5 Things Your Parents Got Wrong About Food
Dessert as a reward, snacks that wreck your appetite, and other parental nutrition myths.
Are you still following eating habits that your parents taught you decades ago? It's time to see if that advice stands up to the test of time -- or if some of the things your parents taught you about food are your family's diet myths.
Diet myths are "handed down for generations," says Kathleen Fuller, PhD, LMHC, author of Not Your Mother's Diet. "To undo a myth or belief, it takes some practice."
Here are five outdated ideas about food that you may have learned from your parents -- and the grown-up realities.
1. No snacking! You'll ruin your appetite!
If you heard this when you were a kid, you should know that the thinking about snacking has grown up.
Snacking can be healthy, as long as you choose wisely and don't wreck your calorie budget.
"It keeps blood sugar stable" and keeps you from getting too hungry between meals, says Debra Waterhouse, MPH, RD, author of Outsmarting the Mother-Daughter Food Trap.
Of course, you can't just snack with abandon. Those calories count, and you want the biggest nutritional payoff per calorie. So some types of snacks are better options than others.
Update: Try cutting back slightly on meals to allow for one or two daily snacks between 100 and 200 calories. Healthy options include nuts, fruit, yogurt, vegetables with dip, or other low-fat, low-sugar, high-fiber options.
"My general rule is going no longer than four hours without eating something, whether a meal or a snack," says Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
2. Finish everything on your plate.
Did you grow up hearing that at every dinner? Did your parents make you stay at the dinner table until you'd finished everything on your plate? And are you still eating that way today? If so, you may not be heeding your body's signals that you're full and that it's OK to stop eating.
"I'm constantly telling my patients, 'You don't have to join the Clean Plate Club,'" Brown-Riggs says. "It's fine to leave a little food over and not eat mindlessly. Get in tune with your body to know when you've had enough."
Update: Try leaving something on your plate. But more importantly, stay in tune with how you're feeling. Are you full? Are you eating just because there is still food on your plate? Be particularly careful when you're eating out -- the food is appealing, the plates are huge, and you may want to eat it all because you paid for it. "The Clean Plate Club is usually more of a problem when you're eating out," Brown-Riggs says. "If there are large portions, ask for half now and have them box the other half, so you don't run into trouble."