Nutritional advice regarding what foods a person ought to eat when trying to lose weight is often contradictory, misguided or quite plainly wrong. Much of the outdated attitudes towards foods that are actually healthy – especially fats – have been repeated so much that they have somehow become the accepted truth; even when so many studies have since disproved them. This has given rise to a variety of other foods being promoted as superior choices when on a diet plan – but in reality many of them are actually unhealthier alternatives that do little if anything to promote weight loss.
1- Breakfast Cereals
Ignore the labelling that loudly proclaims that the cereal is ‘whole grain’ or ‘low fat’, and instead turn the packet round and look at the nutritional information. Breakfast cereals are packed with calories largely because of the sugar that is added to these foods to make them palatable, and being based upon highly refined carbohydrates(1, 2).
Sure they’ll give you a burst of insulin powered energy – but a couple of hours later comes the crash and an inevitable craving for more high calorie carbs. This is a dieters nightmare as hunger pangs are bad enough when consuming a reduced diet(3).
A much better option is eating a breakfast comprising of eggs and vegetables that will provide not just much more vitamins and nutrients but release energy slowly into the bloodstream over the course of the morning. If cereal is the only option aim for those that do not contain processed grains or refined sugar.
2- Agave Nectar
Forget what you may have heard about this being a better option than sugar – the truth is that it’s actually worse. Sugar peaks at 50% fructose, whereas certain brands of agave syrup can reach the stratospheric heights of 90% fructose! Why is fructose so bad? In small quantities – like that found naturally in fruits – it isn’t, but consumed in such high percentages can cause havoc for metabolic health with a number of potential unpleasant consequences.(4)
In high quantities fructose causes insulin resistance, that in turn stimulates the body to store excess fat especially around the abdomen. It can also lead to high blood sugar levels through elevated levels of triglycerides and be a contributing factor in developing diabetes.(5, 6)
Dieters must stay away from any high fructose products – and agave syrup is worse than both refined sugar and even corn syrup(7).
3) Bread – Whole Wheat
‘Hey surely whole wheat bread is better for you!’ is the common response when people hear this – and yes, to an extent it is. But the differences aren’t as much as you may be led to believe thanks to the clever marketing of these breads by the baking companies. Most off the shelf whole wheat bread is still made from fine powdered flour that delivers a sharp spike and then crash – the glycaemic index is the same as processed white bread.(8)
Whole wheat bread does have a little more fibre and vitamins but these can be found in much greater levels in alternative foods that do not cause such metabolic chaos. With gluten intolerance on the rise it’s wise to look at alternatives to bread full-stop.(9, 10, 11)
Once again this is an example of when a healthy food becomes industrialized by the manufacturer they add all sorts of extra ingredients to make it more palatable – and also much less healthy. Natural granola is pretty healthy, but most of those found on the store shelves will have lots of added sugar and oils that bump up the calories and nullify the natural goodness of the food.
These extras are added to make the food more desirable and encourage larger portion sizes and, consequently overconsumption.
5- Low Fat Yoghurts
Fat makes things taste nice. When manufacturers remove the fat from a product it will, quite simply, taste pretty disgusting – and this is the last thing that business needs. So rather smartly the marketers have pitched a low fat yoghurt (following the mantra of demonizing fat) to which instead they choose to add lots of sugar or high fructose corn syrup. The result is happy repeat custom from people who feel good because they believe they are eating healthier, when in fact they are consuming product that is far worse for them.(12, 13)
Given that saturated fat has recently been shown to have no ill effect upon the human body, andin fact can be very good for it compared to artificial alternatives, there’s no reasonnot to consume yoghurt as nature intended it to be(14).
6- Processed Salad Dressings
Salad’s are great at providing us with a wealth of essential vitamins and minerals, low calorie and in quantitycan be surprisingly filling. However even the most committed dieter will get bored pretty quick, so the temptation is to buy a mass produced bottle of tasty dressing to jazz the salad up a little.
Don’t. Off the shelf dressings are invariably clogged withadded sugars and unpleasant oils and syrups to make them so moreish, and consequently are jam packed with useless calories. Try making your own with a little virginoil mixed with spices, perhaps some balsamic vinegar. If that sounds like a chore remember the survey from a few years back that showed a salad from a famous fast food restaurant was found to be more calorific than their signature double patty burger. It was the dressing.
7- Fruit Juices
These are on a par with full sugar sodas in regards to calories and contain a fraction of the goodness that is found in whole fruit. When pulped and processed the ingredients lose almost all of their fibre, equating to that refreshing glass of chilled OJ being akin to glugging down pure sugar – with all the consequent unpleasantness.(15, 16)
Even worse are ‘fruit juices’ that are in fact just artificial flavorings stirred into a bucket of sugary water. Avoid at all costs unless opting for a totally sugar free alternative, and even then consume only in small quantities.
8- Diet Sodas
Not as bad as others on this list but a potential danger for some, making the switch to very low calorie sodas is a good first step for any dieter. But bear in mind that the artificial sweeteners used in these drinks may stimulate the appetite and encourage overconsumption of other foods(17).
9- Processed Organic Foods
Organic foods as nature intended are fantastic and any dieter should try to eat these wherever possible. Yet the food industry uses similar methods with organic products as they do with their standard ranges when making processed foods such as cereal bars and snacks.
As usual this is demon refined sugar – and even if the sugar happens to be organic it makes no difference – it is still empty calories that cause severe disruption to our organs and metabolism.
10- Trail Mix
The clue is in the name – trail. When consumed for energy while performing extreme exercise such as a long hike trail mix is a great option, being full of relatively nutritious if highly calorific nuts and grains. Being high carb and high fat is just what you need to keep energy levels nice and high – the problem arises when they are consumed for a treat rather than as a source of fuel.
Dieters should stay well clear as even a small portion can contain a huge amount of calories, and they are especially moreish thanks to being so sugary.
11- Gluten Free Snacks
It doesn’t matter if a snack professes to be gluten free or not – they’re still not good for you. Chemicals, refined carbs and sugar are all par for the course – the fact it may be gluten free means nothing and in regards to health benefits is merely another example of cunning marketing trying to make us feel better about ourselves.
By Kris Gunnars