As if eating right wasn’t hard enough! Before you pat yourself on the back for having a salad instead of a hamburger, be aware that, when it comes to calories and fat, names can be deceiving. In fact, some foods that sound healthy may actually have more fat and calories than you realize. Take a look at some of these foods that sound healthy but aren’t:
REDUCED-FAT PEANUT BUTTER
It’s reduced fat, right? So it has to be better! Not necessarily. Often, reduced-fat versions have the same amount of calories as the “original” versions (or perhaps even more!) Why? Because when something is taken out, something else is usually added. In addition, the fat found in peanuts is one of the “healthy fats” that can actually help improve cholesterol.
Although natural, unprocessed peanut butter may be better than the reduced-fat varieties, you still should exercise portion control. Be sure that peanuts are listed as the only ingredient to avoid additives. Remember that a tablespoon can contain more than 100 calories.
There’s a lot of good things to be said about salads—eating a diet rich in vegetables can help you lose weight and reduce your risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cancer. But all salads aren’t created equal.
If your salad is drenched in ranch dressing, or some other high-fat addition, you’re drowning out the benefits. In addition, heaping processed meats, bacon, and eggs on your salad dramatically increases the calorie count.
SMOOTHIES AND JUICES
Sure, they have fruit and vitamins and nutrients, but they can also be loaded with sugar. Also, be aware that “juicing” takes fiber out of vegetables. Fiber is important because not only does it help your digestion, but it also makes you feel fuller. Always check the ingredients. If you purchase your smoothie from a popular chain, you can often find their nutritional information online.
Whole grains, granola, raisins . . . what’s not to love? In many cases, it’s the added sugars that go with many energy bars. Take a careful look at the nutritional label and serving size! When the results are tallied, some may have as much sugar and “bad” fats as a candy bar.
Once again, the devil is in the details. Some brands of yogurt use additives for flavor and texture to make up for the sugar and/or fat that has been removed. There have also been extensive studies about the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners.
What should you do? If you feel overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Each year, millions of Americans pledge to lose weight and eat healthier, and sometimes, the overwhelming list of “do’s and don’ts” is difficult to memorize. Don’t worry. Even taking small steps every day will gradually help you build a healthier you.
First things first: everything in moderation. Completely denying yourself one type of food may tempt you to “binge” on that food later. Work with your dietitian on portion control for some of your favorite treats. For example, try a smaller “snack size” chocolate bar than the full-size version. Second, become an expert at reading nutrition labels—even though at first, they may seem confusing. A dietitian can help you understand not only what these numbers mean, but what specific impact they have on your weight loss plan.
Remember, just because something is reduced fat doesn’t mean you can eat more of it! If low fat foods tempt you to overindulge, then you are defeating the purpose of a healthy menu. Some other useful tips include:
- Be sure you pack a healthy lunch the night before, so you won’t be tempted to grab fast food during lunch.
- Avoid any type of “combo” meals, which tend to pack an overwhelming amount of calories.
- Get a “walking buddy” so you can encourage each other to exercise daily.
- Eat slowly—remember it takes a while before your brain realizes you’re full.
- Skip sodas and sugary sports drinks in favor of water.
Dietitians and nutritionists can be incredibly valuable. Not only can they help you navigate the complicated world of food labels, but they can help you lose weight and reach your goals in a way that produces lasting results.