Thursday, February 7, 2013

5 Healthy Eating Fallacies

Since I started actually doing my research about healthy eating, I’ve found out that a lot of the things I initially thought were nothing but common misconceptions or fallacies. I thought “low fat” was a synonym for “healthy” for a long time, but that’s not necessarily true. I also always just equated calories as the main cause of weight gain. Basically, I had part of the truth but not the actual facts or science.

"All-Natural" does NOT mean organic. In fact,
it doesn't mean much at all.
Image: Shutterstock
These days, I walk through the supermarket knowing better; but it’s painfully clear how seduced our society is by labels like “low fat,” “organic” and (my favorite) “all-natural.” Sure, there’s some merit in those things, but it’s not an excuse to ignore the label. And it doesn’t always mean what you think it means. Here are some common fallacies about healthy eating:

If it’s all-natural, it must be good for me. That’s the same as “organic,” right? Wrong. The FDA’s definition of “all-natural” is extremely loose. Basically, any food that doesn’t contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances can be labeled as all-natural. However, these foods can still contain processed sweeteners, lab-produced flavors and colors, and other additives and preservatives.

If I exercise, I can eat all the junk food I want. Definitely not true. My three-mile runs burn just over 300 calories, yet s medium sized Chocolate Cookie Dough Blizzard from Dairy Queen contains almost 1,000 calories, 36 grams of fat, and 157 grams of carbs. Ouch!

This blizzard has almost 1,000 calories. You're not likely to work that off very quickly.
Image from
A medium Cookies & Cream Blizzard has 980 calories.
Buying organic is a must for all produce. While I prefer organic produce when I can afford it, I certainly don’t prescribe to the notion that all food should be bought organic. It’s most important when avoiding the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen,” or most contaminated foods. However, many foods are unlikely to contain contaminants even when you buy the non-organic option. Of course, locally grown can be a healthy medium here, since many local farmers follow organic practices but can’t afford official certification.

Energy drinks and protein bars are really healthy. Unfortunately, no. Check the back label of a bottle of Gatorade or a high protein energy bar and you’re likely to see that they’re full of sugar, often high in calories, and have lots of carbs (plus a TON of strange ingredients you can’t pronounce). These products are some of nutritionists’ biggest pet peeves. If you’re working out, you will burn off many of those calories, but if you’re not, eating an energy bar is just like eating a candy bar—just with more protein.

Weekend binges are unhealthy for your body and mind. Moderation is better.
Image from
Bingeing on the weekends isn't healthy.
Eating healthy means never eating junk food. Prescribing to this view often ends up being self-destructive in the end. Never allowing yourself to enjoy your favorite “junk” foods can make us feel socially alienated at times and sometimes makes the cravings even worse. The key to healthy eating is to be in control of our cravings and indulge sensibly and in moderation. Eating healthy M-F only to break and binge on the weekend isn’t healthy for our bodies or our minds. Instead, don’t feel so guilty about the occasional slice of cake—just make sure “occasional” treats stay that way.