The most common healthy eating mistakes
Not all salads are created equal. Shutterstock
- Eating healthy isn't very complicated, but there are a few mistakes nutritionists and doctors often see people make.
- Quality and quantity both need to be considered when choosing what to eat.
- Carbs are not your enemy, and whole wheat bread isn't always your friend, among other misconceptions.
No matter how many healthy snacks you eat or how often you exercise, a lot of people end up making the same mistakes when it comes to eating healthily.
INSIDER spoke with Dr. Caroline Apovian, Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center and professor of Medicine at BU School of Medicine, Whitney Stuart, MCN, RDN, LDN, a registered dietitian-nutritionist and the owner of Whitness Nutrition, and Lisa DeFazio, celebrity nutritionist and author of "The Women's Health Big Book of Smoothies," to find out what people are doing wrong that's preventing them from staying healthy.
Here are the top mistakes they see "healthy eaters" make.
1. Assuming whole wheat bread is the better option without reading the ingredients list.
Apovian said that she often sees people choosing whole wheat bread but not realizing that both white and whole wheat bread often have the same amount of calories. But calories are only one factor to take into consideration.
Remember that not all wheat breads are created equally. When deciding between white or whole wheat, Stuart recommends looking at the ingredients. Make sure labels say "whole wheat" instead of "wheat" and avoid breads that have sugar, wheat flour, or refined white flour in the first three ingredients.
Generally, Stuart says whole wheat bread will usually provide more nutrients than white bread, but reading the labels carefully is also still important.
2. Indulging too much on the weekends while staying super strict during the week.
Restricting your food is bound to lead to overindulging at some point, according to Apovian. On the weekends, we're especially prone to this.
"Overdoing it on Friday and Saturday nights, you can get in all the calories that you painfully did not eat the whole last week," Apovian told INSIDER.
To avoid weekend setbacks, Stuart recommends making plans that don't revolve around food.
"Instead of your normal heavy brunch and mimosa Sunday, take a yoga class with friends," she suggests. When you can't change plans, Stuart said changing your mindset to focus on what you can have versus what you can't have, is the next best thing.
3. Eating the same foods over and over.
It's easy to fall into the trap of eating the same thing over and over when we're trying to eat healthily. Stuart she sees a lot of clients making this mistake by only allowing themselves to have foods they think are "safe" like chicken, broccoli, or sweet potatoes.
Although this might seem like a foolproof plan, depriving ourselves of a variety of foods leads to boredom and eventual binges, Stuart told INSIDER. Thankfully, this problem is easy to fix as there are endless options for healthy meals.
4. Thinking you can exercise away calories.
Exercise is great but just because you workout doesn't mean you can eat anything you want.
The saying that you can't out-exercise a bad diet is true, according to Apovian.
"Counting calories and then exercising the calories 'off,' doesn't quite work that way," Apovian told INSIDER. This doesn't mean you should stop exercising, but rather that you shouldn't think of exercise as a means for eating anything you want.
Having said that, consistent exercise can help your body burn more calories down the road. Stuart pointed out that over time, strength training can help you build muscle and improve your metabolic rate to burn calories more efficiently.
5. Overeating after workouts.
It's important to fuel our bodies for workouts, but we're often led to believe that we need to consume more calories than we actually do, thanks to the booming industry of workout shakes, bars, and powders.
Some workouts burn more calories than others but for most people, having a pre-snack, post-snack, and a meal is likely overdoing it. To avoid immediately eating all the calories you worked so hard to burn off, Stuart recommends scheduling workouts around meal times.
6. Topping salads with high-calorie dressings.
Piling up your food at the salad bar is a good idea, as long as you are picking the right toppings. DeFazio explained that putting tons of high-calorie dressings like ranch or blue cheese over salad could be ruining your healthy lunch or dinner.
"These dressing[s] can add about 500 calories to a salad making it a high-fat meal," she told INSIDER. "Instead, use balsamic vinaigrette dressing."
7. Cutting out all carbs and just eating protein and vegetables.
As this previous INSIDER story notes, carbohydrates are sugars, starches, and fibers that can be found in fruits, grains, vegetables, and milk products — meaning that bread and pasta aren't the only carbs that exist. There are tons of other foods that are high in carbohydrates.
DeFazio said that cutting carbs and replacing them with only protein and vegetables is a strategy that she often sees people take, but it's one that usually ends badly.
"When people want to lose weight or eat healthy they say 'I avoid carbs.' That lasts a few days but after a few, your blood sugars are low and you end up binging on carbs," she said. "Carbs don't make you gain weight, starving and [sic] bingeing does."
Instead of cutting out carbs altogether, DeFazio recommends eating carbs that have more nutritional value like brown rice, beans, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and fruit.
8. Not considering alcohol.
Drinking is a sneaky source of extra calories.
Eating healthy is great, butdrinkinghealthy is key for an overall healthy body. Drinking a ton of calories is a common mistake DeFazio said she sees people who eat healthily make.
"People 'forget' the calories in beer, wine, margaritas, etc," she said. "Calories come from all sources including beverages. It's called a beer belly for a reason."
So keep an eye on how much, and how often, you're drinking and try to keep your alcohol intake to a minimum. When you do imbibe, Stuart recommends avoiding liqueurs and sticking to clear spirits like tequila or vodka instead.
9. Thinking calories are meaningless.
There are a few myths about calories that people believe. When it comes to eating healthy, DeFazio says that one mistake people make is not knowing how many calories they need in a day and how many calories are in the foods they eat.
"Use a calorie app and measure portions to get an idea of what 100 calories of pasta or rice looks like," DeFazio said. Portion control is essential for maintaining a healthy weight, even if what you are eating is healthier than a bag of chips.
Calories are important, but ultimately, it's most important to focus on the quality and quantity of what you're eating. Being more mindful of your food can help you make better decisions and turn healthy eating into a habit, not a chore.
10. Thinking that all calories are the same.
A calorie is a calorie, but calorie content is only one aspect of a food. In other words, the amount of calories in a food don't determine how nutritious it is.
It's important to pay attention to the source of your calories, according to Stuart. She encourages people to prioritize the sources of their calories and put vegetables first.
"They're low-calorie, high-volume, so when we eat more of those, we have more satiety and fullness, causing us to eat less," she said.
11. Not paying attention to portion size.
Many people focus so much on counting calories that they forget about paying attention to portion size. But portion control is essential for maintaining a healthy weight because it can help teach your body when it's full and when it's hungry.
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