Even the healthiest among us can go weak in the knees over the smell of fresh-baked cookies or cheeseburgers on the grill. And it’s moments like these when a certain token phrase comes in handy—allowing us permission to stray from the kale salads and organic apples while providing a totally legitimate excuse to any judgy onlookers: “Everything in moderation,” we retort, while reaching for the forbidden goods.
Unfortunately, that phrase might not be the free “get out of healthy-eating” card that we once thought (and hoped) it to be. According to a new study by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, diet diversity—or varying the foods you eat—may lead to poor metabolic health and subsequent weight gain. Researchers found that participants who had the greatest diversity in their diets had a 120 percent greater increase in waist circumference as compared to those with the lowest food diversity, according to ScienceDaily.
But don’t be alarmed if you’re an all-around healthy eater—it turns out that those with high diet diversity saw larger waistlines because they were often eating more desserts, processed meats and sodas while minimizing their intake of fruits and vegetables, said Marcia C. de Oliveira Otto, PhD, first author and assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health. So if you’re switching up the colors of veggies on your plate or trading one lean protein for another, you shouldn't have to worry if you treat yourself once in a while.
Though not mentioned in the study, another potential downfall with the “everything in moderation” mentality could be the use of the word “moderate.” Thanks to the subjectiveness of the term, it’s tempting to justify two cupcakes as eating in moderation as easily as you would one. So, how do you know what constitutes as moderate? According to U.S. News and World Report, one rule of thumb is to tailor your portions based on what you would be served on an airplane or in a hospital (and sadly, when it comes to cupcakes, they don’t give out seconds).