Are low-calorie, low-fat options better for you?

Low cal groceryMaintaining a healthy diet can be a challenge, especially when you have to stay away from your favorite foods that are high in calories and fat. Some people try to satisfy these cravings by consuming the low-fat, fat-free, and low-calorie options. This seems like a simple solution for short-term healthy eating, but what are there side effects from these more convenient options?

When a food claims to be fat free or lower in fat, the taste and fulfillment can suffer, this leads food manufacturers to make up for taste by adding other ingredients, that can increase the calorie content. Food producers tend to add in a substantial amount of chemicals, such as high fructose corn syrup, modified food starch, and diglycerides (sugar). These additives can have negative effects on the body and alter hormones, making weight loss and healthy intentions much more difficult. So while many think they are cutting back on fat or calories, they are really just adding other harmful ingredients to their diet.

These foods are usually not as satisfying as a regular meal, so people unintentionally consume more of it, to feel “full”. Instead of looking for fat-free, low-calorie, or reduced fat options, try picking foods that contain healthy fats. The healthy fats are called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These types of fats have been proven to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol in the blood stream.

Foods that are high in healthy fats include:

  • Avocados
  • Eggs (the egg white as well as the yolk)
  • Olive Oil
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, and pistachios)
  • Fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, and trout)

If you are like us, and can’t commit to cutting out processed foods altogether, try to follow these helpful tips while shopping:

  • More than five, don’t buy: Look at the ingredients before buying, products with a large number of ingredients tend to include more additives. Foods with five ingredients or less, have a smaller chance of containing harmful ingredients.
  • Understand the ingredients: Do not buy the product if the ingredients listed contain words that you cannot pronounce
  • Read all of the nutritional facts: Chances are that reduced fat, low-fat, and low-calorie foods have been enhanced for flavor and probably contain extra sugar. Make sure to read the entire label and make sure no extra sugars or calories are added.

Photo credit: Bruce Stockwell


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  1. When I joined Weight Watchers in 2010, I quickly learned that the low-fat or fat free were not products I wanted to eat. Realizing the extra sugar or chemicals was a turn-off and I wasn’t thrilled about the prices for these products either.

    I’m a Michael Pollan fan: eat real food. Get as close to source as possible. I eat the foods listed above. Honestly, I eat real butter. I just don’t eat half a stick nor do I eat it everyday. I’d rather eat less food, better food every day.

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