10 "Diet" Foods That Aren't As Healthy As You Thought
The weight loss industry is worth about 72 billion dollars per year in the US alone, so the lengths to which the food industry will go to appeal to the health-conscious among us are unsurprising. Thus, it can be hard to tell what foods really are healthy, and which have hidden pitfalls big enough to outweigh most of their supposed benefits.
So, while we're not saying you should never indulge in the ten foods below, you should definitely think twice before incorporating them into a healthy diet.
1. Nut Butters
Combining high-fat nuts with high-fat oil creates a food that's, you guessed it, really high fat! Only two tablespoons of typical nut butter will cost you 200 calories and nearly a quarter of your daily recommended fat intake, and who do you know that actually eats only two tablespoons at a time?
Additionally, though nut butters have the reputation of being a good protein source, they actually have less than half the protein content of a comparable-calorie serving of lean meat.
2. Trail Mix
Trail mix is one thing if you're actually out hiking and need a quick carb fix, but quite another matter as an everyday snack for the sedentary desk worker. Trail mix usually contains some mixture of dried fruit, granola, and chocolate chips or candy, all of which can be very high-carbohydrate and high-sugar.
High-fat nuts only worsen matters, and that's before we get into the artificial flavorings and added sugar that are ingredients in many "healthy" trail mixes. If you have to have trail mix, your best bet is to make your own.
You may think you're doing yourself a favor by choosing this seemingly light and fishy dish, but it's often not the case. Sushi tends to contain refined white rice instead of the more satiating brown, and can also contain dubious ingredients like cream cheese, mayo, and imitation crab.
Sushi is also often served with high-calorie sauces, and it can be hard to avoid disastrous fried "tempura" dishes. Some of the fish used in sushi can also be quite high in mercury.
While plain popcorn is relatively high-fiber and low-calorie, as soon as you start adding the butter, oils, and preservatives found in most store-bought varieties, you're pretty much screwed. The perfluorinated compounds found in microwave popcorn have also been tentatively linked to certain types of cancer. Don't even get us started on movie theater popcorn; a single large serving of it can contain over 1000 calories, more than some dieters eat in a day!
5. Frozen Yogurt
It may be best to make fro-yo a no-go, especially if we're talking about the kind sold at some popular self-serve chains. The yogurt itself can be deceptively high in fat and sugar, especially if you fill a whole hulking cup full of it; so by the time you start piling on the toppings, you could be in for a real calorie whammy.
If you must indulge, grab the plainest possible flavor and top it with only fruit, but a far better option is to use your own plain yogurt and healthy sweeteners to make you own low-calorie frozen treat.
6. Protein Bars
Yes, this packaged snack probably will contain a few grams of protein, but that protein is going to be accompanied by a ton of carbs, sugar, sodium, high fructose corn syrup, and/or other worrisome artificial ingredients. Some particularly egregious brands can pack as much as 20 grams of sugar and upwards of 300 calories into a single bar! Why not snack on a whole food like some eggs or yogurt instead?
7. Fruit Juice
If it's made with fruit, it must be healthy, right? Not so fast! Juicing takes all of the filling fiber out of fruit and replaces it with tons of added sugar and other artificial ingredients. A cup of apple juice is over 100 calories compared to only 95 calories in your average medium apple, so why not just have the real thing? Most sports drinks are just as high-sugar and superfluous, so you should really be wary of drinking your calories at all!
8. Salad Dressing
Think you were making the healthy choice by sticking to salad? Depends how you dressed it! Some commercial salad dressings can have over 150 calories and as many as 19 grams of fat in a single 2 tablespoon serving, less than many people use to dress a typical salad.
It's also much less than can be found in many restaurant salads, so think about asking for your dressing on the side when dining out so you do your own damage control. Since, unfortunately, even low-fat salad dressing will likely be full of added sugar, your best everyday option is to make your own.
9. Diet Desserts
At their best, "diet" dessert substitutes are simply a load of empty calories there to seduce you away from eating foods that contain actual nutrients. At their worst, they can be full of dangerous sugar substitutes like aspartame, which has been linked to weight gain, increased sugar cravings, and higher risk of metabolic syndrome.
Sugar-free diet dessert products also tend to be high in fat, while low-fat products are likely to be high in sugar. Finally, seemingly healthy "gluten-free" desserts will usually contain just as many calories as the original version, if not more! If you absolutely need to appease your sweet tooth, try to get a natural burst from some fruit or from one of these yummy and low-cal stevia or cocoa recipes!
10. Deli Meats
Though a slice of turkey or ham might seem like a light and easy protein option, deli meats tend to be high in sodium and saturated fat. They also usually contain nitrates or other dangerous preservatives, which may have carcinogenic properties. Deli meats have also been linked to occasional outbreaks of the infection listeria, which can also be particularly dangerous for pregnant women.