7 Foods That Are Ruining Your Diet
Your intentions are healthy, but your choices may not be. Prevent diet sabotage by keeping an eye out for these seven foods.
Trail mix and other sweet-salty-crunchy concoctions may be handy snacks, but be careful that you’re not mindlessly munching on not-so-healthy versions. Many packaged varieties come filled with sugary candies and super-salty seasoned munchies. Some also contain highly processed sweeteners and partially hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats).
Calorie-free bevvies like soda, fruit drinks and sweetened teas may help reduce your calorie count but may still not be worth gulping. Recent research has linked the artificial sweetener aspartame to leukemia and lymphoma in both men and women. Consumption of just one diet soda a day may pose a risk. There’s also research that suggests increased intake of these faux sweeteners can increase cravings for other sugary foods.
The lowest-calorie option isn’t always the healthiest. When it comes to junk food in disguise, yogurt may be one of the worst offenders. Some of the super low-cal yogurts cut back on sugar and fat but replace them with artificial sweeteners and thickeners – which doesn’t seem like a healthier choice to me. Check the ingredient list on your favorite brand.
There seems to be mass appeal surrounding a protein-infused shake to start your day or end a workout; as it turns out, it’s not doing you much good. According to the CDC, many Americans consume more protein than they actually need. You might just be whirling a whole lot of extra calories into your day. Instead of expensive powders, opt for food-based options like yogurt or peanut butter to moderately boost the protein in your smoothies and shakes.
Plant-based oils like olive, safflower, grapeseed and canola can benefit heart health but still must be consumed in moderation. Any oil packs in about 120 calories and 14 grams of fat per serving. Pay attention to portions when cooking and drizzling, to avoid a steep increase in calories.
Gluten-free is often mistaken for a healthier alternative, but a cookie is still a cookie even when made sans gluten. In fact, many gluten-free baked items are higher in calories than their wheat-filled counterparts. Folks who suffer from celiac disease must steer clear of gluten, but carefully reading the nutrition facts on food labels is good advice for everyone.
Whole-grain breads, pastas and cereals are certainly the best options to increase or boost fiber, vitamins and minerals, but portions still matter. Two cups of cooked whole-wheat pasta contains 420 calories (compare that with the 4-to-6-cup servings that most restaurants offer up). For the healthiest results, pair pasta with fresh veggies and protein from lean meats and legumes to make a meal most satisfying without going overboard.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.