Sometimes it can be hard to eat healthier. If you are on the run or have a lot on the go, you need something convenient that doesn’t require any prep work.
So you are standing in the grocery store holding two packages of snack foods. One is the regular variety while the other is labeled “light” and “25 percent fewer calories”.
If you are trying to eat healthier, the choice is obvious right? !
The Myth of “Diet Foods”
So-called diet foods can be very deceiving. They’re covered with labels reading fat-free, low-fat or low calorie and seem like a no-brainer when you are trying to lose a little weight.
However, these types of foods can derail your healthy lifestyle in a few ways
Added Sugar in Low Fat or Fat Free Foods
Fat adds flavor and texture to foods. Fat makes food juicy & tender. It gives baked goods their flakiness and sauces their silkiness. To compensate for the lost flavor and texture from fat, sugar and other ingredients are often added. As a result many diet foods end up containing more sugar and sometimes even more calories than their full fat counterparts.
In addition, because the ingredients that help satiate our hunger and keep us feeling fuller longer are gone, diet foods are not satisfying and we end up eating more to feel full.
The Healthy Halo Effect
Secondly, so many studies have shown that consumers who eat “light” food items will actually consume more than if they had stuck with the regular version of the product.
In one well-known study, published in the Journal of Marketing Research, participants were given the choice of two bowls of M&Ms: one which was the “regular” version of the product and one that was labeled “low fat.” Researchers found that participants, on average, ate nearly 30 per cent more of the “low fat” M&Ms.
This is where the Healthy Halo thwarts our efforts. The Healthy Halo effect refers to our tendency to overestimate a food’s health value based on a health claim on the label. We think If it’s healthier we can eat more. Head to episode #23 for more on the Healthy Halo effect.
So now what do we do?
Don’t worry, you are not stuck between having to slave for hours in the kitchen or grabbing a light, low fat or low calorie convenience food.
What Can I Eat Instead?
Start with your Grab and Go snack list from way back in Episode 2 with choices like:
- A handful of nuts
- Beef jerky or turkey jerky. Look for low sodium and a short ingredient list – not a lot of chemicals and additives)
- A snack pack of hummus and veggies or tuna and crackers
- Protein bar. Look for low sugar and more protein than carbs. Ideally you can pronounce most of the ingredients) Like Larabar or Kind Bar.
- Single serve greek yoghurt
- String Cheese
There is one more thing I wanted to touch on while I’m talking about fat-free products
Fat Free or Low Fat Salad Dressings
Salad dressing enhances the flavor of raw vegetables and can actually improve a salad’s nutritional value. Here’s what I mean:
Traditional salad dressings are high in healthy fats. This fat helps your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K as well as the antioxidants from foods such as leafy greens, carrots, and tomatoes
In contrast, low fat and fat-free salad dressings don’t contribute any health benefits to your meal. Most of them also contain sugar and preservatives to replicate the texture provided by oil.
So when choosing a dressing to top your salad or dip your veggies in, look for those made without sugar and that contain natural fats like olive oil. You can even make a simple dressing yourself using balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a few herbs and spices.
Healthy eating can be stressful and confusing. There are so many conflicting messages out there fueled by the desire for food companies to increase their bottom lines.
In the end all you can do is the best you can. Read labels and ingredient lists as much as possible and learn about the food you are putting in your mouth on a regular basis.
As I always say, knowledge is power. The bottom line is – when you eat with knowledge and in moderation and balance you can be free to eat what you want while reaching your health and weight loss goals. Willpower not required.
Looking for other healthy eating tips? Find more on the blog here
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