Myth 1: All carbs are off limits
Truth: Most carbohydrate-rich foods are chock full of fibre, which helps prevent tummy troubles like constipation, diarrhea and symptoms of indigestion. Soluble fibre also helps regulate cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The key is to stick to whole-grain carbs like brown rice, barley, quinoa, high-fibre cereal and whole wheat pasta. Dietitians of Canada recommends six to seven servings of grain products a day. To keep your weight-loss goals on track pay attention to labels ("whole grains" should top ingredient lists) as well as portion sizes: One serving is equivalent to half of a pita, a slice of bread, a half cup of cooked rice or three-quarters of a cup of hot cereal.
Also see: Seven gym-free ways to slim down quickly for a big event
Myth 2: A big breakfast first thing is essential
Truth: A huge meal in the morning isn't necessary. What is essential is eating something — ideally a mix of protein, complex carbs and fruit — within an hour or two of waking up to set a healthy-eating pattern in motion. Try a small bowl of plain yogurt with berries and low-fat granola or high-fibre cereal with skim or almond milk and a piece of fruit. Peggy Kotsopoulos, a Toronto-based holistic nutritionist, also recommends thinking outside the idea of three square meals. "More frequent snack-size meals are easier to digest and ensure you keep your hunger under control, which means you have a better chance of making healthy choices all day," she says.
Also see: 14 strategies for a happy (and flat) tummy
Myth 3: You should chug eight glasses of water daily
Truth: Keeping your body well hydrated is important, but too much H2O with meals can interfere with digestion and cause bloating, says Kotsopoulos. And this can be especially problematic for people who already have digestive issues, she says. Kotsopoulos recommends putting your water bottle down half an hour before eating and refraining from drinking for up to an hour after. If you can't imagine a meal without a beverage to go with it, stick to just a few sips.
Also see: Lose weight with the right balance of carbs, fat and protein
Myth 4: Artificial sweeteners are better than sugar
Truth: "Gas, bloating and diarrhea are often linked to artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol and xylitol," says Calgary-based registered dietician Sarah Remmer. "I encourage my clients with digestive complaints to avoid them." Some research in animals also shows that artificial sweeteners may cause you to eat more calories, which further derails your diet. Researchers suspect that when sweetener touches your lips, your brain sends a signal to your stomach that sugar is coming. When none arrives, this can result in stronger cravings later, making you more likely to reach for chocolate come 3 p.m. If you need sweet stuff, put a dash of sugar in tea or coffee.
Also see: Four ways artificial sweeteners cause weight gain
Myth 5: If you work out, you don't have to worry about what you eat
Truth: We often overestimate calories burned during a workout, which makes us eat more than we sweat off at the gym. An hour-long hike (438 calories) or 30 minutes on the treadmill (430 calories) is a great calorie killer, but if you're swinging by you favourite coffee shop for a post-workout reward of pastry and a specialty coffee, you're probably loading up on more than you just burned. (A large latté and maple-pecan danish from Tim Hortons deliver a whopping 570 calories.) If you need a snack before or after your workout, opt for something nutritious and diet-friendly like an apple with a little peanut butter or a handful of homemade trail mix with nuts, dried fruit and plain yogurt, or low-fat chocolate milk.
Also see: Dairy and weight loss: Find out if dairy is right for you
Myth 6: Salads are the ultimate slimming lunch
Truth: A big salad can be a great low-calorie option, if done right. But toppings like bacon, croutons and creamy dressing can turn what looks like a diet-friendly lunch into a high-calorie, high-fat meal. What's more, vegetables can cause serious bloating in some people. "Certain vegetables when eaten raw (such as cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower) have gas-producing qualities," explains Remmer. If you're prone to that sort of digestive discomfort, replace your salad at lunch with steamed vegetables like squash, baby spinach, kale and sweet potato.
Myth 7: Never eat after 7 p.m.
Truth: Fear not, nighttime eaters: Nibbling a little after dark won't necessarily destroy your diet, but that doesn't mean you can eat whatever you want. The later it gets in the evening, the more you need to watch what you put in your body. In other words, no steak and potatoes. So if a hectic schedule means you often don't sit down to dinner until really late at night, make sure you fill up on something light. A small omelette, a piece of toast or a cup of soup and steamed or sautéed vegetables will be more than enough to satisfy your hunger until breakfast without upsetting your delicate digestive system. But keep in mind even a light meal can cause some discomfort or bloating if you hit the sheets right away. "Avoid eating right before bed," says Dr. Naoki Chiba of the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation. And if you find you can't help yourself, prop your torso up with some pillows to keep stomach acid from creeping up into your esophagus as you sleep.
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