Misleading “Diet” Foods

by Anjali @ The Picky Eater on January 2, 2010

Happy new year everyone! With the new year comes lots of new resolutions to get healthier, lose weight, eat better, etc. – which is great! Unfortunately, a lot of people get misled by unfair marketing from food companies – promoting their products as super healthy when they actually aren’t! So what’s a health-conscious consumer to do?

I came across an article this morning from Fitness Magazine that’s actually really helpful in debunking the “myths” behind certain diet foods. The original article is here – and my summary is below. Hope this is helpful in allowing you to be successful for your new years health goals!

10 Diet Foods that aren’t actually healthy!

  1. Flavored Yogurt (e.g. Yoplait Original Flavored Yogurt): Flavored yogurt has over 30g of sugar per serving! Not to mention, about 200 calories. Opt for non-fat Greek Yogurt and stir in a Tbsp of honey, maple syrup, etc.
  2. Sugar-free Cookies: the sad thing here is, when they take out the sugar, they add more fat to make up for it! Sugar free does not mean “calorie-free” – and many times the sugar-free versions have as many calories as their full-sugar counterparts! Instead, have a 100 calorie pack, or just ONE regular small cookie (moderation is better than eating fake food!)
  3. Trail Mix: The unfortunate thing here is, food companies ruin the nutritional value of trail mix by deep frying the banana chips and covering raisins, almonds, etc with partially hydrogenated oils! (basically, adding trans fats). When you look at the ingredients on a trail mix package, “oil” should not be one of them. Fortunately, stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods offer very healthy packaged trail mixes, or you can make your own by buying roasted almonds, raisins, other nuts, etc and mixing your own. Keep in mind though, that nuts still contain a lot of calories and fats (even if it’s good calories/fats) – so stick to a 1/2 cup serving at most when you eat it!
  4. Veggie Chips: Chips are chips – no matter whether they were once a healthy veggie, once they end up in that plastic, sealed bag, they have been deep fried and have lost most of their nutritional value. Veggie chips are basically potato chips in disguise. Instead, opt for baked potato chips or tortilla chips – and stick to only a handful as a serving!
  5. Granola: The word “granola” automatically seems healthy, doesn’t it? Sadly, it isn’t. Granola usually has tons of added sugars and fats (the oats are usually tossed with a sugary syrup before they are baked to give them a sweet flavor). One cup can have up to 560 calories and 28g of fat (without milk!). My rule for granola is – stay away from it. Eat high fiber tasty cereals instead. And if you really love granola so much that you can’t give it up, sprinkle only ONE Tbsp of it over yogurt or oatmeal.
  6. Sushi: Regular sushi with the basics (fish, rice, seaweed, veggies) is usually a good choice. However, many restaurants have tempura sushi – which is basically battered, deep fried meat or veggies wrapped in seaweed. Stay away from that! Instead opt for nigiri, sashimi or cucumber/veggie rolls.
  7. Smoothies: Ah, Jamba Juice. Juice seems so healthy right?? Wrong. Juice oftentimes can have as much sugar as soda! And smoothies that are made with ice cream, frozen yogurt, syrups, granola, etc can pack 500-1000 calories per drink! If you love smoothies, make your own at home with frozen berries, a banana, 1/2 cup low fat milk or soy milk, and 2 tsp honey. That way you’ll get your full serving of fruit without the extra calories!
  8. Diet Drinks: For some reason, diet drinks have been linked to obesity. Studies show that people who consume diet drinks are more likely to gain weight than people who don’t. I don’t quite understand this connection, but there are tons of articles out there about it. Opt for a drink with 3 parts sparkling water and 1 part juice instead.
  9. Fat Free Salad Dressing: From a calories standpoint, this isn’t a bad option (usually these types of dressings are low in calories and have a similar taste to their full fat counterparts – which should definitely be avoided!) The issue is, that without healthy oils in your salad, you won’t be able to absorb the nutrients from it! You can make your own dressing with heart healthy olive oil (2 tsp olive oil, 1.5 Tbsp balsamic vinegarette, minced garlic to taste)
  10. Ground Turkey/Chicken: I basically stay away from meat, but if you do like meat – don’t eat ground turkey or chicken – which often contain fat & skin! The key here is to look at labels and make sure that the meat you’re buying has only 1g fat and no saturated fat per serving.

Hope this info is helpful! Thanks Fitness Magazine for the great article!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

akhomeschoolfun January 2, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Good points. This current trend of processed “health” foods is absurd. I also have a concern about too much tofu and other soy products in a diet. Some of them are very unhealthy since they aren’t really complete soy, but rather the leftovers from other processing. Traditional protein matches with whole foods like beans and rice is better and more complete. I guess what I’m trying to say is a back-to-basics, whole food diet with limited meat and processed ingredients is best.

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anjalim January 2, 2010 at 6:30 pm

I completely agree. Thanks for the comment – very well said!

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elif February 9, 2010 at 11:54 am

increased my knowledge by reading this article, i enjoyed =)

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vasu February 16, 2011 at 3:18 am

Hai, Im a diabetic patient.After reading about sugar free cookies in the second
point, i really got scared.I heard to a very extent its true.But i fell its better to eat good branded sugar free food products.Thanks for good info.

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anjalim February 16, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Yes – not all sugar free products will have this issue, but the majority of them will! So just be sure to read the food product labels very carefully when making your decision on which product to buy. Thanks for your comment!

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Elaine April 16, 2013 at 7:48 am

Wow, never knew about the flavoured yoghurt fact though and even sushi is in it! I guess nowadays there are lots of fake healthy food up in the store such as diet drinks, it is sort of convincing us that we are eating healthy but actually we are not. Thanks for sharing the information !

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater April 16, 2013 at 10:19 am

Yes, that’s exactly right Elaine! It’s so hard to figure out what’s actually healthy because of all the packaging and marketing in the grocery store. Your best bet is to just read the ingredients list and use this list as a guide as well 🙂 So glad it was helpful!

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