If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s easy to fall into the trap of all of the “healthy” products food companies are pushing these days. Extra calories can be cleverly hidden in these products, sabotaging even the most well-intentioned consumer. The best way to manage or lose weight healthily is to control portion sizes and to eat a balanced diet consisting of lots of fresh or frozen fruits and veggies, lean proteins like chicken, fish, and beans, and low fat dairy. Do your best to avoid these sneaky “health” foods at your grocery store.
Fruited or flavored yogurt
The benefits of yogurt are plenty. It’s a good source of calcium, the live active cultures in yogurt help promote a healthy and happy digestive tract and it packs a protein punch (especially Greek yogurt). But this health food angel can often be a devil in disguise. Fruited or flavored yogurts are usually low fat or fat free, but can have as much as 31 grams of sugar in one six-ounce container! That’s almost eight teaspoons of sugar in your so-called “healthy” snack. Get all the benefits of yogurt without the extra sugar by buying plain, nonfat yogurt (Greek or regular) and adding your own fresh or frozen fruit.
Staying hydrated is important to maintaining a healthy weight, but getting the recommended eight glasses a day is difficult for some. Many people fight plain-water boredom by drinking enhanced waters like Vitaminwater. These are basically sugar water and a vitamin pill. If you eat a well-balanced diet filled with fruits, veggies, whole grains, and low fat dairy, you may be getting enough nutrients from food. Do your waistline a favor and drink plain , calorie-free tap, purified, or bottled water. Check out this previous blog post for ideas on making regular water taste delicious without the extra calories.
Fast food salads
Fast food chains want you to believe you really can eat healthy at their restaurants. Many have extensive salad offerings to reel in weight conscious consumers. But beware: the dressings, toppings, and add-ons for these salads can add as much as 500 extra calories to your healthy bowl of fresh veggies. What’s more, the nutritious parts of a salad, like tomatoes and cucumbers, are often used sparingly. If you find yourself with no other choice besides fast food, your best bet is a grilled chicken sandwich — hold the mayo — paired with a side salad. Don’t forget to use the dressing sparingly!
Whole grains are an important part of a balanced diet, giving us carbohydrates for energy and several key nutrients. But don’t confuse ‘multi-grain’ with whole grain. A whole grain product will contain all parts of the grain: the germ, the bran and the endosperm. Whole grains provide essential fatty acids, fiber,and B vitamins. Unfortunately, a lot of the grains in our food supply are refined. A refined grain has the germ and the bran removed, leaving the endosperm, which is mostly nutrient-poor starch. Refined grain flour is easy to work with in cookies, cakes, and breads, which makes it a cheap and versatile ingredient for food manufactures. A food company can claim their product is ‘multi-grain’ even if all of its grains are refined. The term implies nothing about the product’s nutritional value, and it could still have the same amount of calories and fat as any other cookie, cake or cracker out there. To make the right choice, look at the ingredients list on the package label. Look for the word “whole” before the grain listed, and make sure it’s one of the first two ingredients. Better yet, avoid packaged or processed foods and choose whole grains you can see: oats, brown rice, bulgur or quinoa.
Author: Courtney Plush, MS, Emory Healthcare Dietetic Intern