10 common diet myths - busted

A senior dietitian from the British Heart foundation explains the most common weight loss mistakes, and how to tell fact from fiction when it comes to fad diets.

Empty plate with a question mark drawn on a post-it note

Maintaining a healthy weight is a key consideration for good health. However, when many of us try to drop a few pounds we go about it the wrong way. Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at The British Heart Foundation, lists the most common diet myths and separates the fact from the fiction.

Myth 1. Skipping meals will save calories

Skipping meals can make you feel tired and hungry, meaning you'll be more likely to reach for high-fat, high-calorie snacks, or compensate with bigger meals when you do eat. It’s also harder to make a healthy choice when you are very hungry. Get into a regular pattern when it comes to your meals and plan ahead to make sure you look forward to tasty and healthy options.

Get inspired with our healthy recipes.

Myth 2. You can only eat a limited range of foods

If you eat nothing but celery or oranges all day long for a week you will, of course, lose weight. But fad diets will quickly become boring and won’t be effective in the long run. That’s just as well, as while they will be low in calories, they are often lacking in the full range of nutrients your body needs to function properly in the long-term. If you need to take vitamin and mineral supplements alongside a diet plan then that’s a clue that it might not be providing you with all the nutrients you need. It’s not necessary to starve to lose weight. Making small changes you can stick to is the key to long-term success.

Learn more about how to eat a balanced diet.

Woman looking into fridge and trying to resist cream cakes and doughnuts

Myth 3. You're not allowed treats

Depriving yourself of all the foods you enjoy won’t work and banning certain foods often makes us want to eat them even more. You’ll eventually give into temptation and abandon your efforts and this can lead to feelings of guilt and failure. Remember, one slip does not have to mean a fall and there's no harm in allowing yourself a treat now and again. Plan to have small amounts of the foods you love and savour every mouthful.

Read more about mindful eating.

Myth 4. You can't eat after 8pm

It doesn’t matter when you eat if you are eating too much — a calorie is a calorie at any time of the day! It's healthier for your digestive system not to eat a heavy meal before you go to bed but a late dinner will not make you any fatter than an early one.

Discover what to eat for a good night's sleep.

Myth 5. You can target just your belly / thighs / bingo wings

As unfair as it may seem, we can’t pick and choose where we gain or lose weight from. When the body loses fat, it is lost throughout the body. Focusing on one area of the body when exercising may develop better muscle tone in that area but it will not remove more fat.

Find out more about fitness and fat burning.

Myth 6. Certain foods help you burn fat

No foods can actually help you to burn fat. The important thing is eating less calories (energy) than you are using, rather than eating specific foods that are thought to have special properties.

Learn more about calories.

Woman standing on weighing scales in a bathroom

Myth 7. Carbs are fattening

Gram for gram, carbohydrate has less than half the calories of fat. However, you do still need to keep an eye on your portion sizes and choose the right types of carbohydrate. Opt for wholegrains like oats, brown rice and wholemeal bread and pasta rather than white versions or sugary food and drinks. Watch out for high-calorie additions too; fillings and toppings commonly added, such as creamy sauces on pasta and butter or cheese on baked potatoes.

Read more about low-carb diets

Myth 8. You can't snack

Planning healthy snacks between meals can help you to control your appetite. Fruit, vegetables, crudités and low-fat yogurt are great choices.

Try our 10 healthy snacks you can make in minutes

Myth 9. You should only eat low-fat foods

Don’t rely on low-fat meaning low-calorie. Replacing fat with other ingredients can still result in a product with a high calorie content. Don’t be fooled — check the label. Quantity is also important. You won’t cut back on calories if you eat twice as much of a low-fat product as a full-fat one. Pre-packaged, low-fat foods are also often high in sugar and preservatives, which can be detrimental to health. Natural fats found in nuts, seeds, fish and avocados are actually key for glowing skin and reducing the risk of heart disease.

Discover more about low-fat diets.

Myth 10. You need to follow an intense exercise regime

You don’t have to run a marathon to benefit from being more active. Even low-intensity activity will help use up more energy. Walking, gardening or doing housework can make quite a difference.

Get inspired with our fitness and nutrition guides.

Now read...

Six things you should consider before starting a diet
How to eat a balanced diet
How to lose weight and keep it off
More health and nutrition inspiration


For more information on heart health visit The British Heart Foundation website.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Have you heard any diet claims that you're unsure about? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below.
 

Comments, questions and tips

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Jonno123
16th Jun, 2017
This article is such rubbish Victoria Taylor should be ashamed of herself. Not only is saturated fats good for you, but " processed" seed oils cause inflammation, the very reason for heart desease. I actually don't know where to start on this article it's so shocking, especially coming from the British Heart Foundation. Sugar is the killer, low fat yogurt is recommended, has more sugar than ice cream. Such ignorance is scary..
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