Myths That Trick You Into Thinking You're Eating Healthy

When you've been in a food rut for months, or maybe even years, there's nothing quite so appealing as a shiny new diet, promising to take off the extra weight and inspire you to live a healthier life. Whether it's avoiding carbs, banning meat, or feasting on pre-packaged shakes and bars with virtuous-sounding names, there's always some diet trend clamoring for your attention – and your wallet. The weight loss industry is a $179 million market and is expected to reach $229 million by 2026, according to a press release shared by Expresswire (via MarketWatch).

But before you spend another dime on a diet product, or start changing the way you eat, Jamie Hickey, NASM, FMS certified trainer, ISSA certified nutritionist, and founder of Truism Fitness, urges you not to fall for what are essentially myths about weight loss. "Stop taking the advice of a celebrity or fitness model on what the next best fad diet is," he told Mashed. "In order to lose weight and keep it off, you need to change your lifestyle, and you can only do this if you're practicing a diet that is sustainable." According to Hickey, nearly every hot new approach to dieting perpetuates ideas about health that are simply not true.

Myth: You need to cut out a food group to lose weight

Becoming a vegetarian and following the keto diet would almost seem to be mutually exclusive – vegetarians only eat plant-based foods, and people on the keto diet load up on animal products while eating fruits sparingly, while completely avoiding grains. Yet, according to Hickey, both of these approaches have one thing in common: they promote the myth that to eat healthily, you have to cut out a food group. "Fad diets are not effective for the vast majority of people because they normally tell you to exclude one of the major food groups," he explained. "The keto diet tells you to not eat carbs, the carnivore diet tells you to avoid plant based foods, and a vegetarian diet tells you to never eat meat."

A much healthier approach is to eat every type of food, or at least the ones you want, but to watch your portions. "You will only be able to stick with a nutrition plan that allows you to eat all foods, just at the right moderation," he added.

How food brands trick you into thinking their products are healthy

Nearly every packaged food item in the supermarket that claims to be good for you is actually pretty unhealthy, according to Hickey. For example, he said, "using margarine instead of butter is not healthier. Marketing has led you to believe that there are fewer calories in margarine, but this isn't true." In fact, Hickey pointed out that margarine is less healthy than butter. "Margarine includes trans fat, which has many adverse side effects, and is a lot worse than saturated fats," he explained.

The same goes for cookies and crackers that boast "low fat" on their labels. "Staying away from red meats that are high in fat is a great decision, but when you're shopping for snacks like cookies, low fat is not good for you," Hickey said. "This is due to the fact that manufacturers have to compensate for removing an ingredient to still make their product taste good to the majority of their consumers." Those low-fat foods have the same issue as margarine, in fact. "When they take fat away they replace it with a process called hydrogenation, which is chemically altered vegetable oil," Hickey added. "This adds trans fat to the food and is responsible for heart problems, cholesterol-related diseases and obesity."

Most protein bars are as unhealthy as candy bars, expert says

Maybe it's been decades since you even had margarine (or, you only have it when you're at Grandma's house). Same with low-fat cookies – you haven't had a Snackwell since you graduated high school. But what about those bars you get at in the diet aisle of the grocery store or at a vitamin store? If your post-workout snack comes in a wrapper and is covered in chocolate, you might be falling into the same trap that the advertisers of margarine and low-fat snacks have used for years.

The idea that "'all protein bars are healthy' is another marketing ploy that has made people make unhealthy decisions," Hickey emphasized. "There are protein bars in your grocery store that have more sugar and calories than a Snickers bar." That doesn't mean there are no protein bars that are healthy, though. That being said, Hickey advises only choosing protein bars that have three or four ingredients, and have more grams of protein than they do grams of sugar.