Folklore and food lore often get mixed into a goulash of advice on nutrition. Well-meant advice covers when and what to eat, but it can be difficult to sort out the facts.
Just in time for March, which is National Nutrition Month, here are some food myths to chew on from TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), provided by Joan Pleuss, R.D., C.D.E., M.S., C.D., Senior Research Dietitian in the General Clinical Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
- Don't eat between meals.
False–Eating four to five meals and snacks helps healthy eaters control their appetites, according to numerous studies. The total calories must be stay within the range for the eating plan, however.
- Don't eat before bedtime.
False–Again, it's the total number of calories that matter, not when those calories are consumed.
- Breakfast should never be skipped.
True–Studies have shown that eating breakfast decreases the likelihood that you will overeat later in the day. Breakfast also increases overall energy and helps your brain concentrate, solve problems, and remember facts better.
- Protein should be a part of meals and snacks.
True–Lean meat, yogurt, cheese, nuts, and beans are all great proteins that will help keep healthy eaters feeling full longer.
- It's better to graze than eat three square meals a day.
True–Six mini-meals eaten throughout the day can effectively keep you satisfied. The foods selected should be healthy and the total amount of calories should not exceed the amount needed to maintain or lose weight.
- There are some foods that should be eaten every day.
True–You should include food from all the TOPS Exchange groups every day. In the Milk Exchange group, yogurt plays a role in bone health and strengthens the immune system. In the Vegetables Exchange group, spinach, kale, bok choy, and romaine are great sources of nutrients helpful for bones, heart, and eyes. Tomatoes decrease the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. Carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and yellow bell peppers are wonderful sources of carotenoids, which fight cancer. Fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, purple grapes, and raisins contain many antioxidants to help prevent memory changes as we age and also to help prevent cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Meat Exchanges such as dried peas and beans contain antioxidants that may improve brain and heart function. Grains, including oats, quinoa, and wild rice, lower the risk of heart disease. Heart-healthy fats can come from walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, and flaxseed.
- Skipping meals will help you lose weight.
False–Skipping meals actually may have the opposite effect. Studies have found that people who skip meals during the day tend to be heavier than people who eat the right foods four or five times a day. When you skip a meal, you may be slowing down your body's metabolism–thus, making your body require fewer calories and converting extra calories to fat.
TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the original, nonprofit weight-loss education and support organization, was founded more than 60 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success. Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., TOPS promotes successful weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness education, and support from others at weekly chapter meetings. TOPS has about 170,000 members in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada, and several chapters in Europe.
Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call (800) 932-8677 for more information.