March 16, 2017
Health

Meal Myths

Myth:  Some people can eat whatever they want and still lose weight.

Fact:  To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat and drink. Some people may seem to get away with eating any kind of food they want and still lose weight. But those people, like everyone, must use more energy than they take in through food and drink to lose weight.

A number of factors such as your age, genes, medicines, and lifestyle habits may affect your weight. If you would like to lose weight, speak with your health care provider about factors that may affect your weight. Together, you may be able to create a plan to help you reach your weight and health goals.

Eat the rainbow!

When making half of your plate fruits and veggies, choose foods with vibrant colors that are packed with fiber, minerals, and vitamins.

For more tips on healthy eating, see the For More Information section for helpful links to federally approved dietary guidelines and ChooseMyPlate.

TIP:  When trying to lose weight, you can still eat your favorite foods as part of a healthy eating plan. But you must watch the total number of calories that you eat. Reduce your portion sizes. Find ways to limit the calories in your favorite foods. For example, you can bake foods rather than frying them. Use low-fat milk in place of cream. Make half of your plate fruits and veggies.

Myth:  “Low-fat” or “fat-free” means no calories.

Fact:  A serving of low-fat or fat-free food may be lower in calories than a serving of the full-fat product. But many processed low-fat or fat-free foods have just as many calories as the full-fat versions of the same foods—or even more calories. These foods may contain added flour, salt, starch, or sugar to improve flavor and texture after fat is removed. These items add calories.

What is the difference between a serving and a portion?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Nutrition Facts label appears on most packaged foods (see Figure 1). It tells you how many calories and servings are in a box or can. The serving size varies from product to product.

A portion is how much food you choose to eat at one time, whether in a restaurant, from a package, or at home. Sometimes the serving size and portion size match; sometimes they do not.

You can use the Nutrition Facts label

  • to track your calorie intake and number of servings
  • to make healthy food choices by serving smaller portions and selecting items lower in fats, salt, and sugar and higher in fiber and vitamins

For more tips on healthy eating, see the For More Information section for helpful links to federally approved dietary guidelines and ChooseMyPlate.

TIP:  Read the Nutrition Facts label (see Figure 1) on a food package to find out how many calories are in a serving. Check the serving size, too – it may be less than you are used to eating.

Figure 1. Nutrition Facts Label

 

Myth:  Fast foods are always an unhealthy choice. You should not eat them when dieting.

Fact:  Many fast foods are unhealthy and may affect weight gain. However, if you do eat fast food, choose menu options with care. Both at home and away, choose healthy foods that are nutrient rich, low in calories, and small in portion size.

TIP:  To choose healthy, low-calorie options, check the nutrition facts. These are often offered on the menu or on restaurant websites. And know that the nutrition facts often do not include sauces and extras. Try these tips:

  • Avoid “value” combo meals, which tend to have more calories than you need in one meal.
  • Choose fresh fruit items or nonfat yogurt for dessert.
  • Limit your use of toppings that are high in fat and calories, such as bacon, cheese, regular mayonnaise, salad dressings, and tartar sauce.
  • Pick steamed or baked items over fried ones.
  • Sip on water or fat-free milk instead of soda.

Myth:  If I skip meals, I can lose weight.

Fact:  Skipping meals may make you feel hungrier and lead you to eat more than you normally would at your next meal. In particular, studies show a link between skipping breakfast and obesity. People who skip breakfast tend to be heavier than people who eat a healthy breakfast.

TIP:  Choose meals and snacks that include a variety of healthy foods. Try these examples:

  • For a quick breakfast, make oatmeal with low-fat milk, topped with fresh berries. Or eat a slice of whole-wheat toast with fruit spread.
  • Pack a healthy lunch each night, so you won’t be tempted to rush out of the house in the morning without one.
  • For healthy nibbles, pack a small low-fat yogurt, a couple of whole-wheat crackers with peanut butter, or veggies with hummus.

Myth: Eating healthy food costs too much.

Fact:  Eating better does not have to cost a lot of money. Many people think that fresh foods are healthier than canned or frozen ones. For example, some people think that spinach is better for you raw than frozen or canned. However, canned or frozen fruits and veggies provide as many nutrients as fresh ones, at a lower cost. Healthy options include low-salt canned veggies and fruit canned in its own juice or water-packed. Remember to rinse canned veggies to remove excess salt. Also, some canned seafood, like tuna, is easy to keep on the shelf, healthy, and low-cost. And canned, dried, or frozen beans, lentils, and peas are also healthy sources of protein that are easy on the wallet.

TIP:  Check the nutrition facts on canned, dried, and frozen items. Look for items that are high in calcium, fiber, potassium, protein, and vitamin D. Also check for items that are low in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. For more tips, see Smart Shopping for Veggies and Fruits and Healthy Eating on a Budget, both on the ChooseMyPlate website (see the For More Information section).

 

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