Have your efforts at dieting sapped your energy without moving the scale at all? That can happen when you follow claims and promises made by diet food manufacturers rather than sound nutrition principles.
Sticking to reasonable portion sizes and filling up with healthy food are always preferable to relying on diet foods. If you want to maintain a healthy weight or shed pounds, avoid these seven kinds of “diet” foods and snacks.
1. “Vitamin” drinks with added sugars
Drinks with words like “vitamin” on the label may sound healthy — which is definitely the marketing goal — but many still come loaded with added sugars. Check labels carefully. And keep in mind that the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance. For most American women, that means no more than 100 calories per day in added sugars. For men, the number is roughly 150 calories.
2. Diet soda
I wrote about this extensively in my last post, but here’s the gist: Current research suggests the brain reacts to artificial sweeteners much like it does to sugary sweets. If you rely on them as a diet crutch, you may end up with a greater risk of obesity, not to mention conditions such as stroke.
3. Store-bought smoothies
Before you choose that smoothie at the health food store or in the grocery aisle, check the calories; some smoothies contain up to 1,000 calories and use ingredients only a world-class bodybuilder would need. Your best bet is to grab your blender and make your own smoothie with fresh fruits and vegetables and plain, low-fat yogurt. Try adding chia seed for an omega-3 fatty acid boost as well.
4. Trail mix
If the mix contains yogurt-coated ingredients, it probably has partially hydrogenated fat (trans fat). Trans fat has been shown to decrease your good cholesterol and increase your bad cholesterol. You’ll do better making your own trail mix with peanuts, walnuts, raisins and dark chocolate bits that are at least 70 percent cocoa.
5. Frozen diet entrees
These are typically loaded with sodium. And while they may be low in calories, they’re also typically low in nutrients. For example, they often use refined grains instead of whole grains, and the refining process strips grains of much of their nutritional value. Instead, take some time on your days off to make nutritious meals that you can freeze and bring to work throughout the week.
6. Fiber/protein bars
Many meal replacement or diet bars are about two steps away from being candy bars! Skip the bar and fill up with an apple or another piece of fruit instead. If you do choose a bar, though, look for one with the fewest ingredients. And watch out for added sugars in the form of brown rice syrup, brown sugar, cane sugar, crystallized/evaporated cane sugar, corn syrup and other added sweeteners. It’s far too easy to go beyond your daily added sugar limit with just one “diet” bar.
7. Fat-free sweets
Fat-free cookies and cakes are deceiving. People think that ‘fat-free’ means ‘calorie-free,’ so they tend to eat too much. What’s more, manufacturers tend to replace the fat with something else your body and taste buds crave: sugar. That means you still end up consuming a high number of calories if you indulge in these treats. If you need the occasional indulgence, you’re typically better off eating the real thing in a reasonable portion.