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Jena DeMoss: Navigating the diet craze maze

Is the latest diet trend really that healthy? How many carbs should I be eating daily? Can a detox diet work in my favor? Whether or not you’ve fallen for nutrition myths in the past, it can be hard to decipher fact from fiction when your favorite fitness influencer makes a claim on social media. Therefore, before you implement dietary rules, a chat with a registered dietitian may be worth your time – and possibly your health. Hy-Vee dietitians can crack the code to many myths surfacing the web. Check the facts below to see what’s true and what’s trash.

1. Do carbs make you gain weight? Carbohydrates are often demonized as the weight gain devil. But do you have to cut carbs out entirely to lose a few pounds? Carbs – especially complex carbs – are important for energy, brain function and even weight loss. Complex carbohydrates include whole grains, beans and vegetables, which are rich in belly-filling fiber. Simple carbs are those high-sugary foods and processed grains, which lead to unsatisfying meals causing us to overindulge later. Keep in mind, any food you eat in excess will cause you to gain weight; therefore, don’t point fingers at one of the major food groups. Think about the selections and portions with carb choices and make room on your plate for more whole-grain varieties.

2. Is snacking throughout the day bad for my health? There’s a fine line between a smart snack and grazing, and the difference between the two can make or break your health goals. A smart snack is one that is planned, consumed when true hunger strikes, and includes nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, veggies, whole grains and protein. It can help bridge the gap between meals to ensure we don’t overeat later. Grazing, on the other hand, is frequent eating of an undefined portion of food. More often than not, grazing can include the consumption of high-caloric and nutrient-poor foods, leading to weight gain. When done correctly, snacking is a healthy habit to incorporate in our everyday routines. Just be smart about it.

3. Can certain foods burn calories? In short, no. Caffeine and spicy ingredients can increase metabolism, yet not enough for significant calorie burn or weight loss. The secret solution? A combined effort with diet and consistent exercise.   

4. Are fat-free or low-fat versions of foods healthier? When a product claims it contains low or no fat, be sure to consider the sugar content. It’s common for manufacturers to replace fat with this taste-enhancing nutrient to make it more palatable since fat provides food with flavor. In addition, we may eat more of a low-fat product because fat takes longer to digest. Therefore, our attempt to save on calories by choosing this alternative is essentially a wash.

5. Does eating at night lead to weight gain? It’s been shown that high-caloric foods like ice cream and chips are indulged after dark, contributing to a wider midsection. You can guess that ingesting excess calories at any time of the day would have the same effects on the body, but we tend to do more mindless eating watching television or surfing the web at the conclusion of our day. If you’re hankering for a late-night snack, choose one that includes protein and fiber like a fruit and yogurt parfait, as you’ll be more satisfied and less likely to go back for more.

If you fall in the 78 percent of people who encounter conflicting information about what to eat, consider contacting a Hy-Vee dietitian. We undergo several years of schooling, must pass a licensed examination, and keep up with continuing education every year to stay relevant with the ever-changing world of nutrition. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, and get the facts from the professional.

The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.