A recent WebMD blog talked about six nutrition “rules” that people tend to follow but that are worth breaking on occasion. While we can’t exactly agree 100 percent with all of what author Janet Helm wrote, they also certainly aren’t iconoclast rules that must be followed at all times. As usual, practicing moderation is the best answer, and following the basic rules most of the time will net you the best results.
1. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and stay out of the middle. The basic idea here is a sound one, particularly for vegetarians: the whole foods (fruits, veggies, dairy, bread) are outside the aisles, while all the bad stuff is stuck in the middle. There is some good stuff still in those areas, mostly consisting of beans, rice, quinoa, and nuts, but by and large we still tend to agree that the aisles – especially the middle 10 or so – house all the chips, crackers, candy, frozen meals, and other garbage that is overly processed and sneaky bad. However, the ethnic food aisle is always a fun one to peruse, as is the soup aisle.
2. Fresh is best. Not sure how this could possibly be untrue or a rule worth breaking, but sometimes the facts are that fresh foods are unavailable or out of season. There’s nothing wrong with frozen fruit or frozen vegetables, but they can be inconvenient if anything; it’s always easier to cut into clean fruit flesh than an ice cube-strawberry. Frozen veggies, if they’re being heated up, will be just fine in most cases, and frozen fruit, if used for smoothies are in a similar boat. Otherwise, sticking to fresh stuff is just more convenient.
3. If it’s white, don’t bite. This is one that is generally agreeable because it involves something that everyone can probably afford to step back from: simple carbohydrates. But the author thinks differently, saying, “[T]hat doesn’t mean you need to totally banish white bread, pasta or rice from your diet entirely . . . [s]witch to whole grains when you can . . . [d]ietary guidelines say make at least half your grains whole.” Standard American dietary guidelines that say carbs are that important tend to rub at least some nutritionists the wrong way. For folks following certain diets, there really is no reason to push the unhealthy, refined carbohydrates in any shape, white or wheat (that includes sugar).
4. Ban the salt shaker from the table. This is a good myth to bust: most of the sodium consumed comes from prepackaged foods and restaurant meals, not your dinner table. The best way to avoid sodium if need be (for those with actual blood pressure issues) is to simply make your own meals and control your salt intake. But generally speaking, above-normal amounts of sodium aren’t as bad as most experts have suggested. Just don’t go crazy on it, and pay attention to what your tongue and body tell you.
5. Pass on pale produce. Not sure where this one comes from. The line of thought that whiter vegetables provide fewer nutrients isn’t quite correct – they’re simply different nutrients. Any vegetables a person can manage to eat throughout the day will very likely help overall health.
6. Choose the “healthy” option. What does “healthy” mean, exactly? Probably, by choosing the vegetarian option, you already are choosing the healthy option. There are a lot of unhealthy things that vegetarianism offers – pastas, desserts – but by and large choosing a salad over a burger is a good choice every single time. But what the article gets at is still a good point to remember: because it says “low fat” or “healthy” does not mean it is devoid of stuff that is bad for you; in fact, many “low-fat” yogurts are worse than regular fatty yogurts because they have high amount of sugar (one of those white things you shouldn’t bite on). Just keep it sensible, and eat in moderation, and things will be fine. As a vegetarian, you’re already healthier than most of the population, so enjoy that long life!