The Dangers of Diet Foods

The word diet is among the most overused in the English language today. Americans have a love affair with food, yet they also recognize the need to shed excess pounds in order to look and feel healthier. This dichotomy produces bizarre results in that people say that they want to slim down, but they aren't willing to eat low calorie items, such as fruits and vegetables. On the contrary, they expect to literally have their cake and eat it, too. This phenomenon has spawned the so called diet foods craze. The term diet foods is very misleading because it doesn't just refer to foods that are part of a comprehensive nutrition plan or weight loss strategy. Marketers have slapped this label on a host of unhealthy products in an attempt to boost sales. The following is a discussion of some common items that often get placed into the category of diet foods despite poor nutritional content.

Fruit smoothies certainly sound like they belong in the lite column. What could be healthier than the delicious combination of fresh fruit and yogurt? Those two alone are fine, but most store bought smoothies are loaded with extras that will expand the waistline rather than shrink it. For starters, they typically contain almost as much sugar as a chocolate milkshake. Sugary syrups or preservatives add flavor along with empty calories, which diminishes the value of otherwise wholesome ingredients. Whole milk and ice cream add to the creaminess and texture, and pack on fat as well as calories in the process. To top it off, many people consume smoothies as a snack or part of a regular meal. One thousand calories is hardly a small snack. Be careful when ordering any smoothie. Opt for the smallest available size and choose low carb varieties when applicable. Ask for non-fat milk or none at all.

Muffins are touted as the reasonable alternative to obvious diet busting pastries, such as donuts and scones. While there are some muffins that aren't that bad, most of the popular flavors leave a lot to be desired health-wise. A few are actually worse than donuts, which is saying a lot. Take coffee cake muffins, for example. These cinnamon treats that are topped with pure sugar are analogous to chowing down on 3 glazed donuts. Blueberry muffins are considered a breakfast staple, but those tiny pieces of fruit don't make up for the rest of the package. Muffins are very starchy and there's not enough blueberry bits in them to add a significant amount of fiber. Bran muffins are good for digestive health, which is about their only redeeming quality. Unless they're homemade, skip the bran muffin in favor of whole wheat toast.

Spinach artichoke dip sounds as though it was made especially for dieters. Spinach is a low calorie, high fiber vegetable with plenty of iron. Artichokes have an assortment of important minerals, including potassium, chromium, vitamins A, vitamin D, folic acid, magnesium, and fiber. So where does this yummy appetizer go wrong? The problem lies in the other components, namely the cheese. Mayonnaise is another culprit because it's almost pure fat. Sour cream can be considered another main offender. Of course, none of these items are mentioned in the title. A name like cheesy sour cream dip would make things easier on people searching for genuine diet foods. There are recipes for homemade versions that aren't as bad, but many salsas are a flavorful and safer bet when dining out.

Salad is basically synonymous with health food and people generally assume that dishes labeled as such are automatically low calorie. Salads on their own are not really the problem; it's all the toppings that turn a wholesale dish into a weight loss nightmare. Salad is pretty bland on its own, which is why there are so many dressings to choose from. Diary based dressings are almost as bad as mayo in some cases, and should be avoided altogether. Use any kind of dressing sparingly to be on the safe side. Do not clutter a salad with stuff that would normally be off limits, such as bacon and shredded cheese. Watch out for taco salads; they sound like the perfect pick at a Mexican restaurant, but they tend to come in a huge fried tortilla. For this reason, taco salads can be the worst item on the menu.

Granola fills the aisles of health food stores, so it's no wonder why so people are under the impression that this is a diet-friendly food. Granola tastes great, even without being dipped or chocolate or covered with marshmallows. But granola isn't a low calorie snack by any means. To top it off, granola is loaded with fat, and not the unsaturated kind. Sugar gets added to it to sweeten the bland flavor, especially in breakfast cereals. Dried fruit and banana chips are just as bad. Banana chips are made with canola oil, which bring heaps of fat to an otherwise wholesome treat. Dried fruit has way too much sugar and far less fiber than plain old apples, berries, etc. Instead of eating either of these, peel a banana or munch on an apple. The same can be said for trail mix. This salty snack boasts of dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, and banana chips. That's a combination made for someone interested in gaining weight, not losing it.

Protein or meal replacement bars are a poor choice for those that aren't trying to gain muscle mass or put on extra pounds. These might not create a full feeling for very long, despite the fact that they contain as much sugar as a regular candy bar. The vitamins and minerals won't make up for the other nutritional faux pas. Be wary of so-called diet deserts and chips for the same reason. These may be lower in calories or fat, but not enough to justify substituting them for a low fat cheese with whole grain crackers. Flavored waters are another deceptive product. Water on its own is one of the best things for the body, so there's no need to sweeten the deal with artificial flavors or sugar. Nothing satisfies thirst like water and sugars produce the opposite effect.

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