We all have staples we turn to when we’re trying to slim
down—some readers tell me they switch to frozen, low-fat dinners, for example.
Truth? Hearing about habits like these makes me cringe a little, because I know
they’re not as healthy as people think they are. Consider leaving these popular
“skinny” foods out of your shopping cart:
Though it has fewer calories and far
less sugar than regular soda, diet soda may actually keep you from losing
weight. A study last year found that people who drank two or more diet sodas a
day had waist size increases six times (yes, you read that right) greater than
people who didn’t drink the diet stuff. Experts don’t know exactly why, but
suspect that the sweet taste may prime your body to crave more sweets and may
wind up overeating on other unhealthy food later on.
Although they can be packed with
healthy vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, smoothies can also carry loads
of calories, fat, and sugar. Make sure your smoothie is filled with whole
fruits and vegetables and low fat milk or milk alternatives. Skip
those laden with peanut butter, chocolate, or fruit syrups. If you’re substituting a smoothie for a meal,
stick to 350 to 400 calories; if you’re having one as a snack, it should be 200
calories or fewer.
These foods are high in sodium and
sugar, as well as other chemicals you don’t need. They do teach you about
portion control, but many dieters find themselves starving and bingeing on
snacks later. A smarter option: Stick to a realistic portion of a real food,
like whole-wheat pasta (about 2 ounces) or a grilled chicken breast (about 3
ounces), then pile your plate with a mountain of veggies, which will bulk up
your stomach and prevent post-meal hunger pangs.
Yogurt is filled with calcium and
protein that’s great satiating hunger, but flavored yogurt can also carry loads
of extra sugar and calories that sabotage your healthy eating and prime your
palate to crave sweet flavors. Try plain yogurt and adding in a small teaspoon
of honey for sweetness.
Although these are a good alternative
to saturated fat-laden regular chips, baked chips usually have tons of sodium,
sugar, and empty calories—and lack filling fiber. If you’re in the mood for
something crunchy, try dipping fresh, raw veggies into a healthy dip, like
hummus, or plain rice cakes with two teaspoons of peanut butter.