There is so much rampant deception about nutrition and weight gain coming out of commercial food giants that it’s no wonder Americans are so fat – and getting fatter.
Even though millions of people vow to eat healthier each year, those plans come to ruination for most. And it’s partly because mass-based food producers are masters of tricking the public with clever use of dietary labels and other trade secrets. Most insidious is the widespread practice of packing popular processed foods with cheap filler like synthetic sugars the body is not designed to process.
That’s why so many foods that are generally perceived to be healthy can actually contribute to weight gain, which creates a particularly frustrating situation. You feel like you’re doing everything right, but the pounds just don’t come off.
Are These Five Foods Sabotaging Your Diet?
Here are five foods you probably think of as healthy – but that can actually make you fat. We’ve also included a few tips for each that will help you take advantage of their healthy benefits without the expanding waistline.
Dried Fruit: In a study conducted by Weight Watchers involving more than 10,000 participants, they found that people who snacked on dried fruit had a harder time shedding pounds than those who didn’t. The reason? Dried fruits contain a lot more calories per ounce than their fresh counterparts. They also contain concentrated fruit sugars, which can spike your blood sugar levels, followed by your insulin levels… and when your blood sugar levels are a mess, it’s harder to lose weight.
That doesn’t mean dried fruits can’t be healthy. They contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that your body can use. But, you have to take control of your portion sizes. Many people snack on dried fruits with abandon and end up eating more calories and more sugar than they realize. Instead, measure out a quarter cup of dried fruit into a bowl (or a sandwich bag if you’re taking it to go), and limit yourself to that serving size for the day.
You should also pick dried fruits without any added sugar. We know it sounds crazy, but many food manufacturers add sugar to their dried fruit offerings. In fact, added sugar shows up in many places you wouldn’t expect, because sugar is extremely inexpensive and satisfies the sweet tooth in a way that makes people come back for more. According to a federal website, added sugars can show up under any of eighteen different names on food ingredient labels, making avoidance very tricky. (See chart below.
Granola: Even the term “granola” is synonymous with healthy living, but the actual food… well, it’s not always so great. Granola that’s overloaded with sugar and fat packs a real punch when it comes to calories. Most store-bought granolas contain more than 200 calories per half cup serving… and that’s before you add the milk. Many store-bought brands also contain manufactured oils and a lot of sugar.
On the plus side, granola is tasty, contains a lot of fiber, and provides you with protein and several vitamins and minerals. So how do you take advantage of the benefits of granola with having to let out your pants? You can start by checking the labels. Look for granolas that are low in sugar and that contain only natural ingredients – no high fructose corn syrup and no hydrogenated oils.
You can also enjoy the crunch and taste of granola by sprinkling it on top of a bowl of oatmeal or sprinkling it over yogurt. This way you cut your serving size, and that cuts your calories.
If you want to go one step further, you can make your own granola at home. Plenty of all-natural, low-fat, naturally sweetened recipes for granola are available online. They are easy to make and really tasty to eat.
Bottled Tea: The benefits of drinking tea are pretty incredible. In a review of studies, publishers at the University of Maryland Medical Center found that green tea, especially, contributes to good health. It boosts heart health, helps fight cancer, eases digestion, and helps to control blood sugar. It may help also the liver to stay healthy, promote weight loss, and prevent cavities.
But, when you buy pre-made bottled teas, you get only a very little bit of tea mixed with a whole lot of sugar. Often the calorie count on bottled teas is similar to that of sodas.
A better alternative is to brew your own green tea and drink it hot. Or, make iced tea, sweeten it with a little powdered stevia, and pack it in a water bottle to go.
Healthly Fact: Sold under brand names including SweetLeaf and Stevita, stevia is a South American herb used as a natural sweetener for centuries. The leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant have a refreshing taste, zero glycemic index, zero calories, and zero carbs. It is 25-30 times sweeter than sugar and far more healthy!
Rice Cakes: What could be healthier than a rice cake? It’s certainly flavorless enough to pass as a health food. But, rice cakes have very little in the way of nutrients. They don’t have protein or fiber, so they won’t fill you up. What they do have are simple carbohydrates that will spike your blood sugar.
Instead of rice cakes, go with something more nutrient-rich like whole grain rye or wheat crackers or whole grain toast. Spread your toast or crackers with a little peanut butter or hummus for a protein-rich, fiber-rich snack that will fill you up and give you a steady stream of energy.
Restaurant Salads: When you’re eating out, salads seem like a safe bet to control your calories and to enjoy a nutritious meal. You’re only half right. The veggies in salads do make for a good nutritional choice. However, restaurant salads tend to have a lot of other things in them like candied nuts, shredded cheese, croutons, and bacon crumbles. Plus, the dressings – even the vinaigrettes – tend to be high in fat and calories.
You might be better off ordering poached fish and steamed vegetables. If you’re really craving a salad, request that the high-fat ingredients be left off. Ask for the dressing on the side. Fat-free vinaigrettes or basic oil and vinegar are also good options. Start with only half the salad; if you’re still hungry ten minutes after you finish the first half, then enjoy the second half. Otherwise, pack it up and take it home.
With This Basic Info,