#1 – Fat Free Foods
It’s an unfortunate fact that fat gets a bad rap among dieters. True, fat contains more than twice the number of calories per gram as does protein or carbohydrates, but some fat is necessary for the absorption of vitamins and a feeling of satiety.
Fat free foods usually contain more sugar than their full-fat or reduced-fat counterparts. They also tend to be less satisfying, leading many dieters to overeat in an attempt to satisfy their natural craving for fat.
Instead of eating only fat-free foods, compromise by eating moderate portions of reduced-fat dairy along with avocados, nuts, olive oil, and salmon. These foods contain unsaturated fats that meet your dietary needs and improve your heart’s health.
#2 – Diet Soda
Diet soda is a dieter’s best friend, right? After all, it contains no calories, so it can’t have detrimental effects.
Wrong! Artificial sweeteners like those found in diet sodas have been the focus of many scientific studies. Those studies found that people who drank only diet sodas were more likely to be fat than those who drank an occasional sugary soda. There is some debate over why this is the case, but some experts suspect that the diet sweeteners stimulate the production of insulin, which in turn increases the appetite.
Water is the healthiest drink for dieters. Green and black teas are also good. But if you can’t give up the fizzy drinks altogether, at least limit your intake to just a few sodas each week.
#3 – Pre-packaged Frozen Diet Meals
Frozen diet foods are very convenient, and some even taste great. Simply buy one, pop it in the microwave, and you’ve got a quick, portable, low-calorie meal.
The problem with these prepackaged meals is their sodium content. Your body only needs 500mg of sodium in order to function properly. More than that can have an irritating effect on your organs, and can lead to bloating and even high blood pressure. If you eat one or more frozen meals per day, you can easily take in three times the sodium you need – or more!
Some frozen meal makers offer low-sodium options. Try those, or take a can of low-sodium soup with you. You could also pack yourself a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread, with broccoli and baby carrots to snack on.
#4 – Coffee
Caffeine tends to decrease the appetite and stimulate energy, which has given it a reputation as a good diet supplement. But coffee (and any highly caffeinated beverage) can actually work against your weight loss efforts in three ways.
First, coffee is often taken with sugar and cream. Many dieters forget to factor in those additions when calculating their caloric intake. If you have a habit of buying morning lattes, you’ll want to kick that habit soon. One large latte can set you back hundreds of calories. If you do drink coffee, drink it black or with low-fat milk.
Too much coffee can leave you jittery, putting additional stress on your body. When your body feels stressed, it produces the hormone cortisol, which causes abdominal fat storage. Reducing your caffeine intake can help you feel more relaxed and get better sleep, both of which will counteract cortisol production.
Finally, caffeine is a diuretic. It pushes fluid from your body, and can leave you dehydrated as a result. Even mild dehydration can cause your kidneys to stop functioning efficiently. Your liver acts as a back-up filtration system, which takes it away from its usual task of metabolizing fat. Thus, dehydration slows your fat metabolism, in addition to its other nasty side effects.
Make it a habit of drinking one to two glasses of water for each cup of coffee you consume. This will head off dehydration and give you the benefits of increased water consumption as well.
#5 – Diet Shakes
Weight loss shakes might seem like a good idea. They are convenient, carefully portioned for calorie control, and many of them are quite tasty and nutritious.
But diet shakes aren’t usually as satisfying as a regular meal. Some are also high in sugar, which is bad news for dieters who want to limit their intake of simple carbohydrates. Sugar can cause blood glucose spikes that lead to crab cravings, making it difficult to keep your appetite under control.
Price is also a consideration. Money spent on diet shakes is money you could be spending on more nutritious, satisfying solid foods. The cost of diet shakes can really add up, especially if you’re drinking several a day.
Some diet shakes are actually very high in calories. These shakes were designed to be meal replacements. If they are consumed in addition to regular meals, the calories will add up fast!
#6 – Diet Junk Food
There is a huge selection of reduced-calorie, reduced-fat, and reduced-sugar snacks at the grocery store. But diet junk food is still junk food, so don’t waste too much of your calorie allotment on “virtuous” snacks.
When you’re trying to lose weight, every calorie counts. It’s much better for your body if you load up on high-quality foods that pack a lot of nutrition into a small calorie count. Diet cookies, snack cakes, and chips are good on occasion, but they add empty calories to your daily intake.
Watch out for artificial sweeteners and fat substitutes. Many people are sensitive to saccharine and aspartame; too much of these substances gives them bloating, joint pain, increased hunger, and fatigue. Olestra, a fat substitute used in some potato chips, can cause intestinal pain and diarrhea. Some sugar alcohols used to sweeten sugar-free candies cause the same effects if eaten in large quantities.
Diet snacks labeled “cholesterol free” can be misleading. If these products contain tropical oils like palm kernel oil or coconut oil, you can bet they’re loaded with saturated fat – the kind that clogs your arteries. While tropical oils are technically cholesterol free, consuming them can lead to high cholesterol levels.
Diet foods aren’t always the best choice for dieters. They can add heavy doses of sodium, flavor-enhancing chemicals, and saturated fats to your meal plan. If you’re going to splurge, you might find it healthier and more satisfying to eat a small amount of “real” junk food on occasion.