In the past 40 years, low-fat food options have become just as common-place in grocery stores as the traditional basics like milk and eggs (and you can get those in low-fat too). Why, then, have weight gain, obesity, and weight-related illnesses become more common-place then ever during the exact same time period?
A few features of the low-fat food revolution are to blame here. Firstly, recent research out of the U.K has shown that the majority of packaged low-fat foods are a sham, containing the same amount of calories as the full fat versions, and sometimes more. Secondly, low-fat processed foods often contain more sugar, salt and harmful additives that actually trigger the body to pack on more pounds. Thirdly, eliminating all the fat and heaping in more sugar and fat-substitutes in to your diet disrupts important chemical processes in the brain when it comes to eating, leading to overeating and chronic cravings.
Reducing the amount of bad fat in your diet is definitely important when on a women’s weight loss program. However, sometimes that low-fat food label is a dead path towards an even fattier future. Beware of these 5 low-fat foods that could be getting in the way of pure weight loss and good health.
5 Low-Fat Foods that Hinder Women’s Weight Loss
- Low-fat Granola. Shocked? Don’t be hard on yourself – nothing sounds more innocent and weight-loss friendly then a bowl of oats and dried fruit. That’s why granola is one of the most common items on most people’s Weight-Loss-Must-Haves list. The problem is that most packs of low-fat granola also pack a whole lot of sugar and sweeteners. And don’t be fooled by common granola sweeteners that sound healthier either, like “evaporated cane juice” and “brown rice syrup.” These are other forms of plain ol’ sugar, just as high in calories and just as empty of nutrition. One serving of store-bought granola can contain an average of 20 grams of sugar, which sends your blood sugar for a rollercoaster ride that usually ends in a post-breakfast snack attack. If you like granola for breakfast, try making your own by toasting some plain rolled oats with a teaspoon of coconut oil and honey in the oven, and then combining it with some raw nuts and fresh fruit. Or try sprinkling a tablespoon of granola on top of a bowl of plain Greek yogurt, along with berries and nuts.
- Reduced-fat Peanut Butter. Reduced-fat peanut butter does boast about 4 grams less fat than natural peanut butter, per 2 tablespoons serving. But that’s because some of the heart-healthy peanuts (and delicious peanut-y flavor) are replaced with unhealthy sugar, molasses (more sugar), corn syrup solids (more sugar), double the amount of sodium and other fattening additives like hydrogenated oils. So in the end, both reduced-fat peanut butter and natural peanut butter tally up to about 200 calories, with a far higher carbohydrate count in the low-fat spread. Is that a trade really worth making?
- Egg Substitute. The health status of eggs has gotten a bit scrambled over the past few years. First we were told to shun eggs completely, as a bad source of fat and cholesterol. Then we were told to eat the high-protein whites but toss the fat concentrated yellows. That’s when the grocery store fridge section started filling up with convenient “egg substitute” cartons – liquid mixtures of egg whites, stabilizers, flavoring and food coloring that make no-fat low-calorie omelet making a breeze. The problem is that the most recent research on eggs has whipped up dietary controversy yet again. It shows that, not only do egg yolks increase the “good” HDL cholesterol in the body, but that the “bad” LDL cholesterol eggs contain is not in the form most likely to clog up arteries and cause heart disease. Egg yolks are also the part of the egg where most of the nutrients are, including several nutrients that most people are deficient in, like choline, lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin D. This comes amidst other studies that show that healthy people who regularly consume 1 to 2 whole eggs for breakfast tend to have higher success rates with weight loss. While the American Heart Association still warns that we shouldn’t go overboard with egg consumption – especially people who are at higher risk for heart problems – research has shown that eating 2 whole eggs a day does not negatively affect a healthy person’s cholesterol levels, while also contributing to weight loss. We have a great egg recipe for weight loss!
- Non-fat Yogurt. These days, the dairy aisle is a walk in the park for dieters, ablaze with a rainbow of non-fat and low-fat yogurt options. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to even find a natural or full-fat yogurt tub, unless you trespassed into the baby yogurt section. But a host of studies from Europe are beginning to rain on the low-fat yogurt parade; they suggest that, not only may dairy fat not deter women’s weight loss, but it may actually help it along! It’s not clear yet why some dairy fat in the diet is associated with successful weight management, but there are several reasonable explanations that may account for the phenomenon. One is that dairy fat is satiating, helping you feel full from a small, portioned amount and not overeat. Another is that nonfat and low-fat dairy foods like yogurt replace the fat with sugars, artificial sweeteners and starches, all of which throw your blood sugar out of whack, affect brain chemistry, increase food cravings and encourage more weight gain in the long run. Avoid fat-free yogurt and low-fat yogurts that contain sugar or artificially sweetener. Choose unsweetened reduced-fat or full-fat yogurts, eating portion controlled amounts and sweetening them yourself with fresh fruit or a teaspoon of raw honey.
- Low-fat Snacks. When it comes to snacking, “low-fat” package labels tend to be little more than a security blanket that we clutch on to, even though they don’t really protect us from weight gain at all. A Cornell University study found that we tend to eat 25% more of snacks labeled low-fat than those that are not, which usually cancels out the benefit of eating low-fat to begin with. The fact that low-fat chips, pretzels, crackers, puffs, crisps and other bagged goodies are mostly just simple carbs combined with high amounts of sodium is also to blame for why we can’t ever manage to “eat just one’”, jerking around blood sugar levels and keeping you feeling hungry no matter how much you’ve eaten. If you’re looking for something salty to crunch on, try kale chips, roasted seasoned chickpeas, sea salted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds, or even a couple cups of air popped pop corn. Munchaholics, don’t you fret – with the right food choices, you can safely indulge your crunch cravings without biting into your weight loss success.