“Healthy” Foods that Can Sabotage Weight Loss Goals

Your food labels are lying to you. Sorry, it’s true. Foods are packaged and marketed in a way that is designed to tout their most positive qualities, and deliberately downplay or omit information about the many ingredients, additives and preservatives the food industry uses that can sabotage your goals.

Because navigating food labels can be so confusing, in our program we ask that clients avoid packaged food completely, with a few approved exceptions. More and more “clean” products are coming to market each day, but until you are fully versed in what can help your health and what can hinder it, it’s best to stick to whole, real foods.

We could go on for days about the dozens of “health” foods that can trip up your goals, but here are a few of our usual suspects-

-Dried fruit: Fruit can be a great choice in moderation- it is nutrient dense and full of fiber. It’s perfect for satisfying a sweet tooth without turning to refined sugar. That said, dried fruit doesn’t have the water content of fresh fruit, making it much denser in sugar and calories, and less filling. A 1/2 cup of fresh apricot halves has 40 calories, 7.6 grams of sugar and 32% of your required Vitamin A. By contrast, a 1/2 cup of dried apricots has a whopping 34 grams of sugar, and 140 calories. That’s the same amount of sugar as THREE glazed donuts! Not to mention, it is difficult to be mindful of portion control when eating dried fruit. You’d never eat five apricots in a sitting, but 5 dried apricots can go down like candy.

-Low Fat or Fat free Salad Dressing- We actually tell clients to avoid all foods billed as “low fat”. They are typically laden with artificial thickeners to mimic the taste and consistency of their full-fat counterparts. Companies add sugar, high fructose corn syrup, salt and stabilizers to make these concoctions palatable. Swap the fake stuff for extra virgin olive oil, lemon, spices and a little avocado on your salad.

-Granola- Oh granola is delicious. Too delicious, in fact, because what super-human can stick to a 1/4 cup serving? They are often very sugar and calorie-dense, sweetened with tons of honey, dried fruit or corn syrup. There are some delicious and healthful low-sugar and gluten-free options, but granola is such a slippery slope, we avoid it all together when in weight-loss mode.

-Smoothie Bars- We love a good smoothie, and give our clients recipes using whole fruits and veggies that you can whip up for a quick and filling breakfast. That said, smoothie bars can be some of the worst culprits for drinks that can derail your health efforts. Often made with sugary fruit purées or juices, or powders full of artificial ingredients, smoothies can be a total sugar bomb. The “healthy” sounding “Pure Recharge” smoothie from Smoothie King has nondescript ingredients like “Electrolyte Mix” and packs 72 grams of carbohydrates and 53 grams of sugar. Ditch the powders and smoothie bars and make a delicious whole fruit smoothie at home.

-Yogurt- While yogurt is often thought of as a healthy “diet” food, it can be quite the opposite. Fruit-flavored yogurt is often full of potentially-carcinogenic artificial colors, thickeners, plus loads of sugar. The main carbohydrate in dairy is lactose, a milk sugar composed of the two simple sugars glucose, and galactose. As infants we are able to readily break down lactose, but as many people reach adulthood they are less able to digest lactose. Best to skip it.

-Peanut Butter- Peanuts are not nuts, but legumes. While they are a good source of protein, to make them into a creamy butter often companies add salt, sugar and hydrogenated oil and even trans fats. Peanut crops can also contain a fungus that produces aflatoxins, carcinogens that are linked to liver cancer. Switch peanut butter crackers for a raw unsalted almond butter on sweet apple or some crunchy celery. Raw cashew butter is also a great alternative- cashews are naturally sweet and full of magnesium and iron.

-Diet Shakes- Mmm.. cellulose gum and carrageenan, said no one, ever. Look at the ingredients in your “meal replacement” shake and if you don’t recognize them, don’t buy it. The thickeners and stabilizers added to mimic creaminess in these “health foods” can cause all kinds of unpleasant side effects like bloating, gas, and digestive issues. There’s even evidence to suggest they increase colon cancer risk. Not to mention if you aren’t satisfied by a shake, you can often reach for quick snacks and other unhealthy alternatives later. Skip the franken-food smoothie- your body will be far more satisfied with a huge crunchy salad or veggies and protein.

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