Recently, Oprah announced she was claiming a stake in the dieting behemoth Weight Watchers. A serial dieter—can anyone forget the time the TV host wheeled out 67 pounds of fat on a little red wagon?—Oprah hopes her fans will follow her move into a 'healthier' weight loss program.
But in the wake of the press splash her investment triggered, health experts are questioning the validity of a system that relies on repeat customers, or clients whose diets continue to fail, for success.
Weight Watchers works for a short period of time because it teaches clients to restrict their eating. But members are often confused about how to eat when they're not counting program's trademark "points." The result? They gain most of the pounds back.
In a study of 27,000 consumers in 55 countries, 26 percent of those polled admit that the thing that's keeping them from eating a healthier diet is that they're unsure about what to eat. Even the most popular weight loss programs like Weight Watchers, the Paleo Diet, and the Zone Diet—which rely on what they believe are 'health foods'—differ dramatically in their explanation of good-for-you foods versus bad-for-you foods.
With all of these competing messages, it's hard to actually make a clear choice. When trying to eat better, dieters sometimes end up choosing foods that seem like a good idea—but in reality can set your diet back big time. Watch out for these sneaky junk food products that masquerade as "health foods", and see what easy swaps you can make in order to make better nutrition choices!
Unless you’re making it yourself, granola can totally throw off your healthy food game. Lots of pre-made brands are loaded with simple sugar and carbs. Make a custom batch at home so you can control how much sweetener is added (we love using a little maple syrup or raw honey), or go with a brand that’s Paleo friendly; not only do Paleo-friendly recipes have a lower sugar content, but they generally use gluten-free grains too.
The 1980s tricked us into thinking non-fat products were actually better for us…Turns out they’re not. When fat is removed from food, so is most of the taste and nutrition. To make up for the blandness of non-fat products, food companies added extra sugar and artificial flavors to make products taste edible again. Stick to the full fat stuff for the most nutritional value–healthy omega-3s, CLAs, and proteins–and to avoid excess sugar.
They might be green, but that doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Usually veggie chips are just potato chips in disguise blended with trace amounts of vegetables like spinach or carrots that give this “healthy snack” its tricolor hue. Instead of veggie chips, opt for actual vegetables like kale chips, taro chips, or sweet potato chips.
Clever coffee marketing execs have figured it out—slapping the adjective “skinny” on a beverage somehow convinces consumers it’s actually health. Sadly, skinny lattes are loaded with fat-free dairy, artificial flavors, and lab-created sweeteners. Not exactly an elixir of health, right?
The artificial sweeteners in sugar-free foods trick the brain into craving more sugar, so chugging a skinny latte in the morning will make it even harder to pass up the sweets after lunch. Instead, opt for a latte with whole milk at your local coffee shop, or make your own Unicorn Fuel at home! Sure, it may have a few more calories, but it will feel more satisfying and taste better than a “skinny” chemical concoction.
These Instagram-worthy breakfast bowls are topped with anything from shredded coconut and bee pollen, to peanut butter and honey–and that’s where the problem lies. Even if the base of a breakfast bowl is comprised of fiber and vitamin-rich healthy fruits and veggies (some even blend spinach and kale into their smoothie recipes), the nutrient-dense base can get overshadowed by sugary toppings.
Next time instead of loading up on all the fixings, stick to whole fruits or shredded coconut and skip the hearty pour of agave or honey that typically finishes off a smoothie bowl–it’s already naturally sweet enough.
Most people probably acknowledge that diet soda isn’t exactly considered healthy, but might think it’s still not a bad choice; just because the nutrition facts add up to a big ol’ zero doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Even with zero calories, zero fat, and zero carbs, diet soda isn’t necessarily good for you–studies show that those that gulp down diet drinks have a 36% increased risk for metabolic syndrome and developing diabetes. Eek!
Plus, the artificial sweeteners that make some no-calorie sodas taste so delicious actually increase food appetite and intake, which could explain why switching to diet soda doesn’t help people lose weight.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho