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Seven Diet Sins

The most common nutrition mistakes -- and how to avoid them.
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WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Exclusive Feature

You read all the books; buy all the right vitamins; you know the buzzwords to look for on food labels. By all standards, you're certain your nutrition report card should be filled with straight A's.

But before you start pasting gold stars onto your refrigerator door, take heed: Nutrition experts say most of us think we are eating a lot better than we actually are.

"It's easy to buy into some pretty popular nutrition misconceptions -- myths and half-truths that ultimately find us making far fewer healthier food choices than we realize," says New York University nutritionist Samantha Heller, MS, RD.

To set the record straight, Heller and two colleagues from the American Dietetic Association gave us the dish on seven nutrition mistakes you probably don't know you're making -- along with sure-fire ways to avoid them.

Mistake No. 1: Assuming your choices are better than they actually are.

From fruit juices to canned vegetable soup, breakfast muffins to seven-grain bread, it's easier to think your food choices are healthier than they really are, experts tell WebMD.

"If a label says 'Seven-Grain Bread,' it sounds pretty healthy, right? But unless that label also says 'whole grains' it's not necessarily going to be the healthiest bread choice you could make," Heller says.

Likewise, she says many folks think that eating a can of vegetable soup is as nutritious as downing a plateful of veggies -- not realizing how few vegetables are inside, and how much of the nutrients are lost in processing.

Another common mistake: Substituting fruit juices for whole fruits.

"Are fruit juices healthier than soda? Yes. But they are also concentrated sources of sugar that don't give you anywhere near the same level of nutrients you get from whole fruits," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD. What's more, says Taub-Dix, if you're trying to lose weight, you won't get the same sense of fullness from a glass of juice that you will from a piece of fruit.

"Instead, you'll just take in a whole lot of calories -- and still feel hungry," Taub-Dix says.

The solution: Whenever possible, eat whole, fresh, and unprocessed foods. Even when you eat them in smaller amounts, you're likely to get a well-rounded group of nutrients. When buying packaged foods, put in at least as much time into reading labels and selecting products as you do when choosing a shower gel or shampoo.

"Don't just assume a product is healthy -- even if it's in the health food section of the supermarket," says Heller. "You've got to read the labels."

Mistake No. 2: Being confused about carbs.

A national fascination with low-carb diets has many Americans eliminating carbohydrates from their eating plans in record "grams." But before you reconstruct your personal nutrition pyramid, there's something you should know.

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