Test Your Nutritional IQ
Do friends rely on your nutritional savvy when they have questions about healthy foods? Can you recite the calorie counts of just about anything you eat? Or do you know how you should be eating but find it takes too much effort?
Test your nutritional know-how by answering the questions below:
1. If you’re planning on having a big dinner, skipping breakfast will let you save up calories so you don’t gain weight as a result.
2. Drinking eight eight-ounce glasses of water will keep you hydrated.
3. It’s difficult for vegetarians to consume enough protein.
4. “No-fat” foods are better for you than regular-fat versions.
5. You should eat five servings of fruits and vegetables for optimal health.
6. Nuts are bad for you because they’re high in fat.
7. Eating foods low on the glycemic index can help you lose weight.
8. “Whole wheat” and “whole grain” bread are the same things.
9. High-fiber foods can help you lose weight.
10. Protein contains the same amount of calories per gram as fat and carbohydrates.
11. The best mid-day snack is something high in carbs like a bagel or pretzels.
12. Because they’re high in calories, beans should be eaten only rarely.
13. Eating out frequently can cause weight gain.
14. Beer is a good source of carbohydrates.
15. “Negative-calorie” foods like celery help you lose weight.
Here are the answers:
1. False. It seems logical that the fewer calories you eat for breakfast and lunch, the more you can afford to consume later on. But when you under-eat during the day, you set yourself up for overeating at dinner, says Jackie Berning, PhD, RD, professor of health sciences at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Better bet: spread your calories evenly throughout the day.
2. False. The standard of eight eight-ounce glasses of water is only a guideline. For some people, this may be a sufficient amount of H2o—but if you exercise intensely, it may not be nearly enough. Consider this—according to the American College of Sports Medicine, people should drink 14 to 22 ounces of fluid 2 to 3 hours before exercise; 6 to 12 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise; and 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during exercise.
3. False. While vegans—people who don’t eat any animal products—may have a difficult time consuming enough protein, vegetarians who eat eggs and dairy products have no trouble. Soy products, nuts, beans, and foods made with “TVP” (texturized vegetable protein) can all contribute to your protein needs as well.
4. False. Many no-fat or low-fat foods have as many calories as the original versions. But because the fat has been reduced or eliminated, eating these foods may not give the same feeling of satisfaction or fullness as their full-fat counterparts. Worse yet, there’s more of a temptation to go overboard, rationalizing “it’s fat-free.” Remember, calories still count.
5. False. Five servings a day is a great start, but studies show that eating even more fruits and vegetables can produce additional health benefits such as reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease. “Fruits and vegetables tend to be lower in calories and more jam-packed with vitamins and minerals than other foods,” says Berning. The more you eat, the less you’ll consume of more calorie-dense foods, which can help you lose or maintain your weight.
6. False. Forget the idea that nuts or any other food is “bad.” Nuts do contain fat, but it’s a healthy fat that’s good for your heart. Nuts also contain some protein and can be part of your diet—as long as you stick to small (like ¼ cup or less) servings.
7. True. Research suggests that lower GI foods—which enter the bloodstream more slowly—produce less dramatic blood sugar peaks and valleys, which may even out hunger levels and reduce food cravings.
8. False. Food packages can be tricky—“whole wheat” bread may have been processed and had caramel coloring added to look like whole wheat. To be classified as “whole grain”, however, the food has to contain all three parts of the grain kernel including the bran, or outer coating, the germ, and the endosperm. Read your food labels carefully!
9. True. Research bears this out. Fiber helps fill you up, so you wind up eating less; studies have found that increasing fiber intake is associated with lower overall caloric intake. The American Dietetic Association recommends that you consume 25 to 30 grams a day.
10. False. Protein and carbohydrate contain 4 calories per gram, and fat contains 9 calories/gram. Alcohol weighs in at 7 calories/gram.
11. False. Add protein or fat to your carbohydrate snack, and it will have more staying power. “Combining carbohydrates with protein and or fat helps slow down the absorption of carbohydrates, which are digested and absorbed rapidly,” explains Susan M. Kleiner, Ph.D., author of Power Eating, The Fourth Edition (Human Kinetics, 2013). So put a little peanut butter on your apple slices or add some turkey or light cream cheese to your bagel.
12. False. Beans are calorically dense but they’re also a low-fat, high-protein food that contain phytochemicals and soluble fiber, which has been shown to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Make them a regular part of your diet.
13. True. Blame the portions—restaurant portions are often three to four sizes larger than standard ones. A study published in 2015 found that simply serving larger sizes of food to people made them take larger bites, and eat more overall than when they were served smaller portions! Another review study published in 2014 found that the more often you eat out, the higher your risk of being overweight.
14. False. “People may think that beer is a good source of carbohydrates, but alcohol carbohydrate is different than other carbohydrates,” says Berning. Carbohydrates from food are digested and absorbed by your body while carbs from alcohol go straight to the liver, where they’re broken down. Alcohol in moderation is fine, but forget about “carbo-loading” with a six-pack!
15. False. “There is no such thing as a ‘negative calorie food’,” says Berning. “As long as it’s providing energy, it contains calories.” While 10 to 15 percent of the total calories of any food will be used to digest and metabolize it, the rest will be available to your body.
So, how’d you do? If you got 13-15 correct, you’re a master of nutrition; 10-12 correct, well educated about nutrition but still fall for some myths; 6-9 correct, you’re about average when it comes to nutritional know-how; and fewer than five correct, you need to brush up on the facts—not myths—about the food you eat! BW