You’re going to the gym and choosing healthy options instead of chowing down on chips and chocolate. So, why is your waistline still bulging?
The truth is that for too many years we’ve been force-fed a diet of inaccurate information about the food we eat. Manufacturers have pushed ‘fat free,’ ‘diet and ‘light’ options that are highly processed, full of sweeteners, sugar and additives. The foods are ultimately unsatisfying so we eat more and more and the scales only move upwards.
You may feel like a paragon of virtue when you pick the OJ instead of a fizzy soda- but when it comes down to it they’re both just sugary water. When a fruit is juiced, all the fibre that keeps your bowel healthy and regulates the absorption of the fruit sugars into your bloodstream is chucked in the bin. That means that a glass of juice has all the calories and sugar contained in the fruit, but it’s much less filling. It’s easy to glug bag 5 oranges worth in a few minutes, which you’d be unlikely to manage as a quick morning snack.
So skip the cartons of juice. Instead try using a Nutribullet that will include all of the fibrous goodness too, add a few veggies to your juice, or even better have a glass of water and eat the whole fruit or veg instead.
Low Fat Flavored Yoghurt
When manufacturers take out the fat from the yoghurt, they tend to pump it full of sugar and artificial flavorings to compensate for the loss of taste and richness of texture.
Many of the ‘healthy’ yoghurts actually have more sugar than the sweet mousses and chocolate pots that are considered an indulgent desert.
Take care to look at the labels and step well away from any products with double digits of grams of sugar. Look out for natural Greek yoghurts instead. They tend to be lower in added sugars and low in the milk sugar, lactose too. Both low fat and full fat varieties can be delicious and you can add berries, nuts and seeds to add texture, flavor and a little nutritional boost.
Granola was touted as a healthy breakfast back in the sixties and seventies. It was the healthy, hippy option, and with whole oats and nuts was probably better than the sugar frosted and chocolate concoctions that usually graced the breakfast tables.
But the added sugars and high levels of fat mean that you might as well crumble up chocolate flapjack for your brekkie. Granola can be hugely calorific, so it is better to enjoy small amounts as an occasional treat.
If you love your granola, try making your own so that you can decrease the amounts of sugar and oil, and bump up the nutritional goodness. Also try sprinkling just a little Greek Yoghurt on and eat it with a few berries for a meal that packs a bigger protein punch with less refined sugar.
Low Fat Spreads
If you’ve been slathering margarine or low fat spreads on your toast as a healthy alternative to butter, stop now. Many of these products contain higher levels of trans fats, which have been associated with increased levels of coronary heart disease and maybe cancer. Either skip the spread, or choose a small amount of butter instead (1).
Lots of people argue that refined flour is as bad as sugar. In fact it is broken down to sugars by the digestive system and has little nutritional value. Often a brown loaf has just been colored to change its appearance, it’s a white slice in disguise.
“Enriched” on the packet has got to be good right? No. It really means that all the nutrients have been lost in manufacture, so they have had to artificially boost the micronutrient content. The packet is telling you that a food has been stripped of its nutrient content during processing, so much so that the manufacturer had to add something back in.
Whole grain bread may seem healthy and wholesome but there are problems with the definition of “whole grain.” At the moment it doesn’t account for fiber and many products contain little, you’d need to eat 16 slices of whole-wheat bread to get the recommended daily dose of fiber, which definitely would not be healthy. Get your fiber from plenty of veggies instead.(2)
Low Fat Ready Meals
These seem like the answer to a busy dieter’s prayers. Described as balanced, nutritious, low in fat the pictures look tempting and they’re ready after bunging them in the microwave for 5 minutes. But these meals are often loaded with sodium, sugar and filled out with bland white carbs. They may be low in calories, but they’re even lower in nutritional goodness.
Lots of people have been quitting sugar and have been searching for sweet alternatives to the deadly white stuff. Agave nectar seems to be a healthy, natural alternative. But agave is even more dense in calories than sugar. It’s highly processed and contains more fructose than high fructose corn syrup. When it comes to sweet treats, it’s better to eat less, rather than trying to create ‘healthier’ alternatives (3).
Find out more:
- Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies (BMJ 2015; 351) Russell J de Souza, Andrew Mente, Adriana Maroleanu, Adrian I Cozma, Vanessa Ha et al.
- Whole-Grain Foods Not Always Healthful (Scientific American on July 25, 2013) Melinda Wenner Moyer
- Agave Nectar: A Sweetener That is Even Worse Than Sugar (Authority Nutrition May 2016) Joe Leech, Dietitian