I’ve come across countless diet tips throughout the years, and unfortunately, more than half of them are bad. I love and respect the pursuit of optimal health and wellness, as well as going after aesthetic goals, but if you follow the wrong diet tips, it can lead you down the wrong path, regardless of how good your intentions are.
In this article, we’re exploring 29 bad diet tips you shouldn’t follow if you want to become as healthy as possible and look and feel your best.
1. Eat Small Meals Throughout the Day
The Truth: While you may have been told to eat 5 to 6 small meals a day to balance your blood sugar and lose weight, the truth is that this is far from ideal. The reality is that every time you eat, your insulin levels go up, even if you eat a low-carb meal and stay away from high-carb foods. Your insulin levels rise far less after a low-carb meal than a high-carb one, but they still go up.
Insulin is something that more people should make a priority, and many people are insulin resistant without even knowing it. If you want to be as healthy as possible, you need to have healthy insulin levels. If you want to lose weight, you need healthy insulin levels. If you want to prevent conditions like diabetes, PCOS, and insulin resistance, you need healthy insulin levels — and reducing the number of times your insulin levels go up in a day is key. (1, 2, 3)
Ideally, you want to eat 2 to 3 times a day. Having larger periods of time between meals will allow your insulin levels to go down again before you have your next meal and improve insulin sensitivity. (4)
2. Eat a Lot of Grains
The Truth: Even though we’ve been taught to prioritise wholegrains and were forced to memorise the food pyramid, grains aren’t actually as healthy as you might have thought. Grains like wheat, barley, oats, rye, and corn can actually cause inflammation and contain antinutrients like lectins, gluten, phytic acid, and saponins that make it harder for you to absorb important nutrients like iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorous. (5, 6)
Just look at the number of people around the world that are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease, and it’s clear to see that grains aren’t healthy for all people. In my opinion, they aren’t good for anyone and should be avoided.
3. Eat Plant-Based Even if You’re Not Vegan
The Truth: Over the past few years, there’s been a big push for people to follow a vegan or just a plant-based diet with zero or minimal animal foods. This is arguably one of the worst pieces of advice you may ever come across when it comes to diet. We need animal foods for optimal health. A vegan or plant-based diet that contains zero or very little animal foods can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Without enough animal foods, you can become deficient in vital nutrients like vitamins B12, B3, and B2, as well as vitamin D, calcium, iodine, potassium, selenium, iron, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. (7)
All animal sources of protein are complete proteins. A complete protein is a protein that contains all 9 essential amino acids, which are amino acids your body cannot produce. There are almost no complete sources of plant proteins, except for soy, but the body cannot use the protein from soy like the protein from animals (it’s an inferior source of protein). Animal sources of protein like eggs, poultry, fish, red meat, and dairy products are all complete proteins. (8)
4. Just Count Your Macros
The Truth: Have you heard of the IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) approach to eating? The idea is that as long as you hit your macronutrient targets (protein, carbohydrates, and fat), it doesn’t matter what you eat.
As long as you hit your macros, it doesn’t matter if you get your protein from grass-fed beef, fresh fish, whole eggs, and dairy products, or processed meats and those fake plant-based meat alternatives. It doesn’t matter if you get your fat from fatty cuts of meat, butter, egg yolks, fish, olives, or avocado, or if you get it from processed seed oils. It doesn’t matter if you get your carbs from fresh fruit or some pizza or cake. As long as you hit your macros, it’s believed that you can eat what you want.
But the IIFYM approach to eating completely ignores food quality and nutrient density. It completely ignores how different foods affect your body. I believe that macros matter, but the IIFYM approach can be very unhealthy. Rather focus on eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods.
5. Go on a Low-Fat Diet
The Truth: If you want to mess up your hormones, go on a low-fat diet. Unfortunately, many people have fallen for the advice that they should follow a low-fat diet and are suffering the consequences as a result. The low-fat diet trend started taking off in the 1970s after the first edition of The Dietary Goals for the United States was published, and people started fearing saturated fat and fat in general. (9, 10)
A low-fat diet can lead to health problems, such as:
Low sex drive
Poor absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin A, D, E and K
The Truth: Although countless articles and videos online suggest that you should opt for nutsand seeds when you’re looking for a healthy snack, but nuts and seeds aren’t nearly as good for you as you think they are.
For one, nuts are high in antinutrients like lectins, phytates, and oxalates.
Oxalates bind to calcium and form calcium oxalate crystals, and they prevent the body from absorbing enough calcium.
Phytates interfere with the absorption of zinc, iron, calcium, and magnesium.
Lectins make it harder for you to absorb zinc, iron, calcium, and phosphorous, and they can cause damage to your gut lining. (18)
7. Reduce Your Red Meat Consumption
The Truth: Have you heard that you need to reduce your red meat consumption and stick to other meat options like chicken and fish to be healthy? That information is completely wrong. Red meat is incredibly nutrient-dense and not unhealthy like many would like you to believe.
In fact, if optimal health is what you’re looking for, rather prioritise red meat. Red meat is higher in iron than other meats. It is also high in vitamin B12 and zinc. If you choose fatty cuts of meat, you can also get significant amounts of choline, omega-3 fatty acids, and stearic acid. You may have never heard of stearic acid before, but it’s a type of fat that can help reduce visceral fat. (19)
Red meat is also low in linoleic acid, a type of omega-6 fatty acid, whereas chicken and pork contain higher amounts of linoleic acid. To keep inflammation low, you want to make sure you don’t consume too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 fatty acids. Too much linoleic acid can also lead to weight gain. (20, 21)
8. Eat Lean Meats
The Truth: How many times have you been told to skip fatty cuts of meat and stick to lean meats? Don’t do this. You need enough fat in your diet and fat from animal sources is arguably the highest quality you can find.
I get annoyed every time I read an article, listen to a podcast, watch a video, and sit in a conversation where someone advises that you eat a diet high in wholegrains, vegetables, fruit, and, you guessed it, lean meats. This is arguably one of the worst pieces of advice you can get.
If you don’t eat enough fat and you’re on a high-carb, high-protein diet, your body will suffer. You’ll struggle to feel as satiated as you would if you ate more fat, your hormone levels (especially sex hormones) won’t be optimal, and you won’t be able to properly absorb fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E, and K — all nutrients your body needs for optimal health.
9. Watch Your Cholesterol Intake
The Truth: I wouldn’t worry too much about foods high in cholesterol if I were you. One of the worst phrases to hear, in my opinion, is “egg-white omelette”. You don’t have to fear egg yolks or other foods that contain cholesterol such as full-fat dairy, shellfish, organ meats, and fatty cuts of red meat.
For one, dietary cholesterol is different from the cholesterol your body produces. Cholesterol is also very misunderstood. Doctors will often tell you that you have high cholesterol levels and should be worried but do they tell you what your triglyceride levels are? The ratio between your cholesterol levels and your triglyceride levels is very important. (22, 23)
High cholesterol also isn’t guaranteed to be caused by fatty foods. Did you know that consuming too much sugar and being insulin resistant can lead to clogged arteries? (24, 25)
If you really want to know if there’s something wrong in your arteries, you really need a coronary calcium scan (CAC scan). A simple blood test for cholesterol is not enough to give you a true indication of any risk. (26)
10. Eat “Healthy Fats” Like Vegetable Oil
The Truth: Vegetable oils like sunflower oil and canola oil are actually the worst types of fats you can consume. Where would you even find it in nature? Good luck compressing enough sunflower seeds in nature to get a few tablespoons of oil. It takes special equipment to get enough oil.
Vegetable oils can cause a lot of inflammation.
They’re high in linoleic acid, which signals the body to store fat, particularly visceral fat.
It also starts to form part of your cells. Your body uses fat to make cell membranes, and unfortunately, it uses whatever fat you feed it. If you feed it junk fats, your cells will be made with junk fats.
11. Don’t Skip Breakfast
The Truth: Breakfast really isn’t the most important meal of the day. The myth is that you need to eat breakfast in the morning to jumpstart your metabolism, and if you don’t eat it, your body will struggle to burn the rest of your food for the day properly.
Over the last few years, intermittent fasting has become incredibly popular. If you don’t know what it means, intermittent fasting involves restricting your food intake for a certain period of time like 16 hours, 18 hours, 20 hours, and even 24 hours a day, or for a few days in a row like 2 days, 3 days, 5 days, and even 7 days. If you do intermittent fasting, you’re definitely skipping meals, including breakfast, and people who do it experience multiple benefits, such as:
If eating breakfast was so important, then why do people experience health benefits when they skip it? Sure, not everyone who does intermittent fasting skips breakfast, some eat breakfast but then stop eating early in the day and skip dinner. And those who do multiple days of fasting skip all meals on their fasting days.
There are many people who naturally want to skip breakfast and have been force-feeding themselves breakfast for years because they think they need to in order to be healthy. Just imagine how much better life would be for those who don’t like eating breakfast if they learn the truth: you don’t need to eat breakfast.
And if you think about the word “breakfast” and you break it up, you get “break fast”. Breakfast is technically whenever you break your fast, whether it’s in the morning, at lunch, or in the evening.
12. Try A Detox
The Truth: “Detox” is a popular buzzword in the health and wellness space. When many people want to improve their diets and health, or just recover from a period of time of drinking a lot of alcohol and/or eating a lot of junk food, they often opt to go on a “detox”.
Standard detoxes often involve eating mainly fruits and vegetables (and maybe some lean meats), drinking juices and herbal teas, and perhaps taking some herbal supplements. It often involves drinking a lot more water than you usually would and restricting your calories. People might lose weight for the duration of the detox, but then once they’re back to their normal diet, they just gain it back.
Plus, with the low-calorie intake of most so-called detox diets, people often damage their metabolisms in the process. (31, 32)
The truth is that the body has its own detox organs that are usually quite effective at doing their jobs. Your liver, kidney, lungs, colon, lymph, and skin all work together to detox your body.
Sure, there might be something wrong with one of the detox systems in your body. Perhaps there’s a problem with your lymph drainage, perhaps your liver struggles with the Phase II detox pathway, or perhaps you have kidney damage, but these problems won’t easily be fixed with a detox diet. (33, 34)
13. Drink Water With Apple Cider Vinegar On An Empty Stomach
The Truth: Water with apple cider vinegar is not a miracle drink. Sure, pairing apple cider vinegar with a meal can help to lower the glycaemic impact of the meal and reduce the amount by which your blood sugar levels spike (35), but more research is needed to prove its effectiveness.
There are also many overhyped “benefits” of this mixture that people believe, such as:
It detoxes your body
It will help you burn fat
It will clear your skin
It will help you absorb minerals
It can help manage diabetes
It improves your immune system
Don’t believe the hype. There is very little evidence to support all these claims (36). You don’t need to force yourself to drink apple cider vinegar every day. It’s definitely overrated. But if you want the blood-sugar benefits, go ahead.
14. Eat A Lot Of Fibre
The Truth: Fibre is not as necessary as many would have you believe. Many articles and so-called experts will tell you that you need fibre — more fibre than you might think — for healthy digestion, weight loss, appetite control, longevity, and healthy blood sugar levels.
But the truth is that you don’t actually need fibre to be healthy. In fact, many people have actually experienced benefits from following a low-fibre diet. Too much fibre can make you constipated and make symptoms of gut-related problems like IBS worse.
In one study, they found that people actually received more relief from constipation when cutting out fibre than when eating a lot of it. (37) I found that my IBS symptoms and overall digestion improved dramatically when I reduced my fibre intake, and when I eat no fibre at all, they practically disappear.
15. Replace Meals With Juices And Smoothies
The Truth: Liquid diets aren’t as great as many people believe. Have you ever gone on a diet where you had to replace some or all of your meals with a liquid alternative like a juice or smoothie? This is an old and very overhyped diet strategy. Many people opt for this approach when they want to “detox” or lose weight.
While you may see some weight loss with an all-liquid diet, this is mainly due to the fact that these diets are generally low in calories and the fact that you automatically cut out most of the junk foods you were eating before. The fact that your food comes in liquid and not chewable form does absolutely nothing to help you lose weight.
And even if you’ve opted for a liquid diet to improve your digestion and, as people like to say, “give your digestive system a break”, the benefits (like reduced bloating) are probably not going to last for very long after the diet is over. As soon as you start eating the way you used to, your digestion is probably going to return to what it was before.
Liquid diets are also often low in protein. Protein is needed for satiety, as well as building and retaining muscle. A liquid diet can therefore also lead to muscle loss.
Sticking to a liquid diet can also become quite difficult and you may feel the urge to give up and eat whatever solid food you crave or come across after a few days.
16. Calories Are All That Count
The Truth: Despite what you may have been told, diet is not all about “calories in vs calories out”. What you eat and the quality of your food are far more important than simply the calorie content of your food.
I’m not saying that calories don’t count at all, but you also need to look at other things, such as:
What is the macronutrient content of your food?
What vitamins and minerals are in your food?
How bioavailable are the nutrients in your food?
How easily can your body digest your food?
Does the food cause inflammation or other negative reactions in your body?
How do you feel after eating the food?
These are all just as important as the calorie content of your food.
17. Have A Cheat Meal or Cheat Day Every Week
The Truth: Cheat meals and cheat days are overrated, but that’s just my opinion. I understand that if you’re on a particular diet and you long for certain foods, you can’t wait for your cheat meal or cheat day in order to indulge. While I would never say that you can never have cheat meals or cheat days (that’s up to you — you can make your own decisions), I would also never say that you have to have a cheat meal or cheat day.
Perhaps you’ve heard that you need to schedule in cheats or otherwise you’ll end up doing something worse and give up entirely. But I don’t agree. You’d be surprised to learn exactly what you’re capable of if you give it some time. You have to have faith in yourself that you are capable of sticking to your diet without cheating.
It helps if you learn more about what side effects the foods you want to cheat with can have on your body. It will help you make informed decisions about whether or not cheating is actually worth it. If you learn that eating certain foods can cause inflammation in your body and perhaps cause digestive discomfort, it can influence whether you still want to eat it or not.
If you feel like it’s worth the side effects, you can still eat it. If not, skip it. But the fact of the matter is that you don’t need to schedule cheat meals or cheat days to be successful. They’re completely optional.
18. Drink Detox/Weight-Loss Tea
The Truth: I used to think that drinking multiple cups of weight-loss tea would help me lose weight. But anyone who has tried this strategy probably already knows that it’s not effective and definitely not worth it. No amount of weight-loss tea will undo excess calorie consumption, copious amounts of junk food, a lack of sleep and a lack of exercise, and help you lose weight.
Weight loss and detox teas often mess with your digestive system and contain herbs and other ingredients with their own list of side effects, such as dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, diarrhoea, nausea, and sleep disruption. (38, 39)
19. Hide Vegetables In Your Food
The Truth: If you don’t like a particular vegetable, don’t eat it. You don’t have to force yourself to eat it or trick yourself by hiding your vegetables in other foods. Some people will hide vegetables they don’t like in smoothies, in their oats, and even in cake.
If there’s a particular vegetable you feel like you need to get certain nutrients, there’s always an alternative food source of those nutrients and you don’t need to get it from only one vegetable (especially if you’d rather not eat it).
And to be honest, you can get all the nutrients you need from a variety of animal food sources and you don’t even need vegetables at all.
20. Take Supplements That Suppress Your Appetite
The Truth: You can take appetite-suppressing supplements to try and help you lose weight, but chances are that they won’t be as effective as you’d hoped they’d be, or they would work for a short while and then stop working, or you’d see great results at first, but then as soon as you stop taking it, gain everything you’ve lost again, including your appetite.
If you’ve ever taken so-called appetite-suppressing supplements in the past, you’ve probably felt disappointed by the results, and for a good reason. The best ways to suppress your appetite are by drinking enough water throughout the day, eating enough protein with every meal, always making sure you pair carbs with protein and fat, and getting enough sleep so you don’t end up with elevated ghrelin hormone levels the next day (it’s the hunger hormone). (40, 41, 42, 43)
21. You Have To Activate Your Metabolism
The Truth: If you’ve heard that you need to do things like drink lemon water, eat breakfast, eat chillis, consume caffeine, and drink cold water to activate your metabolism, you don’t. Your metabolism is perfectly capable of activating itself.
Plus, many people don’t even know what your metabolism exactly is. Your metabolism actually refers to the multiple chemical processes needed to maintain an organism’s life. And your body doesn’t need you to follow any of the standard metabolism-activating “tricks” to activate the processes that keep you alive.
22. Chew Your Food 30 Times
The Truth: Have you tried chewing your food 30 times before swallowing in an attempt to lose weight? While it’s important to chew your food properly to aid digestion, you don’t need to count to 30 before swallowing. Who wants to count the number of times they chew each bite? You don’t need to count each bite, but just try to chew until you feel like your food has been chewed properly.
23. Drink Almond Milk or Oat Milk Instead Of Cow’s Milk
The Truth: If you struggle to digest cow’s milk or you are on a plant-based diet and you think almond milk or oat milk is a healthier alternative, you’re wrong. They come with their own list of side effects and contain antinutrients. Almond milk is basically oxalate juice and oat milk is a grain-based “milk” that’s high in lectins.
Oxalates make it harder for your body to absorb calcium and can contribute to kidney stone formation. Lectins can cause damage to your gut lining and inflammation, and they can interfere with the absorption of nutrients like iron, calcium, zinc, and phosphorous. (44)
And if you think soy milk is a better alternative, think again. Soy actually contains phytoestrogens and can disrupt healthy hormone levels. It can also cause digestive distress. (45, 46)
24. Drink Sugar-Free Sodas and Choose Sugar-Free Sweets
The Truth: If you’re trying to reduce your sugar intake and you think that sugar-free automatically means it’s a healthier alternative, think again. Sugar-free alternatives to many products like soft drinks and sweets are full of artificial sweeteners and other artificial ingredients that can damage your health. Did you know that artificial sweeteners have been associated with weight gain and they have been shown to have carcinogenic effects? They also contribute to constant sweet cravings. (47)
25. Eat 7 Cups Of Vegetables A Day
The Truth: Vegetables are overrated. You don’t need to eat 7 cups of vegetables a day in order to be healthy. For some people, it could cause more harm than good if they have a negative reaction to certain vegetables (like those high in oxalates and other antinutrients), and end up consuming too much fibre. While you’ve been told that you need fibre in order to have healthy bowel movements, many people actually experience the biggest constipation relief when they cut out fibre. (48)
Vegetables are also incredibly filling when consumed in large quantities and if your 7 cups fill you up too much, you might not have enough room for more nutrient-dense foods like red meat, egg yolks, organ meats, fish, and shellfish in the ideal quantities.
26. Eat Everything In Moderation
The Truth: If you eat everything in moderation, you can still end up consuming a large amount of harmful ingredients like vegetable oils, soy, artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, and grains, if you add everything up. Would you eat a tiny bit of poison every day and call it healthy? Foods that are bad for you that are consumed regularly even if in small quantities and in moderation, as many like to suggest, will still have an effect on your body and health.
27. Limit Your Salt Intake
The Truth: You need salt in your diet in order to be healthy. Low-salt diets aren’t the way to go. Sure, you should limit processed foods that happen to be high in sodium, but if you eat a diet consisting of whole foods, you need to ensure that you eat enough salt.
Did you know that if you don’t consume enough salt, it can mess with your insulin levels and contribute to insulin resistance? (49)
28. Get Protein From Protein Bars And Shakes
The Truth: You need enough protein in your diet, but not from sub-par sources like processed protein bars and protein shakes. You need to eat high-quality sources of protein from animal foods like red meat, poultry, organ meats, eggs, and dairy products.
With protein bars and shakes, you get a lot of other harmful ingredients like sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, grains, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, synthetic ingredients, and soy (in many cases).
29. Eat Immediately After Working Out
The Truth: Many people panic if they don’t eat immediately after working out. Some believe that you need to eat within 30 minutes of working out or else you won’t get all the benefits of the workout like muscle building, but we now know a lot more about the anabolic window.
Your total protein consumption for the day is actually far more important than protein timing. You want to eat roughly 1.6g to 2.2 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
Each high-protein meal will give you an anabolic window of about 6 hours and it doesn’t really matter if you eat before or after your workout, as long as you eat within 3 to 4 hours before or after your workout. The post-workout meal only becomes crucial if you did a fasted workout but if you ate before, you can wait for hours after working out to refuel your body and your muscles and don’t need to panic. (50, 51)
There are those who struggle to eat immediately after a workout, but it’s perfectly fine to wait a little before eating.
So, there you have it, 29 bad diet tips and the truth about each one of them. Don’t be tricked by bad health and diet advice if you truly want to become as healthy as possible and if you want to look your best.