Think Before You Eat
Mindless eating can cause the calories to add up quickly, and before you know it your pants are more snug than usual.
The American Academy of Family Physicians offers this advice to consider before you start eating:
- Ask yourself whether you truly are hungry or if you are eating to fulfill another need, such as stress or boredom?
- Don’t look at some foods as off limits. Instead look at what you eat as part of a healthy diet that includes balance and moderation.
- Discuss with your doctor a healthy eating plan and the issues of food and weight loss.
- Use a food and activity journal to monitor your eating habits — including what you eat and when. — Diana Kohnle
Some foods that we think are healthy can be sneaky little diet wreckers. University of Pittsburgh nutritionist Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, shares a few of these “food frauds,” starting with Caesar salad. Just a small bowl has 300-400 calories and 30 grams of fat, thanks to loads of dressing.
Food Fix: Use only 1 Tbs. dressing and 2 Tbs. tangy, Parmesan cheese.
That “healthy” berry blend at a smoothie shop is likely to have a whopping 80 grams of sugar, 350 calories or more, little protein, and often no fresh fruit. Vitamin-poor fruit “concentrates” are commonly used instead of more expensive fresh fruit. And too much added sorbet, ice cream, and sweeteners can make these no better for your health than a milkshake.
Food Fix: Get the “small” cup. Ask for fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt, milk, or protein powder to blend in protein and good nutrition.
Food Fraud: Energy Bars
Many of these are simply enhanced candy bars with more calories (up to 500) and a higher price tag. Their compact size also leaves many people unsatisfied. “Three bites and it’s gone,” says Bonci, who advises hungry athletes and dancers.
Food Fix: Choose bars that have 200 calories or less, at least 5 grams of protein, and some fiber, which helps provide energy when the sugar rush fades.
Food Fraud? A Sugar-Free Dilemma
Sugar-free foods sound like a no-brainer for weight loss. But a problem arises when we choose an artificially sweetened food or drink, then feel that we deserve a large order of fries or a jumbo dessert. Upsizing the fries adds nearly 300 calories to your meal. If your calorie intake exceeds what you burn off, you’ll still gain weight — and you can’t blame the sugar-free foods.
Food Fix: Watch your total calorie intake..
Food Fraud: Enhanced Water
Vitamins are commonly added to bottled water and advertised on the front label. But some brands also add sugar, taking water from zero calories to as much as 125. “Often the vitamins don’t contribute much,” Bonci says, “but the calories can contribute a lot.”
Food Fix: Refrigerating tap water may make it more appealing to family members. Or try packets of crystallized lemon to add flavor without calories.
Food Fraud: 2% Milk Latte
It’s tempting to choose “reduced-fat” milk in a latte and reward yourself with whipped cream on top. Sadly, this trade-off still adds up to 580 calories and 15 grams of saturated fat in a 20 ounce white chocolate mocha. That’s worse than a quarter-pound burger with cheese.
Food Fix: A sweetened, frothy beverage is a diet splurge. Limit the damage with nonfat (skim) milk and no whipped cream. You’ll avoid 130 calories and two-thirds of the bad fat.
Food Fraud: Breakfast Muffins
Muffins masquerade as a healthy choice for breakfast. They beat doughnuts, they’re still mainly sugary little cakes of refined flour. One store-bought muffin can hit 500 calories with 11 teaspoons of sugar.
Food Fix: Go no larger than 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Or look for 100-calorie muffins at the store. They limit calories, and some brands are a surprisingly good source of whole grains and fiber.
Food Fraud: Multigrain
When you see “multigrain” or “seven grain” on bread, pasta, or waffles, flip the package over and check the nutrition label. Even with more than one type of grain, the product could be made largely from refined grains — such as white flour — which have been stripped of fiber and many nutrients.
Food Fix: Look for “100% whole grain” (oats, wheat) as the first ingredient. Or choose the brand with more fiber.
Food Fraud: Iced Tea
The antioxidants in iced tea don’t make it a health food. Too much
added sugar can turn a tall glass into a health hazard. A 20-ounce bottle can have more than 200 calories and 59 grams of sugar.
Food Fix: Skip “sweet tea” in favor of unsweetened iced tea. Lemon or artificial sweeteners add zing without calories. Herbal and berry teas taste mildly sweet without sugar.