I’ve been challenging food rules for as long as I can remember. Maybe it’s a part of my nature and “questioner” tendency that makes me refuse to promote information about food and nutrition that doesn’t make sense. Or maybe it’s that the nutrition recommendations coming from the organization that makes them *cough USDA* are actually the most confusing.
We don’t need any more contradictions.
We don’t need any more complicated recommendations.
Read on for some of the most common nonsense food rules that are still out there, but need to quickly see themselves out!
avoid fat, it makes you fat
On the surface, it seems like this makes sense. It sounds logical that eating fat would cause you to gain fat, right? Well, that’s not necessarily true.
Thankfully, this food rule is on its way out. The last few decades of nutrition research shows us that gaining or losing weight has everything to do with personal caloric and macronutrient needs, hormones, and even the health of your gut, and little to do with the amount of fat in your overall diet. Sure, fat is calorically more dense than the other macronutrients (carbohydrates and protein) and it can be very easy to overeat, (hello block of sharp cheddar cheese) but that’s no reason to demonize the entire macro-group.
In my experience and the experience of so many of my clients, eating moderate or even higher amounts of fat makes us feel more energized. Opting for egg yolks, avocados, nuts and heavy cream on a daily basis makes us feel full and satiated between meals.
don't eat carbs after 6 pm
Do you think your body know’s what time it is, really? Does your body know what timezone you’re in or if it’s daylight savings? Naw.
One reason this nonsense food rule gained some traction is likely because by following it, it forces us to cut out the types of foods we tend to mindlessly eat late at night – think sweets and munchies. Combined with the types of activities we do in the evening, it’s very easy to overeat processed, packaged and refined foods with empty calories. Ice cream, chips, crackers go very well with Netflix binges or homework procrastination.
So let’s not demonize the time of day (or night), nor one macronutrient over another. Instead, we should be talking about mindless eating or eating to displace an uncomfortable feeling we’d rather avoid. It’s a hard habit to break, but by finding ways to resolve feelings of stress, frustration, anger or boredom that do not involve food, you’ll feel happier and likely spend less time wondering why your pants are feeling tighter.
don't skip breakfast, it's the most important meal of the day
Don’t get me wrong, breakfast is important, but it’s no more important than a post-workout meal or second breakfast for that matter. In the past, we might have thought breakfast was the most important meal of the day for a couple reasons, but now we know that breakfast does not jumpstart your metabolism, make you inherently more healthy or leaner than the breakfast skipper, and opting out of breakfast doesn’t make you gain weight quicker. We can all sigh with relief that this one meal will not make or break your goals.
Maybe you’re in the camp that simply can’t skip a morning meal. If you’re eating to meet your calorie and macronutrient needs, chances are you need to plan for a substantial meal in the morning or you’ll be stuck rolling deli meat around cheese sticks for dessert at night as you play “catch up” to hit macro goals. For others, skipping breakfast could mean munching on refined, processed or packaged foods later in the day because you’re incredibly hungry. It might mean you’re crashing mid-morning because coffee is not a substitute for filling, satiating food with, you know, actual calories.
The bottom line is: know yourself and choose to eat or skip breakfast based on your preference and goals.
eat mini meals to increase metabolism
This nonsense food rule is born out of the discovery of the “thermic effect of food” and perpetuated by mainstream, low-calorie diets. We know that it takes energy to digest and absorb food – essentially it burns calories to eat calories – so it might make sense that we could potentially expend more energy if we ate more frequently.
Not so much.
We know now that eating 2 or 3 meals per day has literally the same effect on metabolism as eating 5 or 6 meals. Metabolic rate depends on a few factors, but if you’re eating to meet your calorie and macronutrient needs you’ll burn the same amount of calories if you decide to gorge yourself in one sitting, or prefer to eat like a bird throughout the day.
if you’re still following any of these nonsense food rules, you can give them up now! And if you want to learn a better strategy for eating so you don’t have to fall for silly food rules again, check out this blog post about my PFC eating method.