'Healthy' food products have flooded the market in recent years with extravagant promises of weight loss.

And every day scientists unleash a new strict diet regime to millions of people looking for answers based on their latest findings.

Celebrity endorsements are constantly shoved in our faces to convince us to buy the latest 'quick fix', while conflicting reports of 'superfoods' leave everyone confused as to how to shed some pounds.

But are these diet fads making us ignore the basic healthy eating guidelines we were brought up with?


Here, Rob Hobson, registered nutritionist and Head of Nutrition at Healthspan, shares the ten most common food mistakes we make...


Some people skip meals to try and lose weight, while work deadlines can be other reasons why many end up missing meals throughout the day.

Research has found people who eat breakfast have less across the day, proving that skipping meals is not the best strategy if you're trying to lose weight.

Skipping breakfast or lunch is also likely to affect concentration as blood sugar levels drop.

This can also leave you susceptible to snacking on unhealthy foods or loading up on coffee or energy drinks which can leave you feeling wired and 'fuzzy'.

Applying a little mindfulness to the way you approach mealtimes is a good way to help maintain weight and energy levels throughout the day.

Set a little time aside for food, whether that means setting your alarm a little earlier or designating time in your diary to make sure your diet takes priority.

Sit down to eat and chew your food slowly, while putting your cutlery down between mouthfuls.

Eating this way has been shown to encourage better energy levels, weight loss and can help with digestive issues associated with rushed mealtimes.


Carbohydrates are often wrongly viewed as unhealthy and cannot be bundled into one group.

Unprocessed carbohydrate foods such as brown rice, oats and wholegrain bread provide a good source of nutrients such as fibre, which is lacking in the average UK diet as well as magnesium, iron and B vitamins.

Processed carbohydrates made with white flour and sugar are less healthy and can impact on blood sugar levels.

This has been shown to negatively impact on health as well as encouraging snacking and weight gain.

Cutting down on carbohydrates is a useful strategy to help with weight loss, but research shows in the long term, similar results can be achieved by following a traditional low fat diet.

This food group is also key in very active people, particularly those who compete in sporting events.

Rather than cutting carbohydrates from the diet the focus should be on choosing unprocessed varieties and reducing the amount of sugar and other processed grains in your diet.

You can tailor your carbohydrate intake to accommodate your health goals such as weight loss or level of activity but there is no reason to remove them from a healthy balanced diet.


The term 'superfood' is a marketing phrase which holds little nutritional significance.

These foods are often labelled this way as they have been the focus of disease research and contain a particularly high level of nutrients.

'Superfoods' tend to have increased amounts of antioxidants such as vitamin C or compounds such as the phytonutrients which give plant foods their bright colour - such as the flavonoids responsible for the red and purple hues of berries.

No single food is going to be the remedy for all diseases and including a wide variety of foods in your diet will ensure you get everything you need, especially if you include plenty of fruits and vegetables.


Juices are still popular but often loaded with sugar and no matter what goes into them are still only classed as two of your daily fruit and vegetable intake. Photo / iStock
Juices are still popular but often loaded with sugar and no matter what goes into them are still only classed as two of your daily fruit and vegetable intake. Photo / iStock

The drinks industry is huge and flooded with products which claim to promote different areas of health.

Juices are still popular but often loaded with sugar and no matter what goes into them are still only classed as two of your daily fruit and vegetable intake.

Sports drinks are popular during or after workouts but their calorie content is a little less than that burnt during a single training session.

They are also high in sugar - normally glucose - which can be useful to maintain energy levels during sporting events but not for everyday sessions in the gym.

Drinking hot water and lemon is often seen as a healthy alternative but it can impact on dental health given the high acidity level.

Stay hydrated with water, which can be flavoured with ingredients such as rosemary, mint, basil and cucumber and limit all other 'health' drinks during the day.


There's no healthy alternative to white sugar. As others sweeteners such as honey and coconut sugar become popular, there is a misconception that these are in some way better for you.

In reality, they're all sugar and are treated in the same way by the body and have the same negative impact on your health if eaten in excess.

You can reduce your sugar intake by replacing it with ingredients such as cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and coconut which all have a naturally sweet dimension without the high content.


Market research carried out by global data analysts Mintel showed a significant percentage of people viewed 'gluten-free' as a healthy food option.

There is also a trend to exclude other food groups from diets such as dairy products, which is echoed by the popularity of diets which promote this way of eating.

Unless you're within the small proportion of the population who are affected by food allergies, intolerances or conditions such as coeliac disease, then there is little benefit to excluding foods from your diet.

Excluding food groups from the diet increases the risk of nutrient imbalances and developing an unhealthy relationship with food.

The nutrient deficit of these diets can be balanced with other foods but it's important to understand what foods need to be eaten in place of those removed.

Nutritionists and dietitians are trained to help with exclusion diets and assess food intolerances.


Food labels are a useful source of nutritional information designed to help you make a healthy choice. Photo / iStock
Food labels are a useful source of nutritional information designed to help you make a healthy choice. Photo / iStock

Food labels are a useful source of nutritional information designed to help you make a healthy choice.

Often foods which seem healthy and labelled with claims such as 'low fat', 'rich in omega 3' or 'gluten-free' can still be loaded with sugar, saturated fat or salt.

Use the traffic light labels for guidance and opt for those which are mostly amber and green.

There are some great free apps such as http://www.foodmaestro.me which has been developed with Guy's and St Thomas' which displays ingredients and nutritional information, sugar content and cuts through all the labeling confusion and is used by dietitians and nutritionists.


Calories provide a really useful way to monitor your energy intake and this is made even easier with food labelling.

However, not all calories are created equally.

It's important to focus on where they are coming from as nutrients are metabolised in different ways and can impact on hunger and hormones.

For instance, the calories from a bag of sweets can raise insulin levels which promote fat storage and hunger.

But this is different from the satiating effect of eating the same calories from a serving of hummus and wholemeal bread or foods rich in fat and protein.

Opting for three sensible sized meals of unprocessed foods in their most natural state can help you to make the most of your diet, removing the focus on calories.

Try and always take a sensible approach to eating well as the basics are simple to follow.

New findings and science make for interesting reading but often bear little relevance to your current everyday diet unless they have solid evidence.

Your main focus should be on eating highly nutritious foods rather than spending too much time concerning yourself with individual trends and single nutrients.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't include new and exciting food products, just don't let them overshadow the basic concepts of eating well.


There are many theories about the best way to eat and opting for lots of small meals across the day is often seen as a way to keep your metabolism 'fired up', which is viewed as a way of helping to maintain weight.

While digestion can slightly increase metabolism, the body doesn't need to be continuously fed and there is little evidence to prove this is an effective way of managing weight.

Snacking also opens up the opportunity to overeat and can be inconvenient if you lead a busy life.

Stick to three nutritious meals each day and only snack if you're genuinely hungry.

Opt for natural foods such as fruit, nuts or healthy dips such as hummus with chopped raw vegetables.