Souped-Up DrinksThere are hundreds of “health” drink options on the market today. You can find drinks filled with vitamins, probiotics and even fiber. But how do they truly stack up when it comes to meaningful weight loss?
If they’ve got more than 1 to 2 ingredients, my advice is to skip it. That’s because any drink with various ingredients is likely to either have added calories in the form of simple sugars, and if it’s sweet but has no calories, it’s got artificial sweeteners, which aren't great for your waistline, either. Recent studies are linking artificial sweeteners with vascular events and even increases in metabolic syndrome. When it comes to drinks, think simple – water, coffee, tea – and cheap!
Premade SmoothiesThat premade or store-bought smoothie you think is so healthy may in fact have more calories than a cheeseburger! Smoothies can have as much as 650 to 1000 calories in them due to the extreme portions of fruit, vegetables, and, often times, added simple sugars and syrups. We feel more comfortable getting larger sizes of smoothies because they contain plant-based nutrients our bodies need, but as with anything, you can overdo it.
Trail MixAh, the ease of taking a handful of trail mix from a bag for a quick snack on your way out the door. Ease, yes. Low in calories, no. Although healthy trail mix is possible (ones made with just nuts, some dark chocolate, and some dried apricots is one option), most of the versions we are buying at the store are loaded with candy-coated pieces, yogurt-covered raisins, sesame sticks and deep-fried banana chips. If you put your hand in the bag twice, you're looking at almost 600 calories chock-full of simple sugars, trans fat and refined carbohydrates!
Frozen Diet EntréesThese are typically loaded with sodium. And while they may be be low in calories, they’re also low in nutrients (for example, refined grains may be used instead of whole grains). These frozen meals are a great example of quick convenient food that provides no bang for your nutritional buck.
BarsMany energy, fiber and protein bars are about two steps away from a candy bar! We’re often lured in by promises of high fiber or protein, but other than these added-in nutrients, there’s not much else. Want fiber and protein? Make your own energy bars at home or have some string cheese or an apple instead! I promise you it’s a much better option if you’re trying to get back into your high-school jeans.
MuffinsTrying to be “good,” so you have a bran muffin over a doughnut every morning? You should have just had the doughnut. Most commercially sold bran muffins contain about 800 calories of pure sugar and fat, well above the calorie count of many traditional cake doughnut. While I’m definitely not advocating consumption of doughnuts for breakfast, I am pointing out that sometimes what we think is “healthy” is actually far worse for us than foods we know are NOT healthy. A simple fix: Read the nutritional information! It may stop you from making a huge diet mistake.
Frozen YogurtFrozen yogurt seems so much better than ice cream. In the world of saturated fat, it is – but in terms of calories and simple sugars, they’re closer than you think. Once we load up the frozen yogurt with sugar- and fat-laden toppings, it’s pretty much equal to its ice-cream counterparts!
Fat-Free SweetsFat-free cookies and cakes are deceiving. People think that “fat-free” means “calorie-free,” so they tend to eat more than usual. Further, the sugar replaces the fat in these products so you’re still getting a high number of calories.
GranolaFor most (but not all), a teeny tiny amount of granola will give you a wallop of trans fats and sugar – both have been shown to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke – and calories. Plus, the portions are so small that we tend not to be satisfied with the initial bowl and continue to fill the bowl until the milk is gone … and then add a little more milk, what I like to call the vicious cereal cycle.
Nut ButtersPeanuts, walnuts and cashews are amazing, and so are their healthy fats. They’ve been shown to help boost heart health and keep weight down, so why would you take some of the fat out and replace it with sugar and saturated or trans fat? When it comes to nut butters, stick with options that have one to two ingredients; for example, peanuts or peanuts and salt. Once you go beyond that, your health food has just become unhealthy.
[via Dr. Oz]