Healthy Eating for Your Active Lifestyle

Once upon a time, fat was made out to be public enemy number 1. Now, carbohydrates are on the hot seat. In the face of so much conflicting nutrition information, it can be difficult to separate fad from fact. This month, a registered dietitian does the legwork for you by busting five popular nutrition myths.

Myth: Avoid all sugar – even sugar from fruit and dairy.

Fact: Limiting the sugar you get from processed foods, such as pop and candy, can help improve the overall quality of your diet. However, there’s no evidence that limiting naturally- occurring sugars from whole foods, such as fruit and dairy, is beneficial. Keep in mind that whole foods don’t just contain sugar. They also contain fibre and protein which can help slow down absorption of the natural sugars and prevent blood sugar spikes followed by energy crashes. Instead of cutting out sugar entirely, focus substituting processed sources of sugar for whole, nutrient-rich foods.

Myth: Eating too much protein damages your kidneys and bones.

Fact: Studies show that getting enough protein protects against osteoporosis. And while it’s true that some people who already have kidney disease might need to limit how much protein they eat, there is no research showing that high protein diets cause kidney disease. In fact, consuming enough protein may help protect against diabetes and high blood pressure – two of the leading causes of kidney disease.

Myth: Eating before bed will cause weight gain.

Fact: While eating too much before bed may lead to weight gain over time, the food you eat at night isn’t more likely to be stored as fat. Rather, late night eating has been linked to weight gain because people often choose higher calorie, lower nutrient options at night. If you find yourself getting peckish in the evening because there’s a long gap between supper and bedtime, try a small planned snack with protein and fibre to help tide you over until morning such as a small handful of nuts. If boredom and stress are causing you to mindlessly munch throughout the evening, try this mindfulness activity to help you work through the emotions instead of turning to food.

Myth: Eat more often to boost your metabolism.

Fact: Eating small frequent meals may help maintain a body weight that’s healthy for you if going too long without food leads to overeating later in the day. However, studies continue to show that there is no difference in metabolism between people who eat more often versus those who eat less often. If your job doesn’t allow for you to snack throughout the day, or if you simply prefer three meals a day, don’t fret. Simply be mindful of portion size and use the balanced plate to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs.

Myth: Losing weight is the only way to improve your health.

Fact: While weight loss can improve risk factors for chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, it’s not the be-all and end-all for improving your health. Studies show that making healthy lifestyle choices (such as learning to listen to hunger cues and exercising for pleasure) can be just as beneficial. One study in chronic female dieters with obesity showed that people following an approach to health that focused on size acceptance and increased awareness of body signals led to an improvement in health risk indicators. Remember that health isn’t just about physical wellbeing – it also includes mental and emotional wellbeing. By taking the focus away from weight loss, you give yourself space and permission to work on other important aspects of health.

The bottom line

Before changing your eating habits based on the nutrition fad of the day, do your research. Are you still struggling to find a way of eating that supports your goals? Then, consider consulting a registered dietitian to help navigate the sea of nutrition information and sort fact from fad.

AFLCA/YMCA Northern Alberta Members 

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Sarah Morland, RD

Registered Dietitian

Sarah (BSc, RD) is an Edmonton-based registered dietitian and blogger for Nourish Move Thrive. She believes that food should nourish both the body and soul, and that physical activity should be fun. She enjoys debunking nutrition myths and translating scientific evidence into practical advice.

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