Do You Make These Mistakes With Your Diet?

By Mike Howard

Do you ever feel like there is too much to worry about when eating healthy?

Are you the person that gets so stressed out about health that you go on a binge?

Here are 10 things we mistakenly worry about when trying to eat healthy.

You Worry About…

  1. Macronutrient Ratios:
    What percentage carbs, fats and proteins should I be eating? This is one of those factors that many people stress about and that many books harp on. The problem is, we eat food – not macronutrients. It is difficult to calculate this in the first place.

    In the second place, you can eat healthfully eating a varying spectrum of ratios. It also depends on how many calories you are eating. As an example, 30% protein may be too little for someone who eats only 1000 calories but would be too much for someone eating 5000 calories.

  2. Taking a Multivitamin:
    The multivitamin issue is perplexing. What should be a safe way to fill in nutritional gaps is now being questioned in light of recent studies. For example, those who took a multi more than 7 times a week were almost twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as those who didn’t take a multi.

    Multivitamins are not miracle pills that they are promoted as, taking a good quality multi every day or every second day is still alright – just don’t overdo it on the folic acid.

  3. Drinking Coffee:
    The ultra-clean living condemn coffee for its lack of nutrients, its negative impact on calcium absorption, its assault on the adrenal glands and its dehydration superpowers. To this point, most of the research has exonerated coffee for most of its charges.

    Moderate amounts (barring 7 packets of sugar) seem to have health benefits.

  4. 8 Glasses of water:
    This one was covered in detail in a previous post. The truth is, most people probably should drink more water.

    There is no evidence, however that we need the dogmatically-engrained 8 glasses. Drink more if you are exercising more and even more when in heat (ahem – hot weather, that is).

  5. Bicep Curls:
    Visit any gym and you’ll inevitably see “bicep guy”. You know the one – the guy who dedicates 2 days a week to just bicep training. Barbells, dumbbells, cables, close grip, wide grip, hammer curls.

    If your biceps are bigger than your quads, something is wrong. If you are training for a body building competition, by all means, work those guns. If not, do something more compound that works other muscles as well.

  6. Fat count:
    I’m not sure if anyone is still worried about this or not, but if you are – don’t.

    Look for trans fat and too much omega-6 fats, but don’t stress too much about fat grams.

  7. Net Carbs:
    Again, not sure if anyone still busts out their scientific calculator when reading carb ingredients, but again – don’t sweat it.

    Make healthy, fiber-rich and nutrient-dense carb choices and burn ’em or wear ’em.

  8. Eating After 6pm:
    Pssst… your body doesn’t tell time!

    Okay, there is good reason not to pound home 1000 calories before you hit the pillow, but “rules” about not eating after an arbitrary time are baseless. If you are ravenous before bed – eat. Just eat something higher in protein.

    A nighttime workout also negates this rule – just be smart about it.

  9. Eating Organic:
    Admittedly, eating organic is probably optimal.

    The idea of having no pesticides in your produce is more enticing than having very few pesticides in your produce.

    If you’re going to worry about something, however, worry about getting enough veggies and fruits first. Worry about whether it is organic, local, etc after. You can also go in between and choose organic on the most heavily sprayed crops.

  10. Artificial Sweeteners:
    If you have the occasional pinch of splenda or have a periodic sugar-free mint – you probably won’t keel over.

    Rather than Geiger-counting your way through ingredient lists, just bear in mind that artificial sweetener-containing foods aren’t usually healthy to begin with – regardless of how they are sweetened.

    On the other side of the coin – artificial sweeteners won’t likely help you lose weight.


  1. Peter

    I second that.

  2. Ed

    For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

  3. destiny78

    Oh…and unless you are a adolescent, don’t listen to everything your doctor tells you. They are not gods…they have just read and seen more than you. Read up for yourself instead of following in line behind dr. always right.

  4. destiny78

    Eating organic isn’t just ‘probably optimal’ …it is optimal. You’re not shoving perservatives that have been sprayed onto your fruit if you eat organic. Sure it won’t last as long as that apple that never goes bad but the bad stuff won’t be going into your body.

  5. Raj

    Advice that would be credible from a doctor…too bad you aren’t a doctor.

  6. Julian

    pssst .. your body does tell time. Through lights and other various activities. Its a sort of biological clock. For example, a hormone is released when your eyes are subjected to light. Likewise it stops when it is dark. Indicating to your body that its time to hit the sack. This is what scientists are talking about. Some foods have different chemicals and hormones that affect our body’s ability to relax, fall asleep etc. ex caffeine, sugars etc.

  7. davesworkout

    Yep, i did a paper for school on coffee about how in moderation it isnt really that bad for you. However adding the 600-700 calories of sugar and cream.. well i dunno about that.

  8. Charles

    I agree that people stress out way too much about certain things.

    I always encourage clients to pay attention to the big things, like smoking, alcohol, drugs, deep fried foods, processed sugar, stress reduction, and regular exercise.

    Do the big things since the little things don’t matter as much.

  9. Cari

    HI Mike
    Such a sensible list – many thanks… with all there is to supposedly ‘worry’ about it’s nice to know what not to!

  10. mass

    Great point on # 8.

    Its not about not eat after 6pm, but if you are less active you don’t need as much calories as you would earlier in the day. Like it was mentioned in the article, just concentrate on eating higher protein foods and even some EFAs.

  11. Davy 6

    I won’t quibble about many of the small ways I disagree, except in my area of expertise (but let this be a warning to those who believe everything that SEEMS common sense): your statement that the human body can’t tell time is false – the pituitary gland is the seat of this function.

  12. Kelly

    I can’t stand health-freaks. I would like to eat a little better than I am, but I was afraid that I had to do the multi-vitamin, muscle building, oraganic veggie and artificial sweetener diet. It’s just food…eat it.

  13. Mike H.

    Good catch jima! Something to be aware of for future reference.

  14. Mike H.

    I agree! Don’t take my word for it – do your own research and find out what works best. The issues are not black and white but things to think about.

  15. Mike H.

    Perhaps I was a little too dismissive of the idea that the body tells time. In a way it does (circadian rhythm), but let’s examine things within the context of the article:

    Many people subscribe to a belief that you shouldn’t eat after a certain arbitrary time. The point I was making was to listen you your own body (or body’s clock if you will) and eat when you are hungry.

    In terms of the body being able to tell time, here’s what I think. As I understand it (you correctly point out that I am not a doctor), the body doesn’t tell time so much but rather “encodes” time – meaning it processes a sensory event, which sparks a series of reactions between motor and sensory neurons that basically put a “stamp” on events throughout the day. The body doesn’t know whether it is 6:00, 7:00 or 8:00 – it only knows that it is getting hungry, getting sleepy, feeling alert, etc.

    The idea behind the article was to not stress out over inconsequential details. It certainly wasn’t meant to give people excuses not to put the time and effort into healthful eating and exercise.

  16. jima

    “artificial sweetener-containing foods aren’t usually healthy….” I didn’t realize any food could be healthy. Healthful maybe, but not healthy. I think it is the person that may or may not be healthy.

  17. soul

    I disagree with this post too, it’s not a good idea to simplify things just so lazy people can think they understand it… these are really complicated ideas with many different sides to them, people do you own research don’t just believe anything you read!

  18. fatty

    According to Mike, your body does not tell time(it actually does), but it does work on simple math. Calories in – calories out. If you eat before bed, more of the calories will stay with you. This article is misleading and will contribute to the number of excuses people make about eating too much and being fat. “Well I read this article on the internet….”
    So thanks, Dr. Howard… I mean, Mike the blogger.

  19. jerky

    Your body can tell time, it goes through a circadian rhythm, optimally growing coolest at around 2 am. When it’s coolest, it digests food less efficiently, or so the theory goes. Personally I don’t believe it makes a difference anyways, I’ll eat when I’m hungry.

  20. asithi

    Same here. Would love to be able to eat organic, but too pricey for the amount of fruit I eat each week.

  21. Mike H.

    Hi Tina,

    I think the problem is that we started fortifying foods with wreckless abandon when diets were found to be low and incidences of spina bifida were high enough to ring alarm bells.

    As for the “not too much” message, I based it on recent literature;

    Colon cancer: More people who had been taking folic acid (1mg) than a placebo group had developed new adenomas (precancerous polyps) and more folic acid takers than placebos takers were diagnosed with cancer outside the colon or rectum. (JAMA, 2007)

    Breast Cancer: A recent study found that women with higher blood levels of folate had a slightly higher risk of some types of breast cnacer (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008).

    This was consistent with a previous study that saw an increase in post-menopausal breast cancer risk in women who averaged 1.2mg of folic acid (much lower a dose than you are on).

    Read labels – US cereals are fortified with 400 mcg of folic acid. Many supplements contain as much as 1mg.

    Your case may be special and I’m sure your physician will prescribe accordingly. I would ask him/her if they are aware of these studies though.

    I wish you the best in your pursuits of health!

  22. Tina

    “Don’t overdo it on the folic acid?” Anyone know why this is?
    As a woman in her late 30s trying to conceive and with a history of cervical dysplasia, I’ve been taking a 4-5mg supplements. I found this recommendation on several different sites online (both alternative and traditional medicine), though for dysplasia my own (conservative) doctor preferred conventional (cone biopsy or laser) treatment. After about a year of folic acid (and other) supplements, my dysplasia condition was reversed. We’ll never know why, of course, whether it would have gone away by itself or whether the supplements had something to do with it. But in any case, the same sites recommend continuing to take 2-5mg of folic acid, so I’ve continued… I also thought there were no real known toxicity levels for folic acid, or only at EXTREMELY high levels, many times higher what I’ve been taking. So anyone know why you’d want to be careful to limit folic acid intake?

  23. Shelley

    This list is invaluable. Thanks so much!

  24. Tony

    Great list. I’ve been taught not to eat after 7 pm and to drink 8 glasses of water a day in health class. Good to know that they are only myths.

  25. Ariella

    The organic question is a really fundamental one as there is little to no scientific evidence that organic food is nutritionally higher in value.
    Take a look:

  26. soozeequeue

    This IS a good list. My common sense does tell me all these things – for instance that a calories is a calories is a calorie whether you consume it at 7 am or 7 pm, and regardless of whether it is a carbobydrate calorie or a fat calorie, or that water in soup or tomato juice is still water and still provides hydration, or that putting a packet of splenda in the one cup of decaf coffee I have every couple of days won’t lead me to an early grave… But the “collective wisdom” is sometimes so persistent and contrary to common sense that every once in a while I start to doubt myself! Thanks for the down to earth approach.

  27. Rosemary

    What a relief!

  28. Mike H.

    Hi Benjamin,

    I was saying you CAN eat after a workout. I advise eating at night if you are hungry. Just make good choices and eat enough to take the edge off. Post workout nutrition is too important to ignore – even if it is at night. You need the protein/glycogen replenishment post workout – regardless of when you exercise.

  29. Tom ( Nutritional Supplement )

    This is a good list. I think one theme from a few of these ideas is not to overdo it. Moderation is key when do just about anything, especially when it comes to diet, nutrition, and exercise. Many things are only healthy if done in the correct amounts. We tend to think that if some is good, more is better, and many times this is not the case.

  30. Lose weight for life

    I thought that was a really good article. There is so much speculation over a heap of different weight loss issues and you have disected it brilliantly.

  31. Susanna

    You mean we don’t have to be perfect in our diets in order to have the perfect body???

    Great list! I often need to be reminded to “not sweat the small stuff”.


  32. Spectra

    Good list! Luckily, I don’t worry about any of these things anyway, lol. I did used to worry a lot about whether or not I was getting enough protein in my diet, but when I counted it all up, I was actually doing fine with it.

    I usually don’t worry about the artificial sweeteners too much because I don’t eat a ton of them, but lately I actually have had to look out for one: Lactitol. It’s a sugar alcohol that they use in the brand of sugar-free popsicles I used to buy for my husband. The thing is, he eats like 6 or so popsicles at a time and when that happened last time, he got the worst stomachache from the lactitol. So now I buy him sugar free popsicles with no lactitol.

  33. Benjamin Hanson

    About number 8, when you say a nightime workout negates this rule, do you mean that you CAN eat at night if you workout, or you shouldn’t eat at night if you work out? For some reason, I’m always hungry later in the evening, regardless of what I eat. Do you think I should be trying to get my exercise at night then?

    Good list though, I agree that simplification is always good in life. KISS!

  34. Pat Blanks

    Nice piece of information Mike.

    I agree with you that – these little but important things lessen our health and nutrition worries.

    Thanks for sharing.

  35. goodbyetoallfat

    Brilliant post. Thanks for simplifying everything!

  36. Pater Rolf Hermann Lingen

    I disagree for the most part.
    Example: The “German society for nutrition” (“Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung”, DGE) recently published some recommendations concerning fat and carbs. These recommendations are based on large studies, and you get a survey why any special recommendation is made and how probable it is.
    So: Less than 60 gr fat per day, about 230 gr (women) resp. 300 gr (men) carbs per day, however mostly not from mono- or disaccharides.
    The DGE knows this “Atkins” stuff, and so do I. It is by no means generally considered that this kind of weight loss / life time nutrition is healthy.
    A side note: My personal experiences are in line with these recommendations.

  37. Supplements Canada

    I really like the comment on the organics. While it is always nice to have the organic version, the first priority should be to consistently get the required servings for fruits and vegetables every day whether they are organic or not.

  38. Dr. Kal

    I don’t think he meant that you should not work out your biceps. I think he meant that you should work them out with compound exercises such as pull-ups, chin-ups, pull-downs, and the wide variety of rows.

    Nice list. I especially agree with 3, 8 and 9. Coffee has many beneficial antioxidants. You should never go more than 12 hours without eating, that includes time spent sleeping.

    I’m not sure if you meant for the disclaimer to be funny, but I found it hilarious.

  39. Rebecca

    I’m most relieved that I don’t have to work my spaghetti noodle arms into bulging biceps. Thanks for the reminder that we worry about more than we should.

  40. Mark

    Good list most of which is common sense based which is the basis for a lot of things in life.