It seems like every time you turn around there’s a new diet trend demanding you become a devotee in order to stay healthy. With all the high-fat this and dairy-free that out there, the world of healthy eating can seem totally confusing.
Luckily, distinguishing the best advice from the bulls**t just got a lot easier. We asked top nutrition experts for the worst diet tips they’ve ever heard—and what we should be doing instead.
1. Don’t eat after 8 p.m.
“Especially for those of us who exercise at night, that’s just not possible. If it’s within an hour or two of bedtime, just keep it under 500 calories. Eating a sensible, balanced meal at 7, 8, or even 9 p.m. is perfectly healthy. As long as that meal isn’t tipping your calorie intake for the day or full of high-fat foods (which can disrupt sleep quality and even digestion), it shouldn’t lead to actual body fat gain. Make sure it’s balanced, including whole grains, vegetables, and a little protein.” — Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., CEO of NY Nutrition Group
2. When you’re hungry, chew on gum or eat celery.
“Ignoring hunger cues won’t save calories or help you lose weight. It may actually backfire, as people who don’t eat when hungry tend to eat more later. Even if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important to have a small, nutrient-dense snack with fiber and protein to hold you over until your next meal. And don’t just eat something calorie poor, like celery. That won’t address your hunger—although celery with peanut butter will. Chewing gum can help distract you if you have a craving, but it’s not a solution if you are experiencing true hunger.” — Jaime Schwartz Cohen, R.D. director of nutrition at Ketchum
3. To lose weight, just eat less and exercise more.
“The worst diet tip, bar none, is the truism ‘eat less, exercise more.’ It’s as useful to weight management as ‘buy low, sell high’ is to being a millionaire or ‘just cheer up’ is to conquering depression. The longer the world believes that the solution to obesity is both simple and self-directed, the longer the world will wait to see obesity rates decrease. If weight management were that simple, the world would be skinny.” — Yoni Freedhoff, M.D., author of The Diet Fix
4. Drink diet soda instead of regular soda.
“I am not a fan of sodas, but I am also not a fan of artificial sweeteners in diet sodas. Research has suggested that diet soda intake may be associated with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes. Drink your water or green tea instead.” — Mitzi Dulan, R.D., author of The Pinterest Diet: How to Pin Your Way Thin and team nutritionist for the Kansas City Royals
5. Cut out carbs.
“This advice makes me cringe. We shouldn’t be telling anyone to eliminate a food group, especially if you want to be successful in the long haul. Instead, we should be teaching individuals how to incorporate the foods they love—like pasta, bread, and potatoes—in a healthier manner. Enjoying 100 percent whole-grain versions, learning proper serving sizes, and choosing nutritious toppings is the advice we should be delivering.” — Keri Gans, R.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet
6. Do a cleanse to lose weight.
“Your liver and kidneys detox your body very nicely without any crazy cleanse. Sustaining yourself on virtually no calories, fasting, or drinking dangerous concoctions just wreaks havoc on your digestive system. Sure you might lose some weight, but that’s because you aren’t eating! Once you go back to eating normally, the weight will come right back.” — Dana Angelo White, R.D., founding contributor of the Food Network’s Healthy Eats
7. Skip the sugar.
“Many people think of sugar as the enemy. It is true that excess calories from added sugars—table sugar, syrup, candy, and otherwise nutrient-rich foods like flavored oatmeal, yogurt, and milk—can contribute to weight gain and increase the risk for diet-related diseases like diabetes. But not all sugars are created equal. Natural sources of sugar like fresh fruit and unflavored low-fat and nonfat dairy provide key nutrients. Bottom line is that a little added sugar, in the context of an otherwise nutrient-rich and balanced diet, can be healthful.” — Elisa Zied, R.D.N., author of Younger Next Week
8. Don’t worry about saturated fat.
“Despite the headlines, saturated fats are not back. They still raise cholesterol and increase risk of heart attack and cancer. The only foods that contain some saturated fats that have been shown to prevent heart disease and prolong life are nuts and seeds.” — Joel Fuhrman, M.D., author of Eat to Live