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Food Myths

food groups of healthy foods to eat daily

Myth: Nuts are fattening and you should not eat them if you want to lose weight.

Fact: In small amounts, nuts can be part of a healthy weight-loss program. Nuts are high in calories and fat. However, most nuts contain healthy fats that do not clog arteries. Nuts are also good sources of protein, dietary fiber, and minerals including magnesium and copper.

Tip: Enjoy small portions of nuts. One-half ounce of nuts has about 270 calories.

Myth: Eating red meat is bad for your health and makes it harder to lose weight.

Fact: Eating lean meat in small amounts can be part of a healthy weight-loss plan. Red meat, pork, chicken, and fish contain some cholesterol and saturated fat (the least healthy kind of fat). They also contain healthy nutrients like protein, iron, and zinc.

Tip: Choose cuts of meat that are lower in fat and trim all visible fat. Lower fat meats include pork tenderloin and beef round steak, tenderloin, sirloin tip, flank steak, and extra lean ground beef. Also, pay attention to portion size. Three ounces of meat or poultry is the size of a deck of cards.

Myth: Dairy products are fattening and unhealthy.

Fact: Low-fat and nonfat milk, yogurt, and cheese are just as nutritious as whole milk dairy products, but they are lower in fat and calories. Dairy products have many nutrients your body needs. They offer protein to build muscles and help organs work properly, and calcium to strengthen bones. Most milks and some yogurts are fortified with vitamin D to help your body use calcium.

Tip: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming 3 cups per day of fat-free/low-fat milk or equivalent milk products. For more information on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, visit: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015.asp

If you cannot digest lactose, which is the sugar found in dairy products, choose low-lactose or lactose-free dairy products, or other foods and beverages that offer calcium and vitamin D (listed below).

  • Calcium - fortified fruit juice, soy-based beverage, or tofu made with calcium sulfate; canned salmon; dark leafy greens like collards or kale
  • Vitamin D - fortified fruit juice, soy-based beverage, or cereal, plus don't forget getting some sunlight on your skin also gives you a small amount of vitamin D

Myth: "Going vegetarian" means you are sure to lose weight and be healthier.

Fact: Research shows that people who follow a vegetarian eating plan, on average, eat fewer calories and less fat than non-vegetarians. They also tend to have lower body weights relative to their heights than non-vegetarians. Choosing a vegetarian eating plan with a low fat content may be helpful for weight loss. But vegetarians — like non-vegetarians — can make food choices that contribute to weight gain, like eating large amounts of high-fat, high-calorie foods or foods with little or no nutritional value.

Vegetarian diets should be as carefully planned as non-vegetarian diets to make sure they are balanced. Nutrients that non-vegetarians normally get from animal products, but that are not always found in a vegetarian eating plan, are iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, zinc, and protein.

Tip: Choose a vegetarian eating plan that is low in fat and that provides all of the nutrients your body needs. Food and beverage sources of nutrients that may be lacking in a vegetarian diet are listed below.

  • Iron - cashews, spinach, lentils, garbanzo beans, fortified bread or cereal
  • Calcium - dairy products, fortified soy-based beverages or fruit juices, tofu made with calcium sulfate, collard greens, kale, broccoli
  • Vitamin D - fortified foods and beverages including milk, soy-based beverages, fruit juices, or cereal
  • Vitamin B12 - eggs, dairy products, fortified cereal or soy-based beverages, tempeh, miso (tempeh and miso are foods made from soybeans)
  • Zinc - whole grains, especially the germ and bran of the grain, nuts, tofu, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, cabbage, lettuce
  • Protein - eggs, dairy products, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, soy-based burgers