When it comes to eating healthy, it is easy to get overwhelmed. It seems as though there are new studies and reports released each day that contradict each other, leaving you feeling lost and confused, sometimes right in the middle of the grocery store.
One of the biggest reasons for this overwhelm is the amount of myths that surround eating healthy. From advice on fasting to cutting out food groups, it can be hard to figure out what to eat and what to ditch.
As a Health Coach, many of my clients often complain about not knowing what to eat and come to me with conflicting information. The advice I give them is always the same: Keep it simple and do what feels right for you.
When they take this simple advice, they are able to finally get healthy and stay healthy, without the overwhelm.
Below are some of the biggest health myths and the real truth behind them:
1. Meat Is Unhealthy and Should be Avoided (Or Maybe it's Grains)
There is a ton of advice to give up on large food groups, such as grains or meat. While there may be some, it really depends on the person.
For some people, meat is not necessary, especially as the main part of their diet. For others, meat at least once a day is absolutely necessary. These are people who suffer form low iron, need more protein or often feel weak. It depends on what your body needs.
If you do eat meat, opt for organic wherever possible. This way you know the animal were raised with organic feed, didn't receive hormones or pesticides, and treated more humanely. If possible, also shoot for locally raised. For seafood, use the sustainability guide to determine what the best choices are.
If organic meat is too expensive, there are a few things to consider. Go local and you might find a better price. If it is still to expensive, try cutting back and eating a few non-meat meals throughout the week. You'll find a little more variety in your dishes, as well as a lower bill. The biggest thing to consider though is your health benefits - organic is healthier, which means you might pay more now, but less in the long run as far as medical costs go ;)
Grains are quite similar. For some people, digesting them is simple and they need them for energy. For others, many grains, especially those that contain gluten, are highly undigestible. The best practice is to eat what feels right and look for the highest quality organic whenever possible.
2. Healthy Eating On-the-Go Is Impossible
Even though it is far better to make your own food, it isn't always possible. Most fast food restaurants and convenience stores offer a limited amount of healthy foods, but there are options for eating on the go.
First, try the salad or "hot bar" at your local (healthy) grocery store. You'll find plenty of healthy eating options at these. You can also look in the produce section for fresh, cold-pressed juices at most grocery stores, which means that you can get plenty of servings of fruits and veggies.
You can also look for healthier, less-processed options at a few fast food places. Some chainsare starting to make better choices as far as the quality of their products. Look for places that use grass-fed beef, organic chicken, organic tofu, and plenty of fresh vegetable options.
3. Without Caffeine, You'll Feel Tired
If you need an energy boost, leave the coffee alone and go for fresh juice or smoothies. Nutrient dense foods, found in juices and smoothies, will help keep you more satisfied. Blended juices and smoothies are easier to digest than a piece of fruit or salad, so they absorb into your blood stream faster and energize you sooner. If you need a little extra, try a handful or nuts.
If you do need a little bit of caffeine, opt for a more subtle caffeine boost from Green Tea or Yerba Mate. Both of these provide a little bit of caffeine, without the huge crash after.
4. Kids Hate Eating Healthy
Make it fun for them! If you are trying to get your little ones on board, make it an adventure. Show them how excited you are to try new things and let them know exactly what is happening - you are on an adventure to seek out new, fun alternatives to their regular stuff. Let them know you aren't taking anything away, just trying fun options.
If your kids are older, have them help you pick out a few items they want to try that are healthier. If they are involved, and don't feel forced, they are more likely to try new things. Same goes for your spouse. The more you force the less your family will want to get on board. Just show them how awesome you feel and invite them to participate and be involved without pushing.
5. Dieting Is the Best Way to Lose Weight and Get Healthy
Truthfully, it's not. No diet is going to get you healthy or help you lose weight for good. Cleanses and detoxes are meant to recharge your system and possibly cleanse away specific toxins, as well as teach you a few healthy habits to use after they end. Diets are ways to lose weight in a short amount of time, but lead to weight gain (sometimes more than you lost). Instead of dieting, it's better to focus on the quality of your foods and when you are eating.
One thing specifically for women is to make sure you eat enough food throughout the day. Many women are so busy during the day that they forget to eat. Or they grab a few snacks when they can, like crackers, cookies, and sweets. Then they eat a large meal at the end of the day to because they are starving, or feel too drained and depleted to do anything but sit on the couch.
If this is a habit of yours, try to pack a few healthy snacks (carrot sticks, apples, whole grain crackers, nuts, juice, smoothie, etc) to take with you on the go. Eat breakfast before you head out the door and make a point to take a break from the stress of the day to eat lunch. The break from stress, as well as the actual eating, will help you stabilize your weight.
6. Calorie Counting and Portion Control are Key
Calories are a tough one to tackle, because they are often regarded as the main thing to focus on when getting healthy or losing weight. Truthfully, calories are not all that you need to focus on when trying to lose weight, but they can be a starting point or even a key to helping you figure out why you are gaining weight.
Each person is very different, so instead of focusing on calories, focus on hunger. If you are hungry, eat more food. If you find you are consistently hungry, look at what you are eating each day. If most of it is processed, you will probably burn through it fast, maybe not getting all the nutrients you need. This will cause you to get hungry, even though you have had all the calories you need. Shoot for whole foods - think the outer aisles of the grocery store - to make up the majority of your foods. This will help you figure out your portions and serving sizes as well.
If you are training intensely, pregnant, or breastfeeding, you'll need more calories than you might think. If you don't get enough, you'll either be starving most of the day, or might actually gain weight from kicking your body into "starvation" mode, where you hold onto any calorie that you do eat.
7. Fasting Helps You Lose Weight and Detox
Straight up fasting (not for religious or cultural purposes) is not a great idea. Eating absolutely nothing for days on end will definitely give your body time to shed some excess weight, but it will also kick it into full-on starvation mode, causing you to hold onto everything you eat once you do again start eating. And honestly, you don't learn much from not eating anything, besides what it feels like to be starving.
This is where a Detox or Cleanse comes into play. Instead of fasting completely, you can consume juices, smoothies and fresh produce to give your body a break, but still nourish it while you do so. Most cleanses focus on bombarding your body with large doses of nutrients, from juices and whole foods, so it becomes a part of your lifestyle, not just a temporary fix. A healthy cleanse, versus a fast, will leave you with new habits and techniques to incorporate into you new, healthy lifestyle.