At the end of a long day, after my kids are in bed, lunches are packed and the kitchen is as clean as it’s going to get, I
like to eat ice cream. Often, this ritual happens at 10 p.m. You might be thinking: “What
kind of nutrition expert
promotes late-night emotional eating?” I say: one with expertise in weight management. Looking forward to my ice cream
(measured into a half-cup container) keeps me from reaching for sweets earlier in the day. And the whole “eating after 6 p.m.
makes you fat” thing just isn’t true. EatingWell Contributing Editor Joyce Hendley
tackles this myth and others in a story in the September/October issue of EatingWell Magazine
. Here are the
details on the 6 p.m. food myth, plus highlights of other myths you should ignore.
Myth 1: “Calories eaten at night are more fattening than those eaten early in the day.”
The truth: According to Dr. John Foreyt, director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in
Houston: “Calories are calories are calories, and it doesn’t matter what time you eat them. What matters are the total
calories you take in.”
Myth 2: Limit carbs. They make you fat.
The truth: There’s nothing inherently fattening about carbohydrates, says Jean Harvey-Berino, Ph.D., R.D., chair of the
department of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Vermont and co-author of The EatingWell Diet
(Countryman, 2007). “It’s eating too many calories,
period, that makes you fat.” There’s no question that foods full of refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pasta and
doughnuts, can raise your risk of developing health problems like heart disease and diabetes. But if you cut out so-called
“good-carb” foods, such as whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, you’re missing out on your body’s main source of fuel
as well as vital nutrients, such as fiber. What’s more, for many people, a low-carb diet may be harder to stick with in the
Myth 3: Eating foods like wheat or dairy that your body can’t process causes you to pack on
The truth: This theory is, in fact, “illogical,” says Marc Riedl, M.D., assistant professor of clinical immunology and
allergy at UCLA. The inability to “process” foods, he notes, “would mean the foods are not metabolized and calories would not
be absorbed.” Of course, cutting out whole categories of foods will probably help you lose weight, simply because it takes so
many choices off the table—but it also might cause you to underconsume important nutrients like calcium.
Myth 4: Eating many mini meals helps you control your weight better than eating fewer, larger
The truth: Our metabolisms rev up slightly each time we eat, as our bodies process what we’ve consumed. So by having many
mini meals instead of fewer, larger ones, we shift our metabolism into a higher gear more often—and burn a few more calories.
But “the calorie difference is so small it doesn’t add up to a hill of beans,” says Foreyt. That said, snacking between meals
may help some dieters by keeping them from getting overly hungry and eating too many calories when they finally sit down to
Myth 5: You crave certain foods because you’re deficient in one of the nutrients they
The truth: Human food cravings tend to be more about satisfying emotional needs, says Marcia Pelchat, Ph.D., a researcher at
the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. “Cravings tend to occur when your diet is restricted or boring, or when
you know that you can’t have something,” says Pelchat. “If it’s forbidden, you usually want it more.” Not surprisingly, the
most commonly craved foods tend to be fatty, high-calorie fare—that’s why you might crave a cheeseburger. It’s not because
you’re deficient in iron or protein.
Myth 6: It’s important to fast periodically, to cleanse toxins from your body.
The truth: Your body has its own elegantly designed system for removing toxins—namely, the liver, kidneys and spleen. There
isn’t any evidence that not eating—or consuming only juice—for any period of time makes them do this job any better, says
Keith-Thomas Ayoob, Ed.D., R.D., of Albert Einstein College of Medicine.