TODAY   |  April 13, 2012

Does eating late really make you gain weight?

Sorting fact from fiction can be difficult when you’re trying to find the best way to lose weight. TODAY diet and nutrition editor Madelyn Fernstrom has authoritative answers to common diet questions.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> this morning on small steps to a healthier you, diet myths versus facts. some common diet strategies truly do help you lose weight while others only offer false hope. madeline is "today's" diet and nutrition editor. let's start with our first myth or fact, eating spicy foods will help you with faster weight loss . please tell me that's true.

>> okay. i would like to tell you but that is actually a myth. eating spicy foods does not help you lose weight faster. you think i'm sweating, maybe your heart is pounding, it seems like it should be burning calories, and in laboratory studies it's just a drop of the metabolic pop but when you translate it to a whole body into calories there doesn't make a dent in weight loss . don't think you can slosh hot sauce on your food and burn off calories. it's absolutely a myth.

>> if you have a nice flavor on something maybe that helps you feel more satisfied?

>> right. and actually when you have hot food it can slow down your eating so maybe you'll eat less.

>> eating dairy foods can promote weight loss . myth or fact?

>> that actually is a fact. but there's a big if. the if is you have to be in a calorie controlled diet to begin with. you have to twim your calories. so it's not magically adding dairy to what you already eat. it's replacing some of the calories you eat with dairy foods .

>> like ice cream ?

>> or low fat yogurt. there's room for that. but the idea is that if you -- if you include some dairy, all the studies continue to show there's some association but nobody really knowles what it's from.

>> i wonder why because something like milk is more filling?

>> it could be the protein. it could be the milk some ids. the stuff that makes milk white. there's a lot of stuff in milk other than calcium.

>> okay. so add it in but don't make it extra calories.

>> don't make it extra calories.

>> next one, all exercise keeps your metabolism boosted for a few hours so you can eat more.

>> that's what people would like to think. that's actually a myth. only if you are an extreme exerciser like you, you do a lot of running.

>> oh, yeah.

>> for most of us who are power walking a mile or two or running a mile or two you think you're going to get those calories from the activity. but you don't get that honeymoon effect for hours later. so people think oh, great i've got this metabolic boost i can just eat and those calories will cancel out. not true.

>> sometimes if you do exercise you do get hungrier.

>> right. when you do intense exercise you'll get hungrier and that's something you have to act on. that's a good thing to do. but you don't need to if you're doing a mile or two think i better fuel and refuel.

>> okay. next one, using smaller sized plates promotes weight loss .

>> you know, that is actually true. it's a fact because, studies, and common sense says if food's in front of you you're going to eat all of it because it tastes good, it's there, whatever the reason. so if you just solve the puzzle by having a smaller plate to start with that's really good. and the plate sizes in america are crazy. our dinner plates are huge. they're like platters. so if you use a salad plate, which is like a dinner plate in europe, you're actually going to eat a lot less. and when you're in a restaurant you can just get some small plates or go halfsies. we look at food as way too big.

>> this has like a psychological aspect to it. all of us probably grew up with our parents telling us, clean your plate.

>> for starving people all over the world, and it never made sense then. this is a way if you belong to the clean plate club you can eat everything on the plate and be calorie controlled.

>> our last one is don't eat after 7:00 p.m . myth or fact?

>> that is probably the biggest diet myth around.

>> really?

>> yeah, because you can't eat by the clock. it doesn't mean that you're going to have a giant steak and baked potato right before you go to sleep. but if you go to bed at 12:01 and you eat dinner at 6:00 you're biological going to be hungry later in the evening. so you can save a couple of hundred calories for that night eating if you like it. because it's relaxing, a lot of people do, and there's no reason not to do it. there's nothing magical about this because you're burning calories 24 hours a day .

>> all right, madeline, thanks for clearing all that up. coming up a look inside the "titanic" on the 100th anniversary