Do Diet Foods Make You Fat?

 

The supermarkets are full of foods that claim to be wholesome and nutritious in addition to helping us maintain a thriving lifestyle and healthy weight.

But what if the very things we thought would help us to be healthier are actually making us fatter and more debilitated? Do diet foods make you fat?

Too Much Of A Good Food

Low fat is usually touted to be a healthy way to lose weight, get healthy and stay healthy.  Unfortunately, many too many of us associate the words “Low Fat” with “Low Calorie”, which makes people underestimate the number of calories they consume when eating low-fat food.

Studies show the Average Joe feels less guilty when eating these foods, which allows us to justify eating bigger portions.

As we’ve talked about in the past, fat is what makes food taste good.  When fat is unnaturally removed from a food, sugar is added to make it taste better so those who are seeking out low fat foods are often introducing extra sugar to their diet. And it’s a fact that healthy fat is better for you than any kind of sugar.

Studies also suggest that if you consume something sweet your appetite increases, whether the food/drink is artificially sweetened or not.

So–low fat?  Fuggedaboutit!

I Feel So Empty

Healthy fat and protein have advantages over refined carbohydrates in making you feel satiated and full for longer so why do so many people go for empty calories diet foods such as granola bars and rice cakes?

Why? Because we know it’s healthy.

Or maybe we’re being misled.

Let’s take a box of yogurt raisins, for example.  Raisins are good, right?  And yogurt?  Also good, right? And it’s such a teeny-tiny box.  How much harm can it do?

If we cruise over to the website for one popular brand, you’ll notice they’re quick to point out that this product is made from whole Non-GMO fruit.  Interestingly enough, grapes are a berry.  First words outta their mouths and it’s a deception.

They go on about this being a “healthy” on-the-go snack and that raisins contribute to our daily intake of fiber, vitamins, and essential minerals.  There’s talk of antioxidant powerhouses, natural sugars and how this little cardboard box of goodness can help us reach our recommended daily servings of fruit.

Sounds good, right?  How can we possibly go wrong?

Take a closer look.   See that + symbol?  Let’s just click on that to see what they’re legally required to tell us while hoping we won’t bother to look.

Looks like there are 120 calories (45 of them from the raisins), 20% of your recommended intake of saturated fat (none of it from the raisins) and 18 grams of sugar (about half of it from the raisins).

There’s about ½ an ounce of raisins in each 1 ounce box of “yogurt” covered raisins.  That means you’d have to eat 8 boxes of raisins to equal one serving of fruit. 960 calories, 160% of your daily allotment of saturated fat and more than quadruple the recommended intake of sugar.  Still sound like a healthy snack?

What about all that fiber?  Those vitamins, and essential minerals?  Antioxidants? All less than 5% of your daily recommended intake.

Now take a look at the ingredients: Well, raisins.  We knew that.  But, what’s this? Yogurt flavored coating?  Made from sugar, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, nonfat milk powder, yogurt powder (cultured whey and nonfat milk), whey powder, artificial color (titanium dioxide), soy lecithin– an emulsifier, vanilla, tapioca dextrin and confectioners  glaze?  That doesn’t sound like yogurt to me.  I think a more apt description would be “candy coated raisins”.

Sooo….

If you want yogurt covered raisins, why not stir some raisins into plain greek yogurt?  Add a drop of honey and vanilla to sweeten the pot.

One For The Road

What can be healthier than grabbing one of those ultra-high-calorie, sugar-packed, fat-inducing smoothies out of the cooler at your favorite convenience store?  Wait..what?  Aren’t smoothies healthy?  Many times the answer is no.

When you make a smoothie at home or buy one at your local hipster hub, chances are it’s made from whole foods, one of which is probably whole fruits or berries.  Commercial smoothies tend to be made from fruit juice.  Why is this important?

Let’s take a look at this commercial smoothie.

By their own account, this drink is made from the juice of 3½ apples, 1 banana, 27 blueberries and 3 blackberries.  It’s been Non-GMO verified, has no preservatives and no added sugar. It’s been “boosted” (read: artificially introduced) with 6 vitamins and minerals and has 2 grams of fiber. That’s good, right?

Well, it contains more than 20% of your daily calories while only providing 12% of your daily fiber intake.  It also has 55 grams of sugar.  That’s more than double the recommended intake of daily sugar, according the WHO.

It’s important to remember that when we eat whole fruit, we consume the naturally occuring sugar along with the naturally occurring fiber, which slows the rate at which our bodies take in the sugar.   When we remove the fiber and just consume the juice, it crashes into our bodies very quickly.  As a matter of fact, our bodies will react to this naturally occurring sugar in exactly the same way as manufactured, or added, sugar.

What’s In Your Sushi?

Sushi is generally considered to be healthy, nutritious and low calorie. It starts with rice and nori rolled around fish or vegetables but often there’s more than meets the eye.

Rainbow sushi is the T Rex of sushi:  it’s sushi rolled in additional fish.  While the fish provides high quality protein as well as healthy fats, at 475 calories and 16 grams of fat it’s a bit too much of a good thing!

Shrimp tempura roll is another iffy choice.  It weighs in at over 500 calories and 21 grams of fat from fried shrimp.

See how easy it is to pack in some extra calories and unhealthy fats when we’re not paying attention?

If you want to keep it healthy, choose simple avocado and tuna rolls that come in at under 200 calories per serving (one roll or 6 pieces) with less than 5 grams of healthy fat.  California, salmon and spicy tuna are also good choices with less than 300 calories and about 10 grams of healthy fat.

Oh, and take it easy on the sauces.

The Bottom Line

I’m not asking you to never eat another convenience food as long as you live.  We all get tempted by what we see on the menu, at the corner store or in our kids’ halloween pumpkin.  I’m not telling you to never treat yourself or never get unexpectedly hungry when you’re away from home (and all that healthy food).

All I’m asking is that you give it some thought, read the label, take a minute to find out what you’re actually putting in your body.  And always remember this:  If the packaging has to explain why it’s healthy…it’s probably not.

Stay well.

All my best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

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14 Replies to “Do Diet Foods Make You Fat?”

    1. Thank you for your comment, Penny! It continues to astound me as I come across the ever increasing ways that marketers bend the facts to make their products look healthy. At least we have the means to fact check their claims!

  1. This has been the perfect read as I am trying to find out how I can stay away as far as possible from foods that will make me fat. I am on a “diet” and I am not sure if the foods that I’m investing have been making me fat or gain muscle over time, this has truly been a very informational article. Thank you so much for this

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read this!  It’s tough to lose weight (and gain muscle) but taking the time to know what you’re putting in your mouth is a great first step.  I wish you success on your journey.  Please check in again to let me know how it’s going

  2. Hi Cynthia,

    Great topic one I have always had an interest in. Eating healthy and what you eat is super important. Not sure if diet foods increase your weight, I am the opposite of trying to gain weight. It is hard to believe the description of what you are getting when you read the disclosures with the food you are about to eat.

    I do read most of the ring editions displayed, sometimes as I am eating it, then I just stop, or I continue to eat it. You have provided good solid information on this article. 

    All the best,

    Joseph

    1. Reading nutrition labels is super important whether you’re trying to lose or gain weight so you’ve taken an important step to begin!  Stick with healthy fats, high-quality protein and complex carbs in your efforts to gain weight.  Good luck and keep me posted on your progress!

  3. The marketing on convenience “diet” foods is so dangerous in how it appeals to the average Joe.  They plaster the label with all these great “benefits” but if you look at the nutrition facts you can see the truth.  So many things have a ton of sugar and not enough fiber.  The simpler the food, the better. Just like you say, if they’re telling why the food is healthy over and over again, it’s probably NOT healthy in reality.

    1. The use of convenience foods goes back several generations so it’s no wonder that people have forgotten how to cook from scratch.  The only thing I can say is that once I got away from those foods, they’ve lost all their appeal for me!  

  4. Hello there, Cynthia! This is an informative and important post. Many times like you mentioned, people may read a food label as “healthy” and overconsume it when in fact it really isn’t healthy. Low fat foods….are often replaced with something else like more sugars. Unfortunately, these sugars increase foods cravings and hunger and according to science, if those sugars or extra calories consumed don’t get used up through burning of calories, those sugars get converted to fat in the end (since it’s more efficient for the body to store it in that form). 

    1. True story, Mike, and these manufacturing companies have become experts at duping us.  It’s up to every one of us to do our homework and then spread the word!  Thanks for sharing!

  5. I have been doing a keto diet for about 5 years now. I basically completely took the food pyramid we all learned in school and flipped it on its head. A crazy thing happened. I lost over 50 pounds, my blood pressure, and all my numbers improved. My father-in-law and wife’s diabetes basically disappeared too. We basically cut out most of our simple carbs aka (sugar) and added back in healthy fats like olive oil, and butter. So anything that said “low fat” we avoided, and we are a whole lot healthier for it. 

    1. I’m glad you’ve found a meal plan that works for you and your family!  That’s half the battle!  Keep up the good work and please check back in from time to time and let me know how you’re doing.

  6. Thank you very much for writing this informative article. This really makes me thinking about the foods that I’ve eaten these past few years. Yes, I really love smoothies because I think it’s healthy. However, I don’t have time to make them myself and always buy those commercial smoothies. You make me think again for my diet habit. Thank you.

    1. I’m not saying that all commercial smoothies are bad, just that you have to take the time to read the label!  There are also plenty of juice and smoothie shops out there that make smoothies the same way you would at home!  Having said that, making your own smoothie at home just takes a minute if you have the ingredients on hand.  I use frozen fruit, unflavored Greek yogurt and a splash of honey.  Give it a couple of spins in the blender and pour it directly into your “to-go” mug! 

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