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Why “Everything in Moderation” Is Terrible Diet Advice

Marcia C. de Oliveira Otto, Ph.D.

Marcia C. de Oliveira Otto, Ph.D. – first author

It’s official. The “everything in moderation” diet motto of clueless dietitians everywhere is pure BS. There’s never been any compelling evidence to support it – and it makes no sense (is drinking Coca-Cola “in moderation” better than not at all?).

Now a just-published study shows that people in the US who eat a more “diverse” diet actually gain MORE weight, with a 120% greater increase in waist circumference than the people who eat a more monotonous diet.

Even if this study is observational – and therefore proves very little by itself – it’s yet another reason to ignore the non-existent “moderation” logic. The always smart-sounding Dr. Mozaffarian (author of this legendary study) makes it clear:

“Americans with the healthiest diets actually eat a relatively small range of healthy foods,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., senior author and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston. “These results suggest that in modern diets, eating ‘everything in moderation’ is actually worse than eating a smaller number of healthy foods.”

Don’t eat everything in moderation. Eat as much healthy food as you can, whenever you are hungry. Eat as little unhealthy garbage as you can. If possible none at all.

And feel free to laugh inwardly at clueless so-called diet experts who still advise people to eat “everything in moderation”.

More

I’ve added a note about this on the main How to Lose Weight page.

Low Carb Made Easy How to Lose Weight Low-Carb Recipes Low-Carb Success Stories

18 Comments

  1. palo
    I would add, stop eating when your satisfied, not stuffed!
  2. jo
    This makes so much sense!
  3. chris c
    It was only after i STOPPED eating the hearthealthywhole grains and omega 6 oils in moderation that I was able to moderate my eating of everything else. Once my insulin levels amd IR dropped into normal range so did my appetite.

    I also tried eating cyanide and arsenic in moderation but that didn't go too well.

  4. Panos
    It was the ancient Greeks that first came up with the mantra "moderation is excellence" (and not EVERYTHING in moderation as is oft misquoted.) Likewise, the dietary advice of eating a variety of foods in moderation comes in antithesis to the oh-so-popular advice of relying on a magic formula of eating a specific food only or dominating our food intake by it.

    If your scientific insight is that the moderation principle in dieting is invalid because it opens the possibility to people eating moderate amounts of tar and cyanide, then I would suggest that you have not only wasted everybody's time (and research dollars) but you have also raised false alarm to what is, as a rule of thumb, solid advice.

    "Everything in moderation" pertains to food groups of non-"zero" nutritional value and that advice has stood the test of time for a reason. Perhaps if the american scientific community gave some credence to the moderation principle, it wouldn't be characterized by such a deficit in... common sense.

  5. John
    I've found that I will feel satisfied with less food consumed if I stick to one or two foods, but if I have a variety at a meal, I can become satisfied on the first couple foods, and then switch to another food and still feel like I'm not completely full.
  6. Daisy
    John - your point reminds me of a study I read a few years back on the subject of "if you are full from eating a main course, then why can you always make room for dessert?" and yes, they found, it's due to the variety aspect.
  7. Johnno
    Good news then. but we still fight a losing battle..

    Still the BBC allow 'nutritionists' to promote bread, starchy veg, and the sweetest fruits, (It's natural sugar you know! ) and condemn saturated fat yet again, as the cause of heart attacks. yes, the woman actually said that! Clearly outdated, conventional 'wisdom'.

  8. Cynthia
    I am a 55 year old woman that has maintained my weight on a low fat/high carb diet and aerobic exercise. While I am not overweight, I have a high percentage of body fat (DEXA scan confirmed) and have battled constant sugar cravings and low blood sugar as long as I can remember.

    I started this program at the end of July and I'm finally free of sugar/carb obsession. I've experienced several health benefits but I am most happy about being able to "eat normally", make healthy choices and enjoy freedom from food! Like John, I am more satisfied when I stick to one or two foods. Reducing the intake of rewarding foods (even fruit, for me) really helped with reducing food obsession. Reducing food variety and rewarding foods - wish I knew about this 35 years ago but still grateful that I know about it now!

    Reply: #9
  9. Happy for you Cynthia!
  10. Kate
    This stems from my mothers generation (born in 1912). Everything was fresh and in season, everything was real food, no frozen rubbish, no factory made pretend food, no pretend sugars, SO moderation eating was about not being a pig. And, my heart specialist told me carbs are vital for heart health, he said already people are presenting with heart prolems, and its only going to get worse.
  11. RD Magda Pieters
    Why must dieticians always be discredited? I am a RD with 35yrs experience, &have MANY friends in this field. Not me, or one of them ever told a patient "Eat EVERYTHING in moderation.." If this sentence is used, it refers only to the healthy whole foods that ARE allowed for the individual's medical problem - without the sugar, refined processed boxed bottled manufactured tampered foods! NOT applicable to ALL JUNK that people used to eat! RDs treat medical problems, Nutritionists NOT, so there is ALWAYS a prescription for what is allowed and what not. STOP DISCREDITING RDs.
    Reply: #12
  12. bill
    "...Nutritionists NOT..."

    Why must you discredit nutritionists?

  13. 1 comment removed
  14. Soups
    I always understood the phrase was "anything in moderation" as opposed to everything in moderation. As in, whatever you eat should be in moderate amounts so you're not overloading your body. Similar to the Buddhist philosophy of moderation in all things, ie, in every area of your life, not be overly attached to any one idea, possession etc.
  15. Lisa
    I was at a diabetes seminar last night. This is a 6-wk class that some states make available to anyone diagnosed T1 or T2, living with or supporting someone with diabetes. They said the following, "Remember, as a diabetic, there is nothing you can't have, you just have to count and allow for the carbs." The numbers they are working with and teaching the attendees are 45-65 carbs per meal, 2 hrs post meal reading of 180 or lower. Those numbers are higher than what my dr. recommends and the class and my dr's recs are higher than what I'm comfortable with. I'll continue out the class (only 2 more left), but continue to ask questions to raise awareness, to get people thinking, and to get them asking "Why do we do it that way?".
  16. Keith Downs
    RD Magda Pieters
    Dieticians are being discredited because their mercenary behaviour in defending the Low Fat orthodoxy, food fraud and cholesterol mythology has brought the medical professions into disrepute.
    In South Africa, the worlds top sports and nutrition doctor, Professor Tim Noakes was brought in front of the Health Professions Council by the Association of Dietetics of SA. If you read the court transcripts you will see that ADSA has re framed the original charges a few times, changed lawyers, and the chairman laying the charges has resigned and been replaced by a new one It has been conclusively proven that ADSA's B.Comm/ technician level dieticians have been sponsored by big food companies and The local sugar association, whilst Prof Noakes, an A rated scientist has had to raise his own defence. The prosecution and persecution of Noakes has cost millions of rand and has been going on for over two years now. It has amounted to one of the most combative peer reviews ever, and at one stage the prosecution even brought an order to stop Noakes from using science to prove his point.
    I have suffered needlessly from T2DM for 20 years whilst under the advisement of conventional dieticians who prescribed synthetic carbohydrate based foods. I am an LCHF Paleo / Banter and I now take only a tenth of the meds that I previously took There is speculation as to whether I was even diabetic in the first place
    Nobody discredits Dietetics practitioners, they do it mostly by themselves.

    Similar instances of persecution have been reported in Australia

  17. Busy
    Where I live, ANYONE can call himself a "nutritionist." There are no educational, experience or ethical requirements that have the force of law. I could call myself a nutritionist. But I CAN'T call myself an RD, because that PROFESSION is licensed and regulated by the state, and the education and the clinical experience requirements are considerable. The difference between an RD and a nutritionist is like that between that between a dentist and a "toothy-ologist."
    That being said, "everything in moderation" drives me crazy, or it would if I continued to let it.
  18. Jomo
    I am a T2 diagnosed in April 2014 . I instantly went on a very low carb diet (with no processed foods). I lost 90 pounds in a year and a half. I am off all diabetes medication. I control my diabetes with diet. I have maintained the weight for the last year. Its not that hard to do ~!
  19. gbl
    The difference is physicians set up RD to be their little handmaidens, whereas nutritionists are independent of them. This has set physicians on a vendetta against nutritionsts. Some nutritionists good some bad. RDs? All bad, unless they have broken away from their professional designation.

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