Do Diet Foods Make You Fat?

Despite all the low-fat and sugar foods that line the supermarket shelves, we are unhealthier than ever before. What going on here? 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?  The 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”.


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 to the WHO.

It’s important to remember that when we eat whole fruit, we consume the naturally occurring 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 pumpkins.  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,



Healthy Cooking for One — How to Create a New You

Trying to start a new program of healthy cooking for one? Old habits die hard but here are a few tips to help get you back on track to start eating healthier!

Healthy Cooking for One
Healthy Cooking for One

We’ve all seen him. That guy in the checkout line at the grocery store, the one we know is single and lives alone. 4 frozen dinners, 1 deli sandwich, 6-pack of beer and an economy-sized bag of Cheetos.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Just because we’re single, it doesn’t mean we’re doomed to a future of breakfast cereal, frozen pizza for one and Ramon noodles.

Nor must we choose drive-thrus or gas station hot dogs.  I often who came up with THAT idea. Like, was someone pumping their gas and suddenly thought, “Well, this makes me want to eat a smoked sausage!”? (Yes, I’m kidding.  Here’s why gas stations started selling food).

We have a choice. I’d like to share a few things that I’ve picked up along the way to make cooking for one a bit easier and, hopefully, a little more fun.

Healthy Ways Start to Your Day

Healthy Ways Start to Your Day
Healthy Ways Start to Your Day

Running late this morning? Always keep some bananas, frozen strawberries and yogurt on hand to make a smoothie. It just takes a minute and you can drink it on your way to work!

Overnight oats are convenient and the flavor combos are endless so you’ll never get bored. They can be stored for up to 5 days in the fridge so go ahead and throw together a few one evening for a week of quick breakfasts.

Everybody loves Sunday morning breakfast! Make a crustless quiche to enjoy with a leisurely cup of coffee and the newspaper. Store a few pieces in the fridge for up to 5 days for a healthy lunch and put the rest in the freezer for another time!

Play It Again, Sam

Play it again Sam
Play It Again, Sam

No big plans for your day off? Make a big pot of spaghetti sauce and freeze it in portions for use another day. Might as well freeze up a batch of meatballs to go with it, too!

A dozen mini pork pies make a great grab-and-go lunch (or, rather 12!).

Make a dinner recipe that serves two and take the leftovers for lunch. Or make a recipe that serves three or four and have some left for an easy meal later in the week.

Try this Szechuan-style shrimp or garlic chicken with caramelized mushrooms. They’re easy to put together and any leftovers you don’t use can be put in the freezer for a future meal!

Make connected meals. For example, when making potatoes for garlic chicken, do a few extra and use the leftovers to go with Korean beef (instead of cooking rice).

Or save some potato cubes unmashed to make potato salad. While you’re boiling the eggs for the potato salad, throw in a few extra for egg salad.

And always, always, make extra rice to package up in single serving sizes and store in the freezer!

Strategic Contingency Planning

Strategic Contingency Planning
Strategic Contingency Planning

It happens. You get stuck working late, encounter a major traffic jam on the way home or get caught up in a lengthy conversation with a friend. Then it’s too late to cook that dinner you had planned or you’re just too tired.

Make sure you’ve stocked up on a few items that have a decent shelf life and are quick and easy to throw together.

Eggs, cheese, peanut butter and pasta are excellent choices, as are crackers, rice and bread (store this double wrapped in the freezer if you need to!). Frozen fruits and vegetables require no prep at all so they can easily be used in a pinch.

Think of Ways To Be Creative!

Be Creative!
Be Creative!

Decide to go to the farmers market, choose something you haven’t had before then go home and create a meal.

No, honestly, I “wing” a lot of my recipes and it always turns out fine.

Ok, almost always as there was the “Fennel Incident”. Fennel, as it turns out, tastes like black licorice. Gross. Who knew?

Dress up your go-to meals. Grilled cheese? Mix it up with a two cheese combo, mustard and a couple of pickle slices. Add a splash of cream and some croutons to your tomato soup. Swap out the ketchup on your burger for some thousand island dressing.

Presto Chango! Leftovers don’t have to be the same thing that they were when they were originally left over. (Say THAT 5 times fast!) Pair the grilled chicken and roasted carrots you had last night with chopped onion, soy sauce, leftover rice and – BOOM! – a delicious (and definitely not leftover) stir-fry.

Riddle Me This

Riddle Me This
Riddle Me This

Who do you have to answer to anyway? Cooking for just you allows you to eat what you want, when you want, using whatever ingredients you want and as spicy (or not) as you want.

Who’s gonna even know? So what if that tuna and spaghetti thing didn’t measure up to your expectations? I’m not gonna tell and you don’t have to either!

No one’s watching, right? Pour a glass of wine, turn up the 80’s pop music and have a dance party in your pajamas while cooking pasta for the 3rd day in a row. Because you can.

Life is what you make it so make it good. Be brave, be bold, be empowered. And above all, have fun.

What are your thoughts on cooking for one? What are your favorite recipes and strategies? Let me know in the comments below!






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