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When opting for healthier alternatives to your favorite foods, be sure to avoid misleading titles such as reduced fat, low fat, and fat-free. If they seem too good to be true, they most likely are! Marketing is dangerously misleading. These foods may have a pinch less fat, but contain extremely high amounts of sugar, cholesterol, and sodium compared to their regular or traditional counterparts. Even worse, these fat-free fillers can cause more damage than good. Read below to find out the top diet foods you should stay away from for good!
1. Reduced Fat Peanut Butter
Reduced fat peanut butter actually has the same amount of calories as regular peanut butter. The difference is reduced fat peanut butter has more sugar, whereas regular peanut butter has more monounsaturated fats. We often forget that some fats are “good fats,” and peanut butter is one of them. Monounsaturated fats are filled with health benefits. The American Heart Association states that they can reduce bad cholesterol blood levels, which lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke. These good fats also develop and maintain your body’s cells. So stick with natural peanut butter or almond butter, or just snack on nuts! Mix roasted peanuts (not dry roasted) with paprika, garlic and onion powder.
2. Low Fat Yogurt
Authority Nutrition states that yogurt can actually hurt your diet. When low fat or non-fat yogurt is produced, the removal of fat requires the addition of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial flavors and colors to improve the taste and texture. This does more harm than good nutritionally, but also does not satisfy your hunger and makes you crave more sugar, in addition to gaining more cavities. Also beware of fructose, syrups, acesulfame potassium (aspartame), sucralose (Splenda), or neotame, which are artificial ingredients with extreme sweetness. Stick with regular Greek yogurt, plain or with real fruit at the bottom. Greek yogurt has more protein and a thicker consistency, which will help keep you satisfied.
3. Fat-Free Salad Dressing
Salad dressing gets a bad rap, but the fat content in healthy oils is extremely beneficial, with fatty acids and antioxidants. A general rule of thumb is to avoid heavy, creamy dressings like Ranch, Thousand Island, and Caesar. They are loaded with unneeded calories which can cause you to gain weight. It’s best to stick to olive oil based dressings like Italian and vinaigrettes.
Whisk extra virgin olive oil, balsamic or apple cider vinegar, garlic, and your choice of spices/herbs to make a personalized dressing to satisfy your palette. Experiment to find out what you like best—the possibilities are endless!
4. Fat-Free Chips
Chips are some of the worst foods you can eat. They are fried at high temperatures and sprayed with flavoring. But the chips that are advertized to be better for you are even worse. Olean or Olestra is a calorie-less, fat-free fat substitute used as a food additive in snacks. It is not only an artificial additive, but it’s also highly addictive and can cause some unpleasant side effects like abdominal cramping and loose stools. When you need to satisfy your salt tooth, opt for pretzels. Or try organic chips cooked with coconut oil instead of GMO vegetable oils (corn or soybean). Or you can make your own chips! Slice potatoes or sweet potatoes, lightly toss with olive oil, and bake in the oven for a fresh, crispy snack.
5. Low Fat Cheese
When fat is taken out of cheese, the end result is 51% actual cheese, and doesn’t qualify as cheese, but rather “cheese food.” The other 49% constitutes preservatives, emulsifiers, food coloring, and other creative and potentially detrimental additives that should not belong in food in the first place. Ironically, reduced fat cheese has around 20% more sodium that regular cheese, which increases its flavor and shelf life. Stick with real cheese that is naturally healthier, like Swiss, Gruyere, or Goat cheese. Go to your local health food store and ask questions to see which cheese would be best for you. Expand your cheese horizons—and get protein in the process!
6. Fat-Free Milk
Milk is full of vitamins A and D. However, when fat is removed from milk, the body is not able to absorb the important vitamins. Fat-free milk is also very deceiving, as there is powdered milk added to whiten the color, to make it look more appealing. This whitening process involves high heat and pressure, oxidizing the cholesterol, which can lead to artery blockage amongst other potentially harmful effects. Probably the exact opposite of what you would expect! Instead, stick with organic whole milk or try nontraditional types of milk like Kefir or almond milk.
Sometimes it’s best to stick with what you know. Remember, natural fats can be good fats and provide nutrients too! When it comes to diet foods, beware of savvy slogans and bright colors. Always be sure to compare the labels and look at the nutritional facts before eating anything to ensure your optimal health.
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