Eating right to lose weight isn't easy, especially when we have so many options at our fingertips. Do you try Weight Watchers, ZONE, Dukan, 17 Day Diet, or South Beach? Do you buy pre-packaged meals or try to cook and prepare food at home? OMG, I know, system overload, right? Getting the "cocktail" just right -- the plan, the food, the exercise -- for successful weight-loss can be mind-boggling.
But one thing that drives me nuts is that there are so many "diet" foods on our supermarket shelves. Light this, non-fat that, fat-free, carb-light, yadayada. Now gluten-free is in. Thinking lower-calorie, minimal fat is probably the best way to stay fit or shave off weight, tons of us buy into these labels while doing our shopping. Too bad many of those foods are actually fat traps in disguise!
Here, five "diet foods" that will actually hinder your weight-loss efforts ...
- Fat-free chips - Several years ago, I'd look at a bag of these and say to myself, "1 gram of fat per serving??? You have to be kidding me!" Because -- that's a dream come true for any Cool Ranch or Sour Cream & Onion fan. But, hold it right there! Any "guilt-free" crunch made with the faux fat Olean packs a heavy punch. Purdue researchers just concluded that not only does Olean trigger GI side effects in some people, but it can also make you gain weight. Rats who were fed Olean-containing potato chips as part of a high-fat diet ate more overall and gained more weight than those who were fed a high fat diet and regular, full-fat potato chips. Why? Fake fats screw with our body's ability to digest and metabolize food, making us more likely to retain weight from what we eat. Next time I'm at a BBQ, I will be reaching for the real thing, thankyouverymuch.
- Artificial sweetener - You hear it all the time. Someone in line at Starbucks or Dunkin' ordering their iced Americano with two Splendas or three Equals. They think they're doing themselves a favor. Sigh. Studies have proven that artificial sweeteners make you eat more and gain more weight. They confuse your brain and your metabolism, and as a result, they disrupt the body's ability to regulate incoming calories.
- Granola bars - Oh, look, it's all hippie-crunchy, protein-packed, and filled with "all-natural" dried fruit and oatmeal -- it must be good for you and help you stay slim, right? Nope. Sadly, most snacks that fall into this category are sugar and fat bombs in disguise. Even if it's 100 calories or fiber-filled, "coated" or "drizzled" tends to be code for partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, which contains saturated and trans fats.
- Diet soda - This one is such a biggie. And we even know it's bad for us, but so many of us still tout our "soda addiction." But please, no, stop the insanity! Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio even concluded that people who drink artificially sweetened drinks gained more weight than those who didn't, and blame it on the fact that those drinks often make you crave the real thing. I'll be the first to testify: I was addicted to diet soda, and it did not help me lose weight. It made me want chocolate. And there you have it.
- "Mediterranean" foods - We're told over and over that foods like wine and olive oil are good for us! They may even be slimming! Yay! But, just because there are antioxidants in red wine and healthy fats in EVOO doesn't mean we get a free pass to go to town with this stuff. You could unknowingly consume 478 calories and 54 grams of fat (7 grams saturated) in JUST olive oil, if you mindlessly dip bread into a plate of it at an Italian restaurant. And depending on how much you consume, drinking wine could cost ya 400 calories over the course of a meal.
And this, my friends, is why it pays to be savvy about false claims and fake labels. I swear, I think they're all trying to secretly keep us dieting so we keep coming back for more. It's a vicious cycle, I tell you!
Do you find yourself eating any of these diet foods? What are some other ones that are actually fat traps in disguise?
Image via Steve Snodgrass/Flickr