I’m not sure which is worse this time of year: The quick-fix hype of weight loss ads or the ridiculous political ads ahead of the Iowa caucuses.

Clever marketers love to take advantage of our “New Year, New You” mentality to sell their latest weight loss products.

Unfortunately, the pressure seems even stronger as we learn about the new weight loss drugs that celebrities are taking for red-carpet reveals.

Admittedly, weight loss promises are tempting. But remember, it’s difficult to follow a restrictive diet for a lifetime. Our bodies need food for energy – to power through our busy days at work, at home and in our communities.

I caution you to look out for the following “red flags” or nutrition myths that marketers try to sell you in the New Year.

Myth 1: Cut carbs to lose weight.

It’s true that if you eat less food, including carbohydrates, you will lose weight in the short term. However, our bodies need carbohydrates for energy.

Carbs fuel our brains, helping us stay focused and make decisions. They also power our muscles through workouts and everyday activities. If you’re looking to build muscle, you need carbohydrates.

Myth 2: Organic is better for you. 

Research has shown that organic and conventional foods are equally safe and nutritious. The “organic” label is about farming practices, not health benefits. Organic farmers can’t use man-made chemicals, but they can still use naturally derived chemicals. Whether it’s organic or not, it’s all good for you.

Myth 3: Full-fat milk leads to weight gain.

If you prefer whole milk, go ahead and enjoy it! Research shows that full-fat dairy products don’t make you more likely to gain weight. In fact, they may benefit heart health by lowering the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. Real milk is a nutritional powerhouse.

Myth 4: Vegetarian diets are healthier. 

While it’s true we should all eat more fruits and vegetables, vegetarian diets may miss out on essential nutrients found in meat. Meat is a complete protein source, providing all the amino acids are bodies need. Plus, it’s rich in micronutrients like B12, crucial for energy and brain health but often lacking in vegetarian diets. So if you’re thinking of going vegetarian, consider supplementing to cover those nutritional needs.

How to eat better in 2024

If you want to make healthier food choices, nutrition experts recommend a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, proteins (including meat, poultry and beans), whole grains and dairy.

Instead of fixating on weight loss, focus on engaging in healthier healthful lifestyle, says Dr. Peter Clark, a neuroscientist and associate professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University.

Healthy habits include regular physical activity, getting enough sleep, reducing stress and practicing self-care, and eating nutritious foods.

“Take pride that you are engaging in healthy behaviors, and take the focus off the outcome, which could be losing weight,” Clark says. “How much weight you lose and for how long is largely out of your control and varies from person to person.”

If making these changes feels challenging, Clark recommends seeking support from a mental health professional or using your workplace’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to take steps toward a healthier you.

Let’s take the pressure off ourselves and focus on the small changes that can add up to a healthier 2024.

To learn more about how farmers work to ensure meat quality, food safety and farm animal care, visit “Real Farmers. Real Food. Real Meat.”