If you're watching your waistline and trying to eat a healthful diet, the supermarket aisles are packed with foods that promise to help. "Diet," "low fat," and "healthy" options abound. But are they really as good for you as they sound?
Lindsay Malone, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic, suggests you might want to think twice before you fill your cart with these popular items:
Many sugar-free beverages contain artificial sweeteners that are actually sweeter than sugar. "So when you do have something that is a little bit sweet, like a brownie, it's not going to do it for you, because you're used to this ultra-sweet sensation," Malone warned. Some studies have shown that people who drink diet colas end up consuming more calories elsewhere.
Yogurt is packed with beneficial nutrients like calcium and protein, but vanilla yogurt isn't "plain" -- it's often loaded with sugar or other sweeteners. "Compare it with ice cream you're going to find the sugar content somewhat the same," Malone said. The same is true of many other dessert-like flavors.
Fat-free coffee creamer
It may boast of being fat-free, but flavored coffee creamer isn't exactly a health food: the ingredients are mostly sugar and oil.
Some of these on-the-go breakfast options may not be as diet-conscious as you think. "The packaging is fooling you. You're just choosing a candy bar for breakfast and it's not going to take you very far in your day," Malone said.
Even if your muffin includes some fruit or fiber, don't kid yourself: "It's a cupcake without frosting... often more oil, sugar, calories than a donut." Malone recommends starting your day with fresh fruit or a high-fiber, unsweetened cereal instead.
In a nutshell...
Malone says your best bet is to cut back on processed foods and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile, the FDA said this week that it plans to reevaluate the criteria for determining which foods can promote themselves as "healthy."