You’ve set a goal to lose weight, but now what are you supposed to make for dinner?
With ever-changing headlines, diet trends, and every “expert” sharing their take on food and health on social media, it can be confusing trying to figure out what you should eat to lose weight. Unfortunately, all the mixed messages have created a lot of myths about food and how to lose weight.
Here are 10 of the most common diet myths and the truth serum that debunks each and can help you shed unwanted pounds for good.
1. People following a vegan diet don’t get enough protein
A vegan diet includes only plant-based foods and eliminates all animal products.
It’s 100% a myth that you need to eat meat for protein. Meat, poultry, fish, and dairy do contain a good amount of protein, but they aren’t the only foods that are high in protein.
People following a vegan diet have plenty of plant-based protein sources to choose from. These foods are vegan and good sources of protein:
- All types of beans - kidney, black, cannellini, pinto, chickpeas
- Peas and split peas
- Soy milk
- Nuts and seeds
- Plant-based protein powders
You can also get protein from some vegetables on a vegan diet. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and asparagus are protein-rich veggies.
Getting more protein from plant-based meals, like the variety HelloFresh has to offer, can help you lose weight whether you go vegan or not. Plant foods contain fiber, which helps fill you up and regulates your appetite.
2. You need to eat dairy for calcium
The Paleo diet is a popular eating style that eliminates several food groups, including grains and dairy. A common argument against the Paleo diet is that you miss out on some nutrients, including calcium when you don’t eat these foods.
Dairy foods, like milk, yogurt, and cheese, are good sources of calcium. Calcium is important for healthy bones and teeth, as well as muscle function and heart health. But you don’t need to eat dairy to get enough calcium.
Some non-dairy foods that are good sources of calcium include leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and bok choy, edamame, winter squash, fortified plant milk, and almonds.
If you do choose to eat dairy, avoid fat-free and flavored milk, yogurts, and creamers. These products often contain lots of sugar. The fat content in reduced fat or whole-milk dairy can help satisfy your appetite so you feel fuller for longer.
3. Going vegetarian automatically makes you healthier
Not all vegetarian diets are created equal. Technically, you could eat nothing but cheese and crackers and other snack foods and call it a vegetarian diet, but it wouldn’t exactly be healthy. Vegetarian diets that include a variety of plant-based foods offer big-time health benefits, like weight loss and a lowered risk of serious health issues.
The best vegetarian diets include plenty of fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and healthy fats and minimize processed foods. Some vegetarian diets include dairy and eggs, and some don’t. Whether you’re interested in giving up meat or not, you can take a page from healthy vegetarian diets. Eating more plant foods and less meat is a proven way to drop pounds and improve overall health.
4. Ditching gluten helps you lose weight
Gluten refers to proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley. Some people are sensitive to gluten and suffer from digestive upset, inflammation, and other health issues when they eat gluten. Several popular diets, including the Paleo diet and Whole 30, eliminate all sources of gluten. This has created a demand for gluten-free foods — you’ll find tons of options on grocery store shelves.
The quality of your diet matters more for weight loss than whether or not you eat gluten. Taking gluten out of your diet will only benefit you if you’re sensitive to it or diagnosed with celiac disease.
5. You can eat all the bacon and cheese you want on a keto diet
The keto diet is heavy on fat and very light on carbs. Technically, you could eat lots of bacon and cheese and be keto, but if you’re eating more calories than your body burns in a day, you won’t lose weight. If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important to portion your meals whether you’re going keto or not.
Bacon and cheese are high in saturated fat, which is linked to heart disease. A healthy keto diet limits saturated fats and includes plenty of unsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil, as well as non-starchy vegetables and some lean protein.
6. Fruit has too much sugar
Some people swear off fruit because of its sugar content. Fruit contains sugar, but it also contains fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that you’ll miss out on if you don’t eat it.
Sugar rapidly increases blood sugar levels, which is why individuals with type 2 diabetes have to mind their sugar intake. However, the fiber in fruit helps slow down the rise in blood sugar. If you pair fruit with a source of protein or fat, like nuts, it helps steady blood sugar even more. Steady blood sugar = lasting energy and less hunger.
7. Carbs are the enemy
Many people associate carbs with weight gain. Carbohydrates aren’t responsible for weight gain. How much you eat in total determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain weight.
Refined carbohydrates, like white bread and cake, lack fiber and protein and are easy to overeat. Complex carbohydrates, like oatmeal and whole-grain crackers, have fiber and protein that helps you feel full so they’re harder to overeat. Stick to whole grains, fruit, and vegetables and limit crackers, chips, and sweets.
8. Eating at night leads to weight gain
Some people believe eating past a certain hour or having a "midnight snack" triggers weight gain. The thinking is that most people are less active at night and getting ready for bed, so they don’t have a chance to burn off what they eat at night.
In reality, it’s not when you eat that causes weight gain. It’s what you eat. Most people tend to mindlessly snack on unhealthy foods in front of the tv at night. When you’re distracted watching a show or scrolling on your phone, it’s easy to overeat.
There’s no reason to give up an evening snack if you do feel hungry before bed. Try portioning your snack so you don’t eat more than one serving. Snacks that include fiber and protein, like an apple with peanut butter or a cheese stick with whole-grain crackers, can satisfy your hunger instead of reaching for junk food.
9. Smoothies, juices, and protein shakes are healthy choices
Juicing removes the skin and pulp from fruit and vegetables, which strips them of fiber and makes the juice high in sugar. Juices on their own aren’t usually satisfying and will leave you hungry. Smoothies can be a better alternative if they’re made with whole fruits and vegetables, which adds filling fiber to your drink.
Protein shakes can be healthy as long as you use a high-quality protein powder. Many protein powders contain added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and artificial flavors. When in doubt, choose a plant-based protein, like pea, or unflavored whey, and mix it into a smoothie.
Juice cleanses and liquid diets are not sustainable. It’s fine to replace a meal with a smoothie or protein shake on occasion, but learning to create balanced meals is a necessary skill for lasting weight loss.
10. Eating fat makes you gain weight
Old school diet advice recommended eating more fat-free and low-fat foods to lose weight. However, we now know that most processed foods (i.e. those that are made in a factory) that are labeled fat-free or low-fat aren’t so healthy. Fat contains more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrate. Eating too much fat can cause weight gain, but that doesn’t mean you should eliminate all fat.
Dietary fat offers several benefits. It adds flavor to your food, increases satiety after eating, and helps your body absorb some vitamins. Unsaturated fats, like the kind in avocados and nuts, also support heart health. Including a little healthy fat in meals and snacks is important to control hunger and get the health benefits. Some fats, like nuts and nut butter, are easy to overeat. Measuring them can help save you from eating too many calories from fat and sabotaging your weight loss efforts.
It seems everyone has something to say about what you should eat to lose weight.
The bottom line is you need to eat fewer calories than your body burns to lose weight. For most people, this means getting more exercise, eating more protein and fiber-filled fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, and eating less calorie-dense foods, like fried foods, sweets, and chips.
Meal planning and prepping healthy recipes ahead of time can help you stick to your weight loss plan. If you don’t have much time to spend grocery shopping and cooking, a meal delivery service such as Sunbasket is a good option.
Most meal delivery services have meals that accommodate several eating styles, like low-carb or Paleo, and some even offer calorie-controlled meals designed to take the guesswork and prep work out of the weight-loss equation.