10 Food myths busted by nutritionist, Vanessa MacLellan

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Vanessa MacLellan, registered dietitian and owner of All Foods Fit Nutrition Consulting, recently visited the Saint John YMCA to bust common food and nutrition myths.

Myth #1: Dietitians=nutritionist. An important distinction MacLellan addressed is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist. Nutritionist is not a protected title and they are not controlled by a regulatory body. Dietitians are required to take a four year Bachelor of Science in applied human nutrition followed by a yearlong internship. Dietitians also pay dues to the New Brunswick Association of Dietitians that ensures the public is provided with credible, science based information.

Myth #2: Avoid carbs. MacLellan emphasizes the difference between white breads and cereals and “good carbs” that come from fruits and vegetables. “Cutting carbs will make you lose weight because most likely you will be cutting out groups that are more calorie-dense,” she says, “but starving your body of essential nutrients is not healthy.”

Myth #3: Late night snacking with make you gain weight.  MacLellan says that late night snacking could make you gain weight but it’s the calorie intake, not the time of day. “It all depends on what we’re eating after eight o’clock,” she says.

Myth #4: Everyone should be gluten-free. MacLellan says that while gluten free diets are trendy, it’s not necessary for anyone without gluten sensitivities to omit gluten from his or her diet.

Myth #5: Super-foods. Berries, garlic, Açai juice, etc have gotten the reputation of “super-foods” that will make you “super healthy.” “The bottom line is that no one food is going to give you super powers or fight any kind of diseases on its own. You need a variety of food,” she says.

Myth #6: Fresh and organic is better. Processed, frozen and canned foods do have a place in a healthy diet. Frozen and canned foods are equal in nutrition to fresh food and may be even more so because the freezing process locks in a lot of nutrients.

Myth #7: More protein is better. Many people think that eating protein will build muscle, but that’s a myth, according to MacLellan, “If you’re body building or working out a lot, your protein needs are going to be higher, but you have to figure out how much protein you need per day and beyond that, it’s not going to build muscle…it’s just going to be a waste,” she says. “What builds muscle is more than just your protein intake, it’s a good nutrient program, it’s adequate sleep, it’s good hydration and a number of other things.”

Myth #8: Reading food labels is too hard. MacLellan has some tips for understanding a food label: look at the serving size and per cent daily value when comparing products. If a product has five per cent or lower of a certain nutrient (sodium, for example), it has a low amount of that nutrient. A high amount of that nutrient would be 15 per cent or more of the average person’s daily intake.

Myth #9: Multigrain and whole grain bread are the same. A grain consists of three parts: the cereal germ, endosperm and the bran. Whole grain products contain all three parts of the grain, compared to multi-grain products, that may have several different kinds of grains but those grains only retain the endosperm, which is the starchy part of the grain.

Myth# 10: Cooking meals takes too much time. This myth is especially important to university students who are always crunched for time and money. MacLellan suggests taking time on weekends to plan ahead, make a menu and shop accordingly, planning for leftovers by making extra food for lunch the next day and picking up convenience foods like pre-cut vegetables and fruit, which may be more expensive but are also a huge time saver.

MacLellan’s philosophy is that all foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle, but it’s important to understand moderation. “I believe that if you do have a sweet tooth or you like your salty snacks, we can incorporate those things into a healthy lifestyle, the key is to know how and when to enjoy those treats,” she says.