5 Things Your Parents Got Wrong About Food
Dessert as a reward, snacks that wreck your appetite, and other parental nutrition myths.
3. Don't eat before exercising -- you'll get a cramp.
You won't want to go running immediately after dinner, but eating something small and nutritious 30 to 60 minutes before exercising can help you maximize your workout.
"[You'll get] a quick boost of energy that helps you optimize the exercise session," says Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD, an American Council on Exercise spokeswoman and author of "Eat Your Vegetables!" and Other Mistakes Parents Make: Redefining How to Raise Healthy Eaters.
Update: Choose high-carbohydrate, low-fat, low-fiber snacks with moderate amounts of protein in the 100- to 300-calorie range, such as a glass of chocolate milk, a slice of toast with peanut butter, or a granola bar. Fruit is also fine, although it won't have much protein. (Add a few nuts for that.)
4. Hurry up!
Did your parents coach you to wolf down your breakfast every morning so you wouldn't miss the school bus? If you still eat in a hurry, you might miss your body's cues that you're full.
"It takes 20 minutes for the brain to register that you feel full," Brown-Riggs says. "If you eat too quickly, you can scarf down a lot of food in a 20-minute period, and then you feel stuffed."
Update: Make a conscious effort to slow down. Taking mini-breaks between bites can also help. "Many people don't put a sandwich down until they've eaten the whole thing, but it will slow you down," Brown-Riggs says. "Also, putting your utensils down between bites should help."
5. You deserve dessert today!
You may have learned this habit early, if you earned a trip to the ice cream parlor for a good report card.
Or your parents may have promised you dessert as a reward for eating your broccoli or other vegetables. They had good intentions, but this is a bribe that sends a message that vegetables aren't appealing on their own.
"We never want to use food as a reward; it sends the wrong message," Brown-Riggs says. "The wires get crossed, and we no longer eat because we're hungry; we eat because we were good and we deserve something."
Update: Stop using food as a prize. Instead, reward yourself with a movie, a manicure, or a phone call to a friend. "It takes some work in terms of behavior change, because you may be doing it mindlessly," Brown-Riggs says. "Soon, you'll realize that you shouldn't just eat because you think you deserve something." Do reward yourself for your achievements -- just don't make food the reward.
If vegetables are your most-dreaded food group, it's time to take a fresh look at the many options. Find vegetables you like, and look for appetizing ways to prepare them. "Food should not be a punishment," Brown-Riggs says.
Give some of the vegetables that you couldn't stand as a kid another chance. For instance, could you roast Brussels sprouts in a little olive oil instead of boiling them? Or stir-fry broccoli? They might taste a lot better than you remember from your childhood.