Five Common Diet Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

Many of us may try to make healthier food choices based on assumptions that might not be accurate.  It can be hard to make the right choice, but steer clear of these 5 common diet mistakes and you’ll be on track to discovering healthier food choices.

MISTAKE # 1 — “I am eating healthier if I eat chicken or fish.”

TRUTH — It is true that fish and chicken can be lower in fat and cholesterol than the same portion of red meats (i.e.: beef and pork), however, they can have a lot more fat and calories if:

  1. The skin is still on the chicken. The skin adds about 50 calories and 5 extra grams of saturated fat for a 4 ounce chicken breast.
  2. Fish and chicken are breaded and fried.
    The typical fast food breaded fish or chicken sandwich may have as much or more fat, calories and salt than a typical burger.

Get in the habit of reading nutritional information on grocery store products and on websites for chain restaurants before ordering or purchasing in order to choose meats that are truly healthier. The DASH diet is a great tool for lowering your risk of developing kidney and heart disease and is a recognized treatment for hypertension, heart disease, and kidney disease. If you already have chronic kidney disease, you should speak with your doctor and dietitian before starting any new diets as you may have special restrictions to consider. Always follow the dietary recommendations of your personal healthcare practitioner or renal dietitian.

MISTAKE # 2 — “I will be having less sugar and calories in my diet if I switch from regular sodas to juices.”

TRUTH — Most juices contain as much or more natural sugar and calories as the same size portion of regular sodas.

Sodas usually have sucrose (table sugar) or high-fructose corn syrup as the sugar source.  Juices get their natural sweet taste from fructose sugar, so even 100% real fruit juices contain a source of sugar that our body uses just like the added sugar in sodas.  Both forms of sugar are carbohydrates. For example:

  • 12 oz. sodas contain about 140 calories and 35 grams of carbohydrates
  • 12 oz. 100% orange juice contains about 160 calories and 40 grams of carbohydrates
  • 12 oz. 100% grape juice contains about 255 calories and almost 64 grams of carbohydrates

When you want to drink something that is low in natural or added sugar, better choices include:  water or zero-calorie flavored waters, unsweetened tea and coffee, and fruit-flavored drinks. While these are general guides, always check the nutrition label for the actual calories and read the list of ingredients to be assured that you are making a healthier choice!

MISTAKE # 3 — “If I eat smaller portions of my favorite high calorie foods, I will lose weight.”

TRUTH — The actual amount calories and fat in the smaller portion may not be that different than the larger portion.  For example, if a large burger and large fries are swapped out for the smaller versions, you will “save” some calories and grams of fat, but not as many as you might think. Also, in the big picture, many people compensate by eating these smaller portions more frequently. By using information from the restaurant websites, food labels, and phone apps, including the National Kidney Foundation’s My Food Coach app we can track actual portions with greater accuracy, and better track our overall fat and calorie intake each day.

MISTAKE # 4 — “I can still enjoy my favorite flavored coffee drinks and lose weight if I switch to non fat milk instead of whole milk.”

TRUTH — By switching from whole milk to skim milk, you may save around 60 calories in a typical “tall” serving.  But most flavored coffees also contain significant amounts of sugar or syrups which contribute a substantial amount of calories. The overall calorie savings comes when the flavored coffees are made with both non fat milk and lower sugar ingredients.  Don’t forget that whipped cream adds calories as well!  Portion control is also important, because you can easily counteract the caloric “savings” if you end up drinking larger sizes or more drinks overall. Always check nutritional information to see just how many calories you are shaving off (or not!) when you customize your drink order.

MISTAKE # 5 — “I can tell if something is salty based on the way it tastes.”

Truth:  It is actually not possible to tell just how much sodium is in the food by the “salty” taste alone.  Foods high in sugar will mask the taste of the hidden sodium, making it less likely that our taste buds pick up on the “saltiness” of the food.  For example, a typical piece of pie has over 300 mg of sodium and 400 calories. Rely on reading food labels over your taste buds to stay within your recommended sodium allowance!

Linda Ulerich, RD