This is a guest post by Elizabeth Lee, MS RD.
Many might think that as a dietitian, I just tell people what to eat and what to stay an arm’s length away from. I’ve been thought of as a food police, nutrition nut, and someone who “hates red meat and loves V8″ (someone did say that to me, verbatim). Over the years working as a nutrition educator, I realized I’m a myth buster more than anything else.
Here’s the debunking of 4 common nutrition myths:
- Organic is always better.Perhaps for produce, meats, and dairy products. But organic potato chips are still chips; an organic version of cereal with marshmallow puffs is still a sugary breakfast item. It’s important to understand “organic” isn’t a justification for consuming foods that should be regarded as treats.
- I want to be healthier so I’m going to be a vegan/vegetarian. Even without animal products, there are still plenty of unhealthful foods that would qualify as vegan and vegetarian. Cherry Coke, Froot Loops, Twizlers, and Nutter Butter are all vegan. Healthy eating doesn’t hinge on a label- it’s about the food choices that the eater consciously makes. (And the Fooducate app can help you be a more informed consumer!)
- Lose weight with low fat/ low calorie/ low carb products. Americans have been trained to be fat- and calorie-phobic. Fat is undesirable in food or on the body. Hence the logic that eating low fat and low calorie foods will lead to improved health. In fact, a new “low” infiltrates the food markets every few years: we started with low fat, transcended into low calorie, and now we’re at low carb. Well, it hasn’t worked as planned- Americans aren’t getting any healthier or slimmer. These “diet” foods play tricks with our sense of fullness and sometimes propel us to eat even more. Not exactly the effect we’re hoping for. What to do then? Choose foods that are in their whole forms as often as possible and regard health claims as one of the many marketing tools used by the food manufacturers.
- Eating healthfully costs a lot… and I can’t afford it. Not to discount the very real reality of food insecurity for many Americans but barriers to eating well are usually time and cooking skills, not money. Raw ingredients and many unprocessed foods are inexpensive, but they require time and skills before they become a meal. Slow Food USA posed a $5 Challenge in 2011 to encourage folks “take back the ‘value meal’” and demonstrate that healthful meals can be affordable. Resources associated with this challenge are still available on the website.
Elizabeth Lee is a dietitian for an employee wellness program and an outpatient clinic in Southern California. She believes in sensible and sustainable eating. Follow her on Twitter: @HEALingFoodie.