 6 p.m. and don’t go to bed until well after midnight, it’s probable your body still needs energy and you might be in the mood for a quick bite at 9 or 10. Instead of banishing late-night snacking, allow yourself to head to the fridge without shame.
Cut Carbs From Your Diet
Diet trends come and go, but right now, a lot of the most popular diets prioritize eating fats and leaving out carbohydrates. Keto and paleo both suggest that eating diets high in fats like meat, which burn energy faster, are healthier than eating a diet full of carbs, which the body is more likely to store for energy. However, these restrictive diets won’t work for everyone and many nutritionists and doctors are against the demonization of carbs. Carbs supply not only energy, but also contain fiber and minerals your body needs. You can keep carbs in your diet through foods like fruit, starchy vegetables, beans, and grains.
Drink More Water to Feel Full
A tip from many extreme dieters is to suppress your hunger by drinking a big glass of water. While this might help you in the short term, it’s not a viable solution for weight loss. Your body needs food for energy, and you may be able to ‘trick’ it into feeling full with water, you’ll still be missing that vital energy. Eventually, you’ll feel even hungrier and may be more likely to binge eat to make up for the feeling like you’re starving.
The longer you delay feeding yourself, the hungrier you’ll get. Drinking plenty of water is important for many reasons and it can even help with weight loss in some ways — it can stimulate your metabolism — but switching out meals for a glass of water is a dangerous game.
Only Eat Egg Whites, Not the Yolks
Once upon a time, it was believed that eggs were bad for you — especially the yolks. However, conventional wisdom now states the fear around eggs was overblown, and the link between eggs and blood cholesterol levels isn’t bad enough to kick them out of your diet, especially since they are so rich in nutrition. One egg yolk contains half your daily choline requirement, a vital nutrient for brain function, and eggs contain enough protein and fat to fill you up. Eggs for breakfast can actually prevent you from overeating later in the day!
You Need to Do a Detox
Another popular diet trend is to do a detox or a cleanse. The idea is that you need to subsist on healthy juices and nothing else for a few days to flush out toxins from your body. Turns out, it’s totally unnecessary. The human body naturally detoxifies itself, trapping unwanted chemicals and toxins in your liver which then neutralizes and eliminates them. What a juice cleanse really does is limit your caloric intake, which can slow your metabolism over time and create extreme hunger. Instead of ditching your normal diet for a week-long juiceathon, include some nutrient-rich juices and smoothies into your regular routine.
Ignore the Made-Up Rules and Stay Healthy
Whether you’re setting a New Year’s resolution or just trying to improve your health, you can take steps in your eating habits to make a positive change in your life. But be wary of any hard and fast rules that you’re expected to stick to 100%. Everyone’s diet and circumstance are different, and you should listen to your doctor’s advice before taking on any extreme diet changes.