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Ignore this advice: 4 Common nutrition tips to question

Bethany Thayer, MS, RDN
for Henry Ford Health System
A professional will be able to both pinpoint your problem areas and help you come up with strategies that work with your lifestyle.

Everyone has someone in their social circle who likes to dole out nutrition advice. Maybe your good friend shed 10 pounds by following a keto diet. Or perhaps your spouse felt more energized from juicing or drinking bulletproof coffee.

Understandably, when people feel their nutrition efforts successfully impact their health, they want to share their experience. But what works for one person may not work for another. So well-meaning advice from friends, family members and even so-called “nutritionists” can backfire.

Think twice before taking this nutrition advice

Nutrition science investigates trends and provides the best information about what constitutes a healthy diet. But what often ends up circulating in the media and through word of mouth are nutrition tips that aren’t necessarily grounded in that science. Here are just a handful of examples:

1. Don’t eat white foods: You’ll often hear people say, “I cut out all of the white foods in my diet, and I feel so much better.” While this may be true, chances are the person’s newfound vitality is related to cutting out specific white foods (like sugar), not ALL white foods.

What to do instead: Feel free to indulge in healthful white foods such as onions, garlic, cauliflower, bananas and potatoes, but try to limit white flour, sugar and white (instead of whole grain) pasta.

Bethany Thayer, MS, RDN

2. Don’t eat foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce: This is a common bit of advice designed to get people to choose foods that are wholesome and closest to their natural state. The problem: Many hard-to-pronounce ingredients are completely natural. Some are even good for your body. Take, thiamine mononitrate, ascorbic acid and 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol as examples. All three are tough to say, but they’re all vitamins (B, C and D).

What to do instead: Food is comprised of chemicals so eating foods free of chemicals is impossible. But if you come across an ingredient you can’t pronounce or don’t recognize, look it up. Once you discover what it is — and why it might be in your food — you’ll be better equipped to decide whether or not you want it in your diet. You can also use the nutrition facts label to determine whether or not the item belongs in your diet.

3. Don’t eat processed foods: Anything you do to food is considered processing, from cooking to blending to rinsing and packaging. Even bagged or frozen spinach is processed, and there’s no need to avoid that. So while this advice stems from a solid idea — we should choose to eat foods as close to the farm as possible — sometimes that isn’t possible.

What to do instead: Choose minimally-processed foods (like that bagged spinach) instead of heavily-processed options like pre-made meals and frozen pizza.

4. Shop only in the perimeter of the store: You can find both healthy and unhealthy food choices throughout the store. Although wholesome foods like fruits and vegetables tend to sit on the perimeter of the store, so do bakery items and ready-made meals. Plus, the center aisles do boast plenty of nutrient-sound finds, such as nuts, seeds and beans.

What to do instead:Adopt a smart shopping strategy that prioritizes whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables and minimally-processed whole grains. When you do choose packaged foods, check the label for dietary culprits such as sugar, sodium and saturated or trans fats.  

Getting back to basics

A huge body of research confirms that eating a plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein can help you not only shed pounds but possibly even add years to your life.

If you’re having trouble sneaking in enough vegetables or cooking with whole foods, a registered dietitian can help. A professional will be able to both pinpoint your problem areas and help you come up with strategies that work with your lifestyle.

Bethany Thayer, MS, RDN, is director of the Henry Ford Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. She enjoys communicating with people about healthy living and eating and was a national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for 9 years. Beth has served as the president of the Michigan Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which also named her as the Outstanding Dietitian of the Year in 2012.

To make an appointment with a Henry Ford doctor or dietitian to discussion nutrition and your health, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

For healthy recipes, cooking videos and more tips on healthy eating, visit our health and wellness blog at henryfordlivewell.com and subscribe to receive a weekly email with our latest posts.

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