My top three myth busts surrounding healthy eating and living
“Carbohydrates will make me gain weight”
I am going to sound like a broken record but I want to be clear on this! Carbohydrates, on their own will, Not. Make. You. Gain. Weight. End of discussion. Of course adding additional ingredients to carbohydrates can increase the amount of calories in that particular meal or dish. And when we eat more calories than we need we will gain weight. But that is the only reason. Same goes for any other foods! Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients (the other two are fat and protein) which means we need to consume these in large portions in order to maintain a healthy diet. Carbohydrates as a group can be seen in many different foods. For instance, they not just found in bread, pasta and potatoes but also in fruit and vegetables.
"The Government's healthy eating advice, illustrated by the Eatwell Guide, recommends that just over a third of your diet should be made up of starchy foods, such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta, and another third should be fruit and vegetables. This means that over half of your daily calorie intake should come from starchy foods, fruit and vegetables." - NHS England
“Calories in vs calories out is all that matters”
I hear this one all the time. Calories is just another term for energy. Whilst balancing energy is a way of maintaining body weight it's not a water tight approach when it comes to healthy eating. We need to look at the overall quality of our diets too. For example, let's say the average donut is about 500 (disclaimer - this will depend on the donut!). According to the government the average calories a man needs to consume is 2500 calories and day and for women 2000 (although calorie needs are likely to be different for everyone based on activity levels, your job etc). But for argument's sake let's say you are a woman and eating 2000 kcals a day and you eat 4 of said donuts and nothing else, this means you're are hitting your calorie requirement (and in theory will not gain weight). But this does not mean this is a ‘healthy’ approach to eating nor does it mean you won’t be hungry all day. Aiming to eat better quality and balance of calories is more important than counting them. I’m not hating on donuts here, it’s just an example. Eating donuts every now and again will not affect your health and it doesn't make you unhealthy. It's the quality of our overall diet and foods that make up the majority of what we eat that matters. If counting calories works for you then great but be mindful over what those calories consist of. If it doesn't work for you maybe try being a bit mindful about your overall diet. Maybe try thinking about what kinds of foods you eat the most and what do you eat every now and again. Just to be clear, there is no such thing as bad food and even donuts have some beneficial nutrients such as dietary fibre and some vitamins and minerals...and lets be real, they taste great and can also be good for the soul! It's just that when eaten regularly, the makeup of some foods are more beneficial to our health than others.
“I eat vegetables so I must be healthy”
Although this is great it’s not strictly true. What we eat is one important aspect of living a healthy, balanced life but there are other things to consider. Exercise and moving our bodies is really important, getting enough sleep (according the NHS adults should aim for 6-9 hours), reducing overall stress levels whether this be at work or in your personal life, taking medication you have been prescribed by a doctor, being aware of your mental health and ensuring you rest properly. The list goes on. With healthy living, just like healthy eating, we need to look at our lives as a whole and ensuring we are doing and getting the things we want and need as individuals in order to live the best quality of life we can.