Top 5 Diet Mistakes

See if you're guilty of any of the following behaviors, and learn how to easily correct them:

Mistake 1: You go too long without eating.

Perhaps you wake up and you aren't hungry, so you skip breakfast and go straight to lunch. What happens is that your metabolism slows down to compensate for the lack of fuel (food) put into your body.

"Eating breakfast means you have given your body some startup fuel for the day, and it can now begin processing it, or 'burning it up,'" says Kelly O'Connor, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "The trick is to not rely on hunger but have a regular intake of meals and snacks throughout the day." You're also more apt to overeat at a meal if you've skipped the previous one.

Mistake 2: You eliminate an entire food group.

Although it's been very much in vogue to ban carbohydrates in recent years, experts advise against this method. Research shows that we need to eat from all of the food groups—carbs, proteins, fats, fruits, and veggies—to be at our best.

Mistake 3: You use "diet" products.

An occasional diet soda or low-cal dessert is one thing, but subsisting on foods made from artificial sweeteners is asking for trouble.

Many artificially sweetened foods have little or no nutritional value. You don't want to reduce foods containing valuable nutrients in favor of empty ones. Also, some studies have suggested that diet soda may actually be counterproductive because its intense sweetness can trigger a craving for more sweets. Your best bet? Plain water and whole foods.

Mistake 4: You overeat healthful fatty foods.

If you've heeded the drumbeat about foods such as olive oil, nuts, and hummus, you may find your pants becoming snug. "Although [these foods] are 'healthy fat,' they still have calories and all calories...can add up to weight gain," O'Connor says. "Olive oil and nuts are good examples of foods that people rarely measure." Check your portions by using a measuring spoon or small cup when eating high calorie, high nutrition foods such as these.

Mistake 5: You gorge after workouts.

Exercising does not give you the green light to go crazy at dinner. Focus on replacing the calories you've burned, O'Connor says, rather than splurging. Be particularly careful about downing smoothies and juices, as they can contain loads of calories. And make sure your post-workout meals include lean protein and a reasonable portion of carbohydrates to refuel yourself.

Allison Massey, MS, RD, LDN, reviewed this article.



Kelly O'Connor, RD, LD, CDE, Mercy Medical Center.