So you’ve resolved to drop a few extra pounds for your health and energy — good for you! First, I want to tell you that the journey you’re about to undertake won’t always be easy, but it is worth it. Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight not only increases your long term lifespan, but also helps you feel better in the short term too and vastly decreases the risk of many age-associated diseases and conditions (high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, chronic joint pain, etc).
And now, the bad news… resolving to eat “healthy” or go “low fat” or shop for “diet” foods isn’t as simple as it sounds, despite — or because of? — the myriad choices all looking to supply would be dieters with better food options. I am just going to say it: Read the labels and know what you’re looking for in terms of calories, carbs, sugar, and so on.
Understanding what your body needs for nutrition and how it processes food is the key to choosing a correct diet for your fitness goals. Big food corporations don’t really care if you meet your fitness goals. Sorry, they don’t. They care about mass-producing as much product as cheaply as they can to maximize their profits.
They will exploit loopholes in package labeling laws if it helps them to convince you to buy their product over a competitor’s. So, while books could, and have been, written about ways to diet, I’m going to try to stick to the highlights…
University of Georgia Study Shows that “Diet” Foods Can Make You GAIN Weight:
Date: April 25, 2017
Source: University of Georgia
Summary: High-fat foods are often the primary target when fighting obesity, but sugar-laden ‘diet’ foods could be contributing to unwanted weight gain as well.
Researchers found that rats fed a diet high in sugar but low in fat — meant to imitate many popular diet foods — increased body fat mass when compared to rats fed a balanced rodent diet. The high-sugar diet induced a host of other problems, including liver damage and brain inflammation.
“Most so-called diet products containing low or no fat have an increased amount of sugar and are camouflaged under fancy names, giving the impression that they are healthy, but the reality is that those foods may damage the liver and lead to obesity as well,” said the study’s principal investigator, Krzysztof Czaja, an associate professor of veterinary biosciences and diagnostic imaging in UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
“What’s really troubling in our findings is that …. rats fed a low-fat, high-sugar diet, the efficiency of generating body fat is more than twice as high — in other words, rats consuming low-fat high-sugar diets need less than half the number of calories to generate the same amount of body fat.” Czaja said.
Over a four-week period, researchers monitored body weight, caloric intake, body composition and fecal samples in three groups of rats. One group of test subjects consumed a diet high in fat and sugar, another group was fed a low-fat, high-sugar diet and a third group was given a balanced or “normal” diet.
Both the low-fat, high-sugar and high-fat, high-sugar groups displayed an increase in liver fat and significant increases in body weight and body fat when compared to the balanced diet group. Liver fat accumulation was significant in the high-sugar, low-fat group, which Czaja said “is a very dangerous situation, because the liver accumulating more fat mimics the effect of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.”
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is caused by fat buildup in the liver, and serious forms of the disease can result in liver damage comparable to that caused by heavy alcohol use.
The unbalanced diets also induced chronic inflammation in the intestinal tract and brain. Former studies in rats conducted by Czaja have shown that brain inflammation alters gut-brain communication by damaging the vagus nerve, which controls sensory signals, including the brain’s ability to determine when one is full.
“The brain changes resulting from these unbalanced diets seem to be long term, and it is still not known if they are reversible by balanced diets,” Czaja said.
Story Source: Materials provided by University of Georgia. Original written by Elizabeth Fite. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Journal Reference: Tanusree Sen, Carolina R. Cawthon, Benjamin Thomas Ihde, Andras Hajnal, Patricia M. DiLorenzo, Claire B. de La Serre, Krzysztof Czaja. Diet-driven microbiota dysbiosis is associated with vagal remodeling and obesity. Physiology & Behavior, 2017; 173: 305 DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.02.027
So, what do we do? If we can’t trust diet foods to be low sugar AND low fat, how can you adjust your diet to get fit without extreme changes?
That’s all. Don’t obsess. Pay attention to what you put in your body. Here’s how to avoid some common “health” food mistakes:
This superfood is packed with nutrients and antioxidants, belly-filling fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. But if your goal is weight loss, watch your serving size. Avocados are high in fat and calorically dense. One serving size is just 1/5 of an avocado, and that has 50 calories, so a single avocado can deliver more than 350 calories. A small bowl of guacamole is awfully close to a whole meal.
Consuming moderate amounts of red wine (and other types of alcohol) may reduce risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, certain types of cancers, and even weight gain. The key word: moderate. A 5-ounce serving is about 130 calories, so learn what that looks like in your glass and save overindulgence for special occasions.
Nuts are full of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin E, and fiber—but they’re also high in calories. A quarter-cup of almonds, for example, contains 132 calories. It’s easy to eat them by the handful, so measure out a reasonable serving rather than eating straight from the container.
Nuts, dried fruits, and oats—sounds super healthy, right? Some store-bought brands pack in ingredients like honey, added sugar, and chocolate — so look at the serving size and calories. Plus, as you already learned, nuts are high in fat. You can actually make your own trail mix, leaving out the worst offenders and then limit yourself to a quarter-cup serving.
Dried fruits are just normal fruits that have had the water taken out of them. So, a cup of dried fruit packs five to eight times more calories and sugar than a cup of the fresh stuff. Here’s some perspective: a cup of fresh grapes is 60 calories, while a cup of raisins is a whopping 460. Snack on fresh fruit whenever possible. Use dried fruit sparingly as a garnish, not as a snack.
Dark chocolate has disease-fighting polyphenols and has even been associated with weight loss—if you don’t eat too much of it, that is (the struggle is real). An ounce of dark chocolate packs in 155 calories and 9 grams of fat, 5 of it saturated. But here’s a quick way to judge the “healthiness” of your dark chocolate: the higher percentage of cacao it has, the less sugar it has room for. That can make it bitter, but some like it bitter. I prefer mine at 70% or higher. At that intensity, you really only want a couple squares at a time.
Gluten-free Packaged Foods
If you have a gluten intolerance, then you must drop wheat, barley, and rye from your diet to stay healthy. But gluten-free products aren’t necessarily diet-friendly. Gluten-free packaged foods often replace regular flour with cornstarch and brown rice flour, which are more calorically dense. Whether or not you’re on a gluten-free diet, you should try to eat as many whole, natural foods as possible, and limit your intake of heavily processed foods.
What could be unhealthy about a glass of blended fruit, veggies, and ice? When you add ingredients like chocolate, peanut butter, frozen yogurt, or flavored syrups and serve in a huge cup, a smoothie quickly becomes a sneaky source of added calories — may as well just get that milkshake you must be craving.
You can still smoothie it up, just — again — pay attention! Smoothies should contain nothing other than fresh or unsweetened frozen fruit, ice, plain yogurt, and unsweetened milk or juice.
A serving of tuna canned in water boasts a whopping 39 grams of protein for just 179 calories. However, most people add mayo, which tacks on an additional 90 calories and 10 grams of fat per tablespoon. So swap out that mayo for Greek yogurt— same tangy flavor with a fraction of the calories and fat, plus additional protein.
The caffeine in coffee may help protect your brain cells against the damage that causes dementia, and the antioxidants ward off disease. But if you order a large latte with whole milk, you’ll be sipping up to 300 calories and 15 grams of fat (not to mention those flavor shots and whipped toppings). Drink it black, and you consume just 5 calories. Add a splash of fat-free milk and a teaspoon of sugar for just an additional 30 calories. I have found that a little sweetened almond milk is all I need in mine.
You may be congratulating yourself for choosing a wrap over a couple slices of bread. But it turns out that many varieties are in fact worse for your waistline than whole grain bread. A Mission Spinach Wrap, for example, racks up 210 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 440 milligrams of belly-bloating sodium—and that’s before you even add any toppings.
Keep calories under control by using the smaller sandwich tortillas (6 to 8 inches in diameter). The package should say “100% whole grain.” Some “veggie wraps” are just a white-flour wrap with a tiny amount of veggies and a whole lot of food coloring.
Tea contains disease-fighting antioxidants and has been linked to improved heart health and reduced risk for dementia. However, drinking sweetened bottled tea may do your health more harm than good. These products are loaded with sugar, and one bottle may contain two or more servings. Brew your own iced tea and add sweetener gradually to taste; you’ll probably use less than you’d get from a bottle. Or, buy an unsweetened variety.
Energy bars are loaded with sugar and carbs and are high on the glycemic index. Eat one while sitting at your desk, and you’ll feel the sugar rush—and then the crash. Though energy bars aren’t ideal for everyday snacking, they come in handy when you’re traveling or exercising for longer than an hour. Just pay attention to the ingredients and the nutrition information to make sure you’re getting what you think you are…
Whole Wheat Bread
Unless it’s made from actual whole grains, it’s just as processed as white bread. Often, the whole wheat has been ground into a fine flour that’s easy to digest and spikes your blood sugar just as quickly as white bread. So, look for 100% whole wheat, whole grain, or sprouted breads instead.
As always, chew slowly and thoroughly to aid digestion and to give your body plenty of time to signal your brain that it’s full. And you only need to eat until you are no longer hungry, *not until you’re full*.
Add Paula’s Purple Rice!
A single 1 teaspoon serving of Paula’s Purple Rice contains only 20 calories and 4 carbohydrates. Because of the low calories and low carbs, plus all the extra health benefits it adds, I feel confident taking it 1 to 3, even 4 times a day, knowing I won’t have to worry about weight gain.
If I am reducing calories and carbs, I always reduce them by lowering my intake of other foods or drinks, not my Paula’s Purple Rice.
What are your best tips for keeping the “healthy” diet foods from sneaking in extra calories? Tell me in the comments!
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