Dietary advice has evolved constantly throughout time. For example, particular foods, such as carbs, red meat, and full-fat dairy, were deemed as “bad” for years. Certain sayings, such as “only shop the perimeter of the grocery store” and “don’t eat ingredients you can’t pronounce,” have also circulated for decades and used to dictate how and what people ate. However, these old-fashioned nutrition guidelines of yesterday are ones you should never follow today.
If you are looking for outdated dietary guidelines you should kick to the curb, then read ahead. From cutting out all carbs to not eating ingredients you can’t pronounce, here are eight old-fashioned nutrition guidelines that you should take with a grain of salt, though not literally.
This old saying has been making its rounds for years now, but it is advised you probably shouldn’t follow it. “This was a hard-fast recommendation in the nutrition world for quite some time, however, it really doesn’t have much clout,” says Melissa Mitri, a registered dietitian at Zen Master Wellness. Mitri shares that there are many hard-to-pronounce ingredients that are actually important fiber sources, vitamins, or natural preservatives that can help prevent food poisoning. “Following this rule can cause you to become unnecessarily restrictive and can lead you to fear food,” she adds.
For years, carbs have been thought of as “bad,” but Mitri explains that this isn’t accurate. “Many popular weight-loss diets target carbs as the bad guy, but, in reality, carbs should make up a significant portion of our diets,” Mitri says. She explains that the key is choosing the right types of carbs—for example, ones that are whole grains, fruits, and vegetables that are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. “Research has shown that fiber intake is associated with weight loss and a healthy heart, so there is no need to fear carbs like brown rice, quinoa, fruits, and vegetables,” she points out.
Mitri also shares that the old saying “a calorie is a calorie” is an outdated recommendation that can do more harm than good. “All calories are not created equal—and what’s more important is where your calories are coming from,” Mitri says. “For example, if you stayed within your daily calorie needs but all you ate was fad-laden french fries, you probably wouldn’t see much success in terms of weight loss and would feel ultra-sluggish as well.” Mitri suggests instead of counting your calories, shift your focus onto eating plenty of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables that will fill you up so you naturally will end up consuming fewer calories overall.
“Shop the perimeter of the grocery store” is an old saying that suggests you shouldn’t buy food from a supermarket’s aisles because they are thought to be less healthy. This, however, is not necessarily true. “The perimeter is where all the fresh food is but if you don’t shop the aisles, you miss out on a lot of healthy options,” says Christina Iaboni, RD. Iaboni points out that the aisles aren’t just packed with processed foods. “In the aisles, you find whole grains like oatmeal and quinoa, canned and dried beans, and nut butters,” she adds. “The frozen section also offers frozen fruits and vegetables which are great options since they are frozen at the peak of freshness and retain their nutrients.”
How many times have you heard growing up that you shouldn’t swim after a meal? Perhaps surprisingly, this old saying isn’t true. In fact, low-impact exercise is beneficial to our health and may even help lower blood sugar levels. “During exercise your heart rate and respiration increase which utilizes glucose from your bloodstream,” explains Rebecca Washuta, MS, CNS, LDN. “Additionally your muscles also take up glucose when they contract, pulling more glucose out of your bloodstream, and ultimately lowering your blood sugar.” Washuta suggests trying to exercise 30-45 minutes after eating, which is known as the mid-postprandial phase, to help lower your glucose levels.
Washuta shares that although low-fat dairy products, particularly yogurt, may be lower in calories they typically are high in sugar. “Sugar increases insulin, the fat-storage hormone, which can lead to weight gain,” says Washuta. “On the flip side, fat keeps your blood sugar and insulin stable, while turning off hunger hormones and making us feel more full and satisfied,” Washuta suggests opting for full-fat dairy whenever you can.
Another outdated nutritional guideline is that red meat is considered unhealthy. Red meat eaten in moderation, however, could be good for you. “Consuming red meat in moderation is a healthy method to get protein,” says Tania Long, a nutritionist at Mealfan. “Red meat contains protein, iron, and zinc which are beneficial nutrients.”
Cutting out all fats from your diet may hurt you in the long run. “Fats are essential to our diet, like other nutrients,” Long shares. “Fats produce healthy cell membranes that prevent disease, and they also aid in digestion and skin health.” However, even healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fat which is found in seeds, nuts, and olive oil, should be consumed in moderation.