Trying to Eat Clean? The Biggest Mistakes to Avoid
You may have cut out junk food, but don't let these sneaky missteps sabotage your healthy-eating efforts.
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Mistake #1: Steering clear of all chemicals
Reading ingredient labels and saying no to products with unpronounceable ingredients is a good rule of thumb. (Ever check out the ingredients list on a processed snack?) But you shouldn't stick to this too rigidly, says Lauren Ott, RD, a registered dietitian in Houston: "Just because you can't pronounce it doesn't mean it's bad for you." Exhibit A: ascorbic acid, which is just vitamin C. Look up ingredients you aren't sure about on GoodGuide or (the admittedly unfortunately named) Chemical Cuisine.
Mistake #2: Filling up on gluten-free everything
"Probably the number-one mistake I see is people eating gluten-free products and thinking they're being healthy," says Mary Gocke, RD, CDN, director of nutrition at the Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. "But gluten-free products tend to have a lot of fillers in them." Rather than chowing down on g-free bagels and pita chips, focus on eating fiber-rich whole grains in reasonable portions.
Mistake #3: Going heavy on natural sugar alternatives
When trying to health-ify their diet, many people switch to natural sweeteners and swap them in them guilt-free. When, in fact, agave syrup and honey aren't necessarily as good for you as they may seem since they can contain a high percentage of fructose—and research has shown a link between eating a lot of fructose and an increased risk of insulin resistance and high cholesterol. Instead, cutting down on overall added sugars is a much more important aspect of clean eating than replacing simple syrup with maple syrup, Ott says.
Mistake #4: Assuming you'll automatically slim down
"People forget that eating clean alone won't lead to weight loss," says Ott. "Whether you're eating Twinkies or fresh produce, if you go above and beyond the calories you need, either way, you're going to gain weight."
Mistake #5: Cutting out an entire food group
Eighty-sixing meat and animal products. Swearing off grains. "While some people feel really good eating vegetarian or not having any grains, it's very difficult to have a balanced diet when you cut out a whole category," Gocke says. She sees vegetarians and vegans in need of iron, and Paleo people who aren't getting enough fiber in a day to keep their GI tract moving. Though supplements can help, at the end of the day, pills are no match for actual food, says Ott. "Our bodies just don't absorb supplements in the same way they absorb nutrients from the actual food source." Aim for moderation or talk to a doctor or dietitian before going cold turkey on a major part of your diet.
Mistake #6: Agonizing over every bite
"When you eat clean, there can be an overzealousness that comes with it that makes it very stressful," says Gocke. "We have to be careful with our stress levels because they affect our hormones, our microbiome [the mix of bacteria in your colon) and the whole system." Definitely not what you're hoping to achieve with a healthy diet. Ease up if you have a militant approach, and don't worry if a not-so-clean treat makes its way onto your plate every once in a while. "It's great to eat clean, but you also have to live your life
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