Nutrition: The Myths and The Facts

25 Jul 2016

“I thought that if I eat blueberries every day…”

“Someone told me that if I eat only twice a day, I will surely lose weight.”

“I heard chocolate is good for you so I started eating 70% dark chocolate, a whole bar a day to help my heart health.”

“I started grazing instead of eating fixed meals, so my metabolism will get faster.”

These are but a small sample of what I hear from people day in and day out. We have more access to health news, and in particular news about nutrition and weight loss, than we have ever had; the problem is that not everything we read or see is based on science. Sometimes, we might hear someone talk about how they lost a lot of weight following a certain program or diet, but at what cost? Did we damage our bodies by not getting proper nutrition? Did we lose the weight too fast so it will come back just as quickly and feel deprived or hungry?

Let’s take a look at science-based ideas that work.

Registered Dietician Matthew Kadey, MS, has researched what works and what doesn’t. All of these tips are backed by science and none of them entail a radical change in our eating.

1. Drink water before eating

Within 30 minutes of eating a meal, drink a glass or even two of water. In a study done by British researchers in 2015, people who took this step lost an average of 3 pounds more weight over a 12 week period than those who tried other methods to feel full. It is true that having more water will also have you making more trips to the bathroom, however this is a minor inconvenience compared to the benefits gained. Aside from making you feel full, drinking enough water for hydration and for getting its essential nutrients is an important part of health in and of itself.

2. Cut down on late night calories

One of the things that struck me many years ago when I first came to Israel to learn in Yeshiva was that unlike in American (and many in the Western world) the main meal was lunch and not supper. But the Israelis have the right idea. Italian researchers examined the eating habits of 1200 middle aged adults and found that those who consumed 50% or more of their daily calories at supper had a much higher obesity risk. Another study in the journal Obesity, showed the opposite relationship. Those who consumed more calories at breakfast and lunch had greater fat loss around their waistlines than those who ate later. Our metabolism is higher during the day and we are more likely to expend calories through activity in the daytime. Kaday advised “eating breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and supper like a pauper”.

3. Count your bites

Some of us have gotten used to counting our steps per day and trying to reach 10,000. But how about counting our bites of food? In a study done by Brigham Young University people were asked to count their bites. After a base-line was established the participants in the study cut their total bites by about 25%. That is, that by taking less bites, less food is consumed because I use up my bites. The result after 4 weeks was an average weight loss of about 4 pounds. Unlike counting steps, there isn’t yet a device that tracks bites, but keep a journal with a pen and paper. In addition to this, there is no question that eating slower and chewing well (not related to counting your bites) will also help you with weight loss as when you eat slower you will feel fuller before overconsuming.

4. Don’t graze

There is no question that eating smaller portions more often is helpful in terms of feeling full and preventing type 2 diabetes. However, it seems we have gotten carried away and we have become guilty of chronic snacking. A study in 2015 says that grazing might be hurting our weight loss efforts. This study of 18,000 adults that people showed that grazing, that is eating whenever we want to resulted in weight gain. We are careful with our clients to, have them eat meals and snacks but they should be carefully planned so there isn’t excessive calories consumed. In addition to this study, another study of obese people found that when they scaled back their eating from a period of 14 hours to 11 hours daily, they lost weight. Setting up a night curfew time to stop eating will help you accomplish this. One way to help with not grazing is to create a rule for yourself to only eat when seated. This will help you not pick at food all day long.

5. Planning is everything

Whether it is during the week, on Shabbos, or eating out in a restaurant or at a Simcha, it’s the planning that will make the difference. An interesting study in the journal Appetite showed that people who ordered meals in restaurants online before going out, ended up eating more than 100 calories less than those who walked in and decided. If you are doing the cooking at home, you know what you are preparing and you also know the menu. Even if you cook and prepare less healthy choices from time to time, you also can prepare enough good choices to choose from at a meal. Again, plan what you will be eating, how much of it you are going to eat, and when you are going to eat. This is particularly important on Shabbos. It only takes about 5 minutes erev Shabbos to sit down and figure out your Shabbos food plan. Most of all, once you have planned your menu, stick to it.

6. Ignore clever branding

Don’t fall prey to fancy food labels that claim health benefits to foods that are not so healthy. Words like “fitness” and “heart healthy” don’t necessarily mean that a food is good for you. A very recent study even showed that fitness-branded food lead people to exercise less intensely and they expended less calories. Also, a few different studies have shown that any food branded as healthy tends to be over-consumed. Just because it says, low-calorie or low-fat, doesn’t mean you can eat unlimited amounts. Whole grain cereals, energy bars, whole-grain cookies and even no-sugar products can cost you a lot of calories.

Here are six scientifically proven ways to eat healthy and lose weight at the same time. Avoid hearsay and myths and stick to advice that is real and works. It will “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”



Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a BEHAVIORAL CHANGE and WELLNESS COACH with over 19 years of professional experience. Alan is the creator and director of the “10 Weeks to Health” program for weight loss. He is available for private coaching sessions, consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs both in his office and by telephone and skype. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at Check out the his web site – US Line: 516-568-5027.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.