Seven mistakes people make when trying to eat healthy

An amazing nutritionist Letitia (@mindandbody0201) has shared the seven most common mistakes that she noticed people make when trying to eat healthy. #expertadvice

1. Following trendy diets without knowing what is really good for you

With media being very present in our lives nowadays, loads of different information about nutrition is thrown our way and some diets become trendy especially through Instagram©. Vegan, gluten free, keto and intermittent fasting are a few examples of diets you have probably heard of and maybe even tried. They are not necessarily healthy and some of these can be recommended for certain people, but not for others.

Healthy eating will become your own lifestyle and should be adapted to YOU, your physiological needs, your habits and your beliefs.

2. Not knowing what to look for in food labels

Labels can say so many things, such as “high fibre”, “sugar free”, “fat free”, “added vitamins”, “organic”,… that does not mean it is healthy. Yes, if it says “sugar free” it really means that the product has less than 5% sugar, but what do they use to replace the taste of sugar in that food product? Often, that replacement and said “healthy” product is not healthier at all. If it says “high fibre” there really is fibre, but does that mean that there are not ingredients that can prejudice our health? Such as sugar or refined oils?

What to look out for when buying food products: AVOID processed foods, if you want to buy anything processed, do not get tricked by the marketing, look out for ingredients such as refined oils, sugar and refined flour. If any processed product includes any of these, avoid their consumption.

World Health Organization (WHO) recommends free sugar intake to make up 5% or less of your daily energy intake.

3. Not prioritizing fruits and vegetables

Because of the carbohydrate/sugar content of fruits and some vegetables, some dieters are scared of these foods. The truth is these should make up the majority of your diet. Fruits provide intrinsic sugar which is different from free sugar (eg. White sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, honey, and fruit juices). Intrinsic sugar is bound to the fibre in the fruit, water and vitamins. Fibre is essential for normal digestive health but is also what makes the sugar in fruit be absorbed gradually, not creating the peak in blood glucose that free sugars cause. Fibre also plays a crucial role in satiety. Fruits also carry a preventive role, especially the ones high in antioxidants (darker fruits like blackberries, grapes,…) regarding various diseases such as autoimmune ones.

Try including more than 5 fruits and vegetables a day, make it a habit.

4. Counting calories

Having a healthy diet is not a matter of the number of calories each food or meal can have, a healthy diet is made of various foods that include macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein and fat, and micronutrients are all the vitamins and minerals. Your body needs a certain amount of each macronutrient (45-65% carbs; 20-35% fat; and 10-30% protein) and micronutrient to be healthy.

Making sure you get all the nutrients your body needs each day from natural foods should be a priority.

5. Avoiding certain food groups

Taking certain food groups completely out of your diet can be too much for your body all at once. The human body needs each macronutrient in the diet, as all three of them have different functions: carbohydrates are needed for energy, fat for cell function, and protein for muscle function and maintenance. Without these nutrients, your bodily functions cannot work correctly. Not to mention the effect this has psychologically.

6. Being too restrictive – all or nothing mentality

Being too restrictive often leads to relapse. Restriction causes stress, which will potentially make it harder to restrict from the foods you are trying to avoid. Your mind tricks you into thinking you can just have a perfect diet without eating ANY chocolate or ANY bread for example. It is important to accept that this cannot happen, you will want to eat those foods, and not allowing yourself to have them will be counterproductive.

Accepting that perfection does not exist.

Be more permissive with yourself, this will lower your stress levels resulting in healthier eating habits.

7. Not being realistic about your goals

We, too often, idealize goals and think we can change overnight. In a process of starting a healthy diet, it is important to take into account that change is gradual and that depending on where you are starting, any health goal will not be accomplished in a week or a month.

Knowing that change is gradual and imperfect.

Plan ahead for when it may be hard for you to follow your health goals (eg. If I am invited to a cocktail party, then I will plan to eat a satiating balanced meal before so that I do not feel too tempted by the unhealthy snacks.)

REFERENCES

Armitage, C. J. (2004). Evidence that implementation intentions reduce dietary fat intake: A randomized trial. Health Psychology, 23(3), 319 – 323.

Edgar, W. M. (1993). Extrinsic and intrinsic sugars: A review of recent UK recommendations on diet and caries. Caries Research, 27, 64 – 67.

Goldfein, K. R., and Slavin, J. L. (2015). Why sugar is added to food: Food Science 101. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 14, 644 – 656.

Kelly, M. P., and Barker, M. (2016). Why is changing health-related behavior so difficult? Public Health, 1 – 8.

Lockyer, S., Spiro, A., and Stanner, S. (2016). Dietary fibre and the prevention of chronic disease – should health professionals be doing more to raise awareness? Nutrition Bulletin.

Prochaska, J. O., and Velicer, W. F. (1997). The transtheoretical change. The Science of Health Promotion.

Yeomans, M. R., Coughlan, E. (2009). Mood-induced eating. Interactive effects of restraint and tendency to overeat. Appetite, 52, 290 – 298.

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