Cut the “Diet” Foods

When I started working with the Lehman family, I noticed that they ate a lot of “diet” foods. I call them “diet” foods because they are specifically marketed to dieters. These foods are lower in fat or calories or claim to actually cause weight loss (e.g. “Eat this for a week and lose weight!”).

The problem I have with these foods is that many of the ingredients are not real food. Look at the label and you’ll likely see food dyes, artificial flavors, preservatives, hydrogenated (trans) fats and one or more artificial sweeteners. Ironically, some studies that have shown that artificial sweeteners can actually increase hunger and cause weight gain! A similar link was found with fake fats.

Another problem I have with “diet” food products is that people use them as an excuse to overeat later. They figure if they only had a diet soda and fat free chips for lunch, they can splurge at dinner. They end up eating far more calories than if they had skipped the low calorie chips and diet soda and just had a regular lunch!

If you tend to buy a lot of foods aimed at dieters, try replacing at least half of them with real, whole foods:

  • Choose whole fruit over fruit-flavored “diet” snack bars or cereals.
  • Buy plain yogurt and flavor it yourself instead of buying flavored “light” yogurt.

If you’re not sure what to buy, here’s a rule I often tell Tiffany: Always read ingredient panels. If you can’t buy those ingredients in the grocery store, go find a different food. That simple rule will quickly shorten your grocery list to basic, whole, healthy foods.

Through her Des Moines-based nutrition company, SK Health Communications, registered dietitian Stephanie Karpinske writes and develops recipes for magazines, books, supermarkets and food companies. She is the author of Read Before Dieting: Your 4-Step Plan for Diet Success and writes a blog about healthy eating, foodnuti.com. She’s coaching the Lehman family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.