By Grace Miazga
There’s not one day that goes by where you don’t run into some sort of advertisement for dieting and weight loss. It’s a popular thing, yet we all feel alone in beating America’s biggest challenge. The most frustrating part is trying to shave off that last 5-10 pounds that seems cemented onto our bodies. Why is this so difficult? You thought that running that extra mile would do the trick. Well it’s probably not because of your exercise regimen and could be as simple as consuming faux-healthy foods on a daily basis. Many foods out there are advertised as healthier alternatives that can help slash away body fat and drop pounds, but they may in fact be hindering your weight loss achievements. Here are some of the most common health food gimmicks to watch out for when strolling the grocery store lanes.
Yogurt is an excellent source of protein, calcium, and probiotics, but they’re not all equally as nutrient dense. Flavored yogurts can easily fool the consumer into thinking there’s little difference from non-flavored yogurts. However, flavored yogurts contain about 8 grams less protein per serving and consist of several more grams of sugar. Many might think they’re getting an extra boost with yogurts that contain fruit, but once the fruit is pureed during production, it losses a lot of it’s essential nutrients, such as Vitamin C (www.prevention.com). Also, all yogurts contain enough probiotics that are beneficial to digestion, so any brands claiming they’re specifically designed for assisting in digestion are just trying to amp up their marketing (www.today.com). If you’re looking for the best way to eat yogurt, go for plain Greek yogurt, and if needed, add in your own fresh fruit, honey, chia seeds, or even dark chocolate chips to feed that craving.
Granola tends to have a household reputation for being a quick, filling, and nutritious breakfast food. You get grains, dried fruit, nuts, and warm seasonings such as cinnamon, it’s a comfort food that’s delicious and seemingly good for you. But the reality of it is, granola skyrockets in sugar, fat, and calories. Whether it’s store bought or homemade, 1 cup of granola generally ranges between 420 to 600 calories, 11 to 30 grams of fat, and at least 25 grams of sugar. On top of that, the sugars that make up this sweet, crunchy delight are mostly added sugar rather than the healthier, naturally-occurring sugars you find in fruit (fructose) or dairy products (lactose). So, having that 1 cup of granola for breakfast will already account for over the 24 grams of sugar women should allow in their diet for the entire day (www.shape.com).
Many nutrition-focused manmade products are designed to help the consumer continue to enjoy their favorite foods with less negative repercussions to their health. However, this tends to backfire more often than it works. Artificial sweeteners are today’s most prevalent example of this. People want less calories but just as much sweetness and flavor to their sodas, coffee drinks, sweet teas, etc. and artificial sweeteners grant all those wishes. But the reality of choosing Sweet N’ Low, Equal, Truvia, or Stevia over natural cane sugar could be more detrimental than helpful. Artificial sweeteners tend to be hundreds to thousands of times sweeter than real sugar, so this spikes your sweetness tolerance potentially causing you to overindulge in foods and crave sweet things more often. Many artificial sweeteners have been linked to increasing the risk of developing diabetes and/or heart disease. Ingredients to look out for in foods when trying to avoid artificial sweeteners go by the names aspartame, saccharine, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, and cyclamate potassium. If you want to continue to ride on the artificial sweetener train, your best choice is Splenda, which contains sucralose that is derived from natural sugar and is the only current artificial sweetener isn’t linked to adverse health effects (www.sharecare.com).
Anything containing the word “veggie” is like getting splashed in the face with water. You instantly wake up and think you just discovered the newest and easiest way to get those 5 cups per day. Veggie chips – made out of zucchini, squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, spinach – you’re getting a full serving of vegetables doused in oil and deep fried. Essentially, you could call original potato chips veggie chips. If you literally broke down a veggie chip into it’s top ingredients, they’re basically made out of corn flour or potato with a small addition of vegetable powder or pureed vegetable. The majority, if not all of it’s nutritional beneficiaries, like Vitamins A and C, are lost in the processing plant. Veggie chips are just another empty calorie food that will only supply a roadblock in your stride to losing pounds (www.shape.com).
Protein bars are simply a healthier version of a candy bar. Protein bars, in general, contain loads of added sugars and artificial sweeteners, which obviously won’t help cinch that waist. Also, most people, unless you’re an athlete or aggressively training for some kind of physically active competition, don’t need the extra protein. In fact, excess protein in your diet will just convert to fat. What many people might not realize is that there are better-for-you proteins, such as whey concentrate and isolates or casein protein, and and, in general, protein bars contain the less healthy varieties. Most bars are made with a form of protein isolate, which contains MSG, a neurotoxin that is linked to digestive disorders, Celiac’s disease, and autoimmune disorders. However, not all bars go for an entirely genetically modified layout (www.care2.com). Some brands that have no added sugar, gluten free, and/or contain a richer protein source are Lara Bars, Luna Bars, or Think Thin.
The biggest favor you can do for yourself and your body is to really look at what you’re actually eating. Learn to read nutrition labels properly and what key ingredients to avoid. Just because it says flashy phrases like “sugar-free”, “protein-rich”, or “a great source of vegetables” is most likely not everything it’s cracked up to be. Switching to a clean, healthy diet is a lifestyle change. It takes work, time, and research, but the benefits are all worth it, like finally losing those last 5 pounds.