6 “Healthy” Habits Nutritionists Say Are Destroying Your Diet

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition
healthy habits

We try to do all the right things: Eat wholesome, nutritious foods and maintain a healthy lifestyle. But when it comes to our diets, all too often we end up sabotaging our efforts by things we hear or fads we read about. For example, maybe a friend told you they lost 15 pounds by cutting carbs so you completely eliminated them from your diet. Or maybe you just finished your third cleanse of the month because you read detoxifying your body is a multi-step approach.

To help you stay on track—and not fall into a dieting trap that could end up robbing your body of vital nutrients—we asked Registered Dietitian Courtney McCormick to tell us why that latest eating-right strategy could be all wrong. Are you guilty of adopting any of these six seemingly healthy habits?

1. You’re Eating “Clean”

“There is no true definition for clean eating which makes it challenging to know what someone who “eats clean” is really eating,” says McCormick. Further, a “clean eating” lifestyle often disqualifies highly nutritious foods on principal. For example: If you’re avoiding “processed” foods, you might decline frozen fruits and vegetables and choose only fresh. “Yet frozen varieties are picked and processed in season and often hold even more vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients than fresh versions of their out-of-season counterparts,” McCormick says. The same logic applies to eating only organic foods. According to Harvard Health and a 2012 Stanford University Study, there’s no evidence that organic food is more nutritious than conventionally produced foods. McCormick agrees. “It’s unlikely you’ll get any additional nutritional benefits from choosing an organic banana over a conventionally grown one,” she says.

2. You’re Doing a Liquid Cleanse or Detox

Some detox routines promise a healthier body, mind and soul. Others offer dramatic weight loss in a matter of days. The bottom line: You don’t really need it. “Detoxing is a natural bodily process,” McCormick says. “Organs like your liver and immune system do a pretty good job at detoxing on their own.” But if you feel your body could benefit from a detox—maybe you had a string of cheat days or you took some medication that didn’t agree with you—it’s not harmful for your body to cleanse or detox as long as the regimen includes foods, not just liquids. “Be sure it’s a balanced, healthy, diet plan,” says McCormick. Include foods made from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products. And, of course, drink plenty of water.

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3. You’re Abstaining from “Bad” Foods

Chocolate. Doughnuts. Beer. French fries. Would you believe guilty pleasures like these DO have a place in a healthy diet? “Indulging in the occasional unhealthier treat—one that provides calories with little additional nutritional benefits—will not completely destroy our diet,” McCormick says. In fact, indulging can help keep you on track, as binging (which always includes a side of guilt) is much more likely to occur when “bad” foods are completely eliminated from your diet. The key to success is to not label foods as good or bad and to just find balance and moderation. “I recommend including healthier options in your diet about 80-90% of the time and treating yourself 10-20% of the time,” she says.

4. You Subscribe to the Notion of Cheat Days

Bloated. Tired. Guilty. And consumed by cravings for more unhealthy foods. Cheat days can wreak havoc on your mind and body and McCormick says they’re just not worth it. “Remember that all foods can fit into a healthy diet; just enjoy your indulgent treats in smaller portions,” she says. But what about food holidays like birthdays or Thanksgiving? Try to be cognizant of what you’re eating—and how much. The day after, get right back on track: Drink plenty of fluids, load up on extra fruits, veggies and whole grains (so as to not reestablish a taste for fatty, sugary foods), and last but not least, exercise.

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5. You’ve Sworn Off Carbs or Given Up Sugar

Pop quiz: Name a food that contains carbs and sugars. Did you say a bagel? A brownie? Maybe your morning breakfast cereal? All correct. But did you know you could have also said strawberries, broccoli or yogurt? Believe it or not, all dairy products and plant-based foods provide essential carbs and natural sugars. So instead of swearing off all carbs and sugar—and depriving your body of the fuel it requires—McCormick says to limit the amount of sugar you eat (the recommendation is no more than 50g of added sugar for someone following a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet). And, beware of refined carbohydrates like those in white bread, pasta, cookies and cake. They’ve been stripped of fiber during processing (unlike whole grains) and they cause your blood sugar to spike and then drop—right along with your energy level.

6. You’re Avoiding White Foods

While swearing off white (refined) carbs and sugar can be a good thing, swearing off all white foods doesn’t make sense. “There are lots of foods that are white that provide great nutritional benefits,” says McCormick. Bananas, for example, provide an excellent source of potassium while cauliflower provides plenty of vitamins and minerals and hardly any calories. Need a few more examples? How about onions, garlic, and potatoes? And don’t forget milk, yogurt, sour cream, and many types of cheeses. Most fish is white. Chicken breast is white. Okay, we’ll stop. Just promise us you’ll put some of these wholesome white foods back on the table.