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Know the facts: Myths can lead consumers down unhealthy path

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Eating healthy isn’t complicated but food myths cause distraction. Usually though, there’s no truth to them. Here are three common food myths busted.

Myth: Fat free/low-fat means healthy
Large corporations target health-conscious individuals by convincing them to purchase a not-so-healthy product while still maintaining a guilt-free mentality. How, you ask? By throwing on fancy words like “100% FAT FREE” or “ABSOLUTELY NO FAT.” With a label like that, thinking that product is healthy is easy, but you could be wrong. The reality is, when companies remove fat from a product, they must replace it. More often than not, the replacement is carbohydrates, which won’t fill you up. Instead of being fooled by these false “healthy” labels, reach for whole foods like almonds. Almonds are in fact high in fat, but they are high in “good fats” that are beneficial in more ways than one. Almonds have what are called monounsaturated fats, which help stabilize your blood pressure and actually help reduce stomach fat, according to George Mateljan Foundation for the World’s Healthiest Foods.

Myth: Eating at night will make you fat
Many people believe that late night snacks will lead to weight gain, but in fact, calories are calories, no matter what time you eat them. Maybe you’re thinking, “But my friend eats 10 cookies at midnight and she’s gaining weight.” Well that’s because she’s consuming 10 cookies worth of calories, not because of the time she is eating them. Late night snacking has a bad reputation because it usually is something high in calories like ice cream or cookies. The key to avoiding weight gain is choosing the right snack and the right portion. Kathleen Zelman, director of WebMD, said on the website that we should eat 90 percent of our calories before 8 p.m., so anything after that should be less than 200 calories. Choose a cup of whole grain popcorn and a glass of decaffeinated tea with honey. You’ll be satisfied until bed and keep the nightmares of weight gain away.

Myth: Snacking will make me gain weight
Would you believe that eating more frequently throughout the day could actually make you lose weight? That’s right, more eating, less weight. Most believe they should eat three large meals a day, when in fact, eating six smaller meals could benefit you even more. Depriving your body of food for long periods of time is unhealthy and can lead to late-night binging. By having small snacks throughout the day, you’ll reduce your overall caloric intake, keep your hunger at bay and increase your metabolism. You’ll keep your energy up and reduce cravings as well. In college, we rarely have time to sit down to a full meal, so packable snacks work best. Try whole fruits, plain Greek yogurt with berries, raw nuts or veggies with hummus. Choose foods high in protein and fiber in order to fill you up and fuel your body the whole day.
Myths about food will never be 100 percent busted, but the most important thing to remember is that these suggested changes only work if they become a permanent part of your lifestyle. You only get one body, so feed it well.

Molly Tavoletti is vice president media chair for the fitness group Changing Health Attitudes and Actions to Recreate Girls. 

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