Losing weight can be a daunting process, especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. Although you may initially think it’s as simple as reducing calories and increasing your vegetable intake, it’s essential to make sure you’re eating complete meals that provide your body with all the energy and nutrients it needs to thrive – without the unhealthy, processed ingredients that can inhibit it. Unfortunately, some foods that seem healthier because of their brand and labels are full of sodium, preservatives, and added sugars that you’d be better off without, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
It’s time to stop being misled, which is why we spoke to health experts Dr. Amy Lee, M.D., Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Clinical Nutrition and Bariatrics and partner my kind, and Jesse Vader, personal trainer, registered dietitian and contributor to My Crohn’s and Colitis Team To delve deeper into things and discover some of the most cheating foods out there. They pointed us to three main offenders: so-called “energy” bars, “healthy” and “organic” frozen meals, and store-bought smoothies. Read on to find out why you should stop eating these foods if you’re trying to lose weight.
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1. “Energy” bars like Nutrigrain
While cereal bars and so-called “energy” bars might seem like a great, quick way to start your day on the right foot on the go, Dr. Lee cautions that you shouldn’t be fooled by many seemingly healthy labels that include words like “whole grains” and “real fruit.” Often times, these are just operations to cover up unhealthy ingredients. “It sounds healthy but if you look at the ingredients list, you’ll find that it’s full of processed stuff like sucrose, sugar, dextrose, carrageenan, soy lecithin, and corn syrup,” she says, noting that Nutrigrain is one of the worst culprits. “Besides a lot of sugar, there are additives that are used specifically for food processing to keep ingredients together or to give them the texture we all expect.” Yikes! Sometimes an easy way out isn’t worth the health consequences; Try making a creamy bowl of oatmeal or whole-grain toast instead.
2. Frozen meals like Lean Cuisine and Amy’s
Frozen meals may be convenient, but what you save in time, you usually lose in nutrition. “Frozen foods/meals are usually high in fat, sodium, and calories. This can make it very difficult for someone to lose weight,” Vader says. He tells us this is true even when it comes to seemingly “healthy” brands. “For example, a serving of Lean Cuisine sesame chicken contains 15 grams of sugar and about 40% of your recommended daily sodium.” Say it is not! This means that despite the fact that this company positions itself as better-for-you and lower-calorie frozen foods, it may actually prevent you from achieving your weight loss goals.
Vader says Amy’s organic food brand is another one to be wary of. Just because these meals are organic and vegan and may sound healthier than the other options in the freezer aisle doesn’t mean they’re actually good for you. Take Emmy’s organic lasagna, for example. Vader points out that this meal contains 680 mg of sodium and packs 500 calories into one small serving. At the end of the day, this proves his point: “Just because it comes from a ‘healthy’ company, doesn’t necessarily mean it will be healthy,” he says. “Be sure to check these nutrition labels before purchasing.”
3. Store-bought sugary juices like Naked
Despite smoothies’ reputation for being a healthy breakfast option, this isn’t always the case. While increasing your daily fruit and vegetable intake is always a great idea when you’re trying to lose weight, the health benefits of store-bought shakes are often negated by the excess of added sugar. Dr. Lee uses Naked’s Green, which contains 53 grams of sugar, as an example. “As we read the ingredients list, some of the items are apple juice from concentrate or puree,” she says. Believe it or not, that makes this juice “as bad as eating a can of Coke.” That’s right: Although this drink is marketed as healthy and “green,” it offers almost no nutritional value. The same goes for many of the smoothies and smoothies out there, which is why your best bet is always to make your own at home, using wholesome, healthy ingredients — and as little sugar as possible.
Of course, no diet is perfect, and at the end of the day, moderation is key. However, if you’re eating these foods because you think they’re healthy options, it’s time to reconsider. In general, remember that your best bet is always to be an informed consumer by checking the label and keeping an eye on those fraudulent and manipulative ingredients. And where possible, remember to cook your own meals made with healthy, whole foods.
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