Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on February 22, 2022
You have a lot of options when you’re trying to eat right, but not all choices are what they seem. Some that sound healthy can actually have the opposite effect.
Drinking Diet Soda
While cutting down on sugar is good for you, artificial sweeteners may cause different issues. Studies show that people who drink diet soda tend to eat more, especially more high-calorie foods. They also usually have a higher body mass index (BMI). Your healthiest choice is always water. You can always add some flavor with things like raspberries, cucumber, mint, lemon, or lime.
‘Catching Up’ on Sleep
Sleeping in on the weekends sounds great, but it doesn’t make up for not getting 7 to 9 hours a night during the week. It can actually mess with your body clock and make you feel groggy. You also might have trouble focusing or reacting. The best way to get back in rhythm is to go to bed earlier and wake up about the same time every day.
Drinking Red Wine
This popular choice has antioxidants called polyphenols that are thought to be good for your heart. In fact, no study has shown any definite health benefits of drinking red wine. You can still enjoy it in moderation -- one 5-ounce glass a day for women, two for men. But there’s no reason to start drinking it if you don’t already. And overdoing it with alcohol has been linked to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and certain cancers.
Cutting Out Carbs
Carbohydrates are a macronutrient -- they give you energy and serve as fuel for your muscles and your brain. So getting rid of them completely, as with the keto diet, may not be a good idea -- and it’s not easy to give them up forever. It’s a better idea to establish good habits you can stick with for the long haul, like having more carbs when you’re active and fewer when you're not.
Juice Cleanses or Detoxes
These might sound like a good way to lose weight and give your digestive system “a break,” but most of the weight loss is water. What's more, it deprives you of vital nutrients, like proteins and fats. Your lungs, liver, and kidneys are designed to remove toxins from your body, so the best eating plan is one that gives you the vitamins and minerals you need to keep those organs healthy.
Looking for ‘Healthy’ Labels
Just because a food is called “all natural” or “healthy” doesn’t mean it’s good for you. There’s no official definition for either term, so both are open to interpretation. To truly understand how good (or bad) something is for you, read the nutrition facts label and the ingredients list. That’s the only way to know what you’re getting.
Relying on Supplements
Your body needs a lot of different vitamins and minerals to work the way it should. It might seem easier to get them all in a pill. Some dietary supplements, like calcium, can help fill in gaps, but they’re not meant to replace good nutrition. Your body can use several of those nutrients better if you get them through food.
Using Hand Sanitizer Too Often
Estimates say the convenience of making your hands germ-free without soap and water has helped make hand sanitizing a $200 million business in the U.S. The alcohol base does prevent the spread of some germs, like Staphylococcus aureus (staph). But it’s best to use it only when you need to. Studies show that the widespread use of it has led certain germs to grow stronger and, in some cases, make the sanitizers less effective.
Drinking Bottled Water
Studies have shown that bottled water isn’t any better for you than tap water. In fact, government standards are higher for tap water. And some impurities, like microplastics, can reach the water from the plastic in the bottles themselves. What's more, 86% of water bottles aren’t recycled and America’s annual demand for those bottles takes about 17 million barrels of oil.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
Interviews with Leah Thomas, RD/LD, CSSD, Assistant Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Development, Georgia Tech Athletic Association, Atlanta; Heather Mangieri, RDN, Pittsburgh.
Cleveland Clinic: “Just How Bad Is Diet Soda For You?”
Sleep.org: “‘Catching Up’ On Sleep.”
Harvard Health Publishing: “Is Red Wine Actually Good For Your Heart?”
NHS.UK: “The Truth About Carbs – Healthy Weight.”
Organic.org: “The Pros and Cons of a Juice Cleanse.”
PLOS.org: “Holding Thermal Receipt Paper and Eating Food after Using Hand Sanitizer Results in High Serum Bioactive and Urine Total Levels of Bisphenol A (BPA).”
Science Translational Medicine: “Increasing Tolerance of Hospital Enterococcus faecium to Handwash Alcohols.”
Harvard University – green.harvard.edu: “Sustainability: Three Reasons To Avoid Bottled Water.”
Orbmedia.org (Fredonia, State University of New York): “Synthetic Polymer Contamination In Bottled Water.”