Beth Vrabel lives in West Manchester Township with her daughter, Emma, 6, and son, Benny, 3.

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Don’t be fooled by fairy tales about food and nutrition


These days, nutrition advice is offered everywhere — online, in magazines, on television — and much of it is conflicting. Sometimes, a falsehood is repeated until it’s widely accepted as truth — and a nutrition myth is born. “So much confusing information comes out that it’s hard for consumers to figure out what is real and what is not,” said Susan Kopins, registered dietitian for The Women’s Healthcare Group in Spring Garden Township. To learn the truth, we asked Kopins and Sherry Reck, director of nutrition services at Rest Haven in Spring Garden Township, to give us the straight scoop on some common nutrition myths.

MYTH: Skipping meals helps you lose weight.
TRUTH: Actually the opposite might be true, Reck said. When you skip meals, your metabolism isn’t getting fueled properly so it slows down, which makes your body want to store fat to preserve itself, Kopins said. Skipping meals also increases your hunger, so it’s easy to overeat at the next meal.

Food myths debunked

Jan Swarthout, 48, of York Township balances her diet by eating small meals every 2 to 3 hours. She lost about 78 pounds in a year after doctors diagnosed her as a diabetic with hypothyroidism. Now she's a personal trainer and a competitive powerlifter. (For -- BIL BOWDEN)

MYTH: All carbohydrates are bad and eating them makes you fat.
TRUTH: There are good carbs and bad carbs. Fuel up with good carbs — such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products — which contribute to health and wellness. Too many bad carbs — such as sugary foods, soda, candy, cookies, doughnuts and chips — are the ones that can make you fat. “Limit bad carbs to 100-200 calories per day,” Kopins said.

MYTH: Eating eggs will raise your blood cholesterol.
TRUTH: Eggs can be eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet, Reck said, because they contain high-quality protein and a wide variety of essential vitamins and minerals. Studies have shown that eating an egg per day should not increase a healthy person’s risk for heart disease. If you have heart disease, limit your egg intake to two whole eggs per week, but eat as many whites as you want, Kopins said.

MYTH: Fat-free products have fewer calories and are healthier.
TRUTH: When fat is removed, something has to be added to replace the flavor — such as sugar, artificial sweeteners or other chemicals — so the end result could have more calories. Reck and Kopins said people tend to eat more than the recommended serving size of low-fat and fat-free products, so calories add up and foil weight-loss efforts.

MYTH: Avoid nuts, because they’re fattening.
TRUTH: Nuts are high in calories and fat, but it’s the healthy unsaturated fats. The trick with nuts is to watch your portion size and limit yourself to one serving per day. “Eaten in moderation, nuts can be a great source of protein, fiber and healthy fats,” Reck said.

MYTH: During pregnancy, you’re “eating for two.”

“You’re only eating for 1.1,” said Kopins. Gaining too many pounds during pregnancy increases risk for developing preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and gestational high blood pressure. Plus, added weight can slow labor and increase the likelihood of a C-section. All of those risk factors are preventable through managing weight gain and by controlling food intake, she said.

MYTH: If your diet is poor, a multivitamin will fix it.
TRUTH: Not necessarily. Whole foods offer substances, such as antioxidants, that can’t be replicated in a pill. Reck and Kopins recommend eating lots of whole foods and supplementing with a multivitamin for added protection.

MYTH:All fast food is bad.
TRUTH: Not anymore. Today’s fast food restaurants are no longer just hamburger joints. Every restaurant has a salad or two and many offer healthy options like grilled meats, fruit, low-fat dairy and whole grain buns.

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Comments (1)

  1. Dale Heil 07/03/2010 at 6:57 pm

    These are excellent comments and offer a realistic view of how a person should eat good healthy foods in moderation.

    Unfortunately, in Central Pennsylvania, as in most of the U.S. we now have second or third generations of people who rely on processed foods instead of eating raw foods that are in the form nature gives them to us.

    This is a shame because we are now in the middle of summer when fresh fruits and vegetables are in abundance. And central Pennsylvania is blessed with many local farms that supply such produce at reasonable cost.