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15 Words Nutritionists Wish You Would Ban from Your Vocabulary


As a dietitian, there are some things I hear people say repeatedly that I wish I would never hear again. So I wondered: Do my nutrition-related colleagues think the same thing? These are the phrases they all say drive them bonkers. So, in my humble opinion, I would suggest trying to banish them from your vocabulary—stat.

Belly fat. If there's one term I could get rid of forever, it would be "belly fat." Articles that promise to "incinerate" or "melt away" belly fat are just plain lying. Wouldn't it just be so easy if we could press a magic button and choose where the fat comes off? But it doesn't work that way. Your body tends to shed weight from all areas proportionally. Belly fat, aka visceral fat, is associated with serious health complications, such as heart problems. Men are actually known to have higher incidences of belly fat than women, and women carry the majority of their extra weight in their hips and butt.

Diet. This is a four-letter word that needs to be banned from everyone's vocabulary. Diets don't work—their very nature is temporary and gimmicky, setting you up for deprivation rather than healthy eating for life. "We need to be listening to our bodies rather than forcing them to adapt to restrictive diets," says Christy Brissette, M.S., R.D., of 80 Twenty Nutrition.

Guilt-free. "While I love a recipe made with better-quality ingredients, I believe it's wrong to imply that its counterpart should or does cause guilt," says Tori Holthaus, M.S., R.D., of YES! Nutrition. "Whether a person selects a food for its nutrition properties, taste, convenience, cost, or a combo of reasons, they should feel good—not guilty— about their food choices."

Cheat day. "If you're on a diet that's so restrictive that you need to spend an entire day eating all the foods you're normally 'not allowed' to have, then that's something that's just not sustainable in the long run," says Sally Kuzemchak, M.S., R.D., of Real Mom Nutrition. "It sets you up for failure, which makes you feel bad about yourself and drives you straight toward the very foods you're trying to limit."

Bad food. "Food shouldn't be defined as bad or good, as all foods can fit into a healthy eating plan," says Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., nutrition expert and author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen. "When I hear people say carbs or milk are bad, it makes me cringe. These foods contain important nutrients to help nourish our bodies. Even junk foods have a place—food should be enjoyed, so if they have less-than-optimal calories and nutrient profiles (like cookies and chips), you just eat them in small amounts." (Just watch out for these signs you're addicted to junk food.)

Detox or cleanse. "You don't need to cleanse your body or go on a detox," says Kaleigh McMordie, R.D., of Lively Table. "The notion that drinking ridiculously expensive (and sometimes repulsive) juice will somehow clean out your insides is crazy. You have kidneys and a liver for that."

Toxins. "The words 'toxic' and 'toxins' make people think that there's nuclear waste in their food," says Kim Melton, R.D. "Yes, some foods should be limited, but they are not poisonous to the body and don't have to be avoided entirely."

Clean eating. "I personally don't like to use that phrase because it denotes there is 'dirty eating' as well," says Rahaf Al Bochi, R.D., from Olive Tree Nutrition. Enjoying all foods is what health is all about."

Paleo. "The word 'paleo' drives me nuts," says Elana Natker, M.S., R.D., owner of Enlighten Nutrition. "If I ever see a recipe that has 'paleo' as a descriptor, that's a cue to me to flip the page. I just can't fathom our paleo ancestors making paleo energy bites over their fire pits."

Superfood. "While the term originated as a way to highlight foods that promote additional health benefits, its lack of regulation has led it to become one of the most overused terms in the nutrition and health world," says Kara Golis, R.D., of Byte Sized Nutrition. "Now it's primarily used as a marketing tactic to improve the sales of a product. Instead of placing so much emphasis on eating one particular superfood, aim to include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables."

Natural. "There is a misconception that just because something is labeled as natural, it's automatically a healthier option," says Nazima Qureshi, R.D., M.P.H., C.P.T., of Nutrition by Nazima. "This can be misleading and result in people consuming excess amounts of a certain food when it doesn't actually have any nutritional benefit."

All organic. "Eating organic [isn't necessarily] better for you. People may eat all organic, non-GMO packaged foods and not one fruit or vegetable," says Betsy Ramirez, R.D. "At the end of the day, let's stop being Judge Judy about being organic or not. A balanced diet is what's important."

Fat-burning foods. "I get so annoyed when I see this," says Lindsey Pine, M.S., R.D., of Tasty Balance. "Those three little words make it sound like we can eat a certain type of food and the fat will literally melt from our bodies. It's so misleading!"

Don't eat anything white. "Um, what's wrong with potatoes, cauliflower, and—gasp!—bananas? Don't judge the nutrition quality of a food solely by its color," says Mandy Enright, M.S., R.D., creator of Nutrition Nuptials.

Carb-free. "I have clients tell me that they eat carb-free and I quickly realize that they have no idea what a carbohydrate is," says Julie Harrington, R.D., of Delicious Kitchen. "Fruits and vegetables are both carbs and are good for you!"


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