These nutrition gurus dole out advice left and right, and they have some serious beefs when it comes to the current concepts of foodBy: Carrie Stevens
Unless you’re making an appearance on Man v. Food, you probably don’t intend to gobble up gigantic portions of unhealthy food on a regular basis. Still, between misleading marketing, supersized value meals, and “healthy” foods loaded with added fat and sugar, it’s easy to get duped into making poor choices. If you’re peeved, how do you think dietitians feel? We’ve given these food gurus a chance to sound off on dieting trends and eating excuses they’re plain tired of hearing. Here, a list of the top food habits that drive nutritionists nuts—and advice on how to fix them.
Just because energy bars come in tiny packages that say they’re loaded with vitamins and minerals doesn’t necessarily make them a healthy choice. “A lot of them are nothing more than glorified candy bars,” says Sari Greaves, RD, nutrition director for Step Ahead Weight Loss Center in New Jersey. Not only can many be packed with enriched white flour, high fructose corn syrup, and other sweeteners, but also saturated fat and little fiber. “If you eat them in addition to meals, that’s an extra 300 to 400 calories in your day, which most of us can’t afford,” she says.Right the wrong
If you must replace a meal with an energy bar, Greaves suggests choosing one between 200 and 300 calories; for a snack, shoot for 150 calories or fewer. Opt for a bar with whole grain as the first ingredient, such as brown rice, whole wheat, or whole oat flour. And the shorter the ingredient list, the better.
Your pick should meet at least two of Greaves’s requirements: less than 2 g of saturated fat; less than 15 g of sugar; at least 3 g of fiber; and at least 5 g of protein. If you can’t find one that packs enough protein, add it yourself. Spread a low-calorie bar with a thin layer of peanut butter, or pair with a glass of low-fat milk or a piece of low-fat string cheese, says Greaves. Adding in the protein will help you feel satisfied longer and prevent overeating later.
Forbidden Foods You Can Actually Eat
Soda takes a lot of heat from nutritionists as a major culprit in weight gain—one 12-ounce can of regular pop contains 8 teaspoons of sugar and 130 calories—but there’s also a war against other liquid calorie culprits. Gatorade and Vitamin Water might sound healthy, but a 20-ounce bottle of either thirst quencher still exceeds your daily sugar allowance.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends women shouldn’t consume more than 6.5 teaspoons of added sugar daily; men should consume a maximum of 9 teaspoons. Sports beverages like Vitamin Water pack 13 g of sugar per 8-ounce serving, or 33 g and 125 calories in a 20-ounce bottle. (One teaspoon equals 4 g, which means 33 g is 8.25 teaspoons of sugar.) Even worse, marketing campaigns convince consumers these sugar-laden beverages are healthy drinks.
Various studies suggest ingesting the extra sugar from sweetened beverages increases your risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. “You probably unsuspectingly consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of sugar daily, which adds up to 350 to 475 empty calories every day,” says Greaves.Right the wrong
You don’t have to avoid sports drinks entirely—just look for the sugar-free and reduced-sugar versions, such as Gatorade’s G2 and Vitamin Water’s zero-sugar lines. At home, make your own flavored water, adding in sliced cucumber, orange, berries, lemon, or lime. (Search: How to make water taste better) Greaves says you should choose unsweetened beverages, like iced tea. Gatorade and Vitamin Water might appear to be healthy options, but these make-‘em-yourself versions eliminate excess sugar.
Looking for more liquid substitutes? Check out: Drink This, Not That!
A dietitian’s worst nightmare? The person who’s obsessed with calorie counting, but glances at labels instead of reading them. Jim White, RD, and owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studies in Virginia Beach, says it’s common for folks to consume more than a single serving in one sitting. “Labeling can be tricky for consumers,” he says. Or even worse, some misread or simply ignore the label and snack aimlessly.Right the wrong
As cliché as it sounds, knowledge is power. White suggests designating one trip to the grocery store solely to study up on nutrition facts. Reading the ingredient lists and noting the calories and servings per container will make it easier to prevent pigging out.
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It’s tempting to buy into the latest weight loss product when a celebrity (Kim Kardashian and QuickTrim, anyone?) is driving it. Popular diets—from no carbs to all carbs, juice cleanses to lemonade detoxes, and even more extreme measures like hormone injections—promise rapid weight loss. Star-studded marketing and persuasive spokespeople can cause even the healthiest of eaters to question their eating plans. “The media is powerful, and we’re drawn to the quick fix,” says White. Dietitians know eating healthy is hard work, and unfortunately, the fast solution seems more appealing than following a disciplined plan.Right the wrong
“Balanced and healthy eating has never been a ‘fad diet.’ It works time after time if you stick to it,” says White.
You know the drill—women should budget 300 to 400 calories per meal (1,200 to 1,500 calories per day), while men should aim for 400 to 500 calories per meal (2,100 to 2,500 calories per day). Your food plan should meet the AHA’s guidelines: at least 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables and a minimum of three 1-ounce equivalent servings of fiber-rich whole grains each day; at least two 3.5-ounce servings of fish (preferably oily fish), and a minimum of 4 servings of nuts, legumes, and seeds a week.
Discover: Diets through the decades
Listen up, folks—fat-free and low-calorie foods might seem like nutritional freebies, but dietitians want to debunk this misconception. A lot of the time, White says, removing calories from fat means adding more sugar, which results in a more processed product. “Just because it’s a low-cal version doesn’t mean we have a license to eat more. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie.”Right the wrong
White advises incorporating both regular and fat-free food items into your diet. Milk and condiments are good places to substitute fat-free or reduced-calorie options. However, White says to buy items like cheese and peanut butter in their regular versions. Full-fat cheese is an excellent source of casein protein, a muscle-building nutrient. When food companies nix the healthy fats in PB, they substitute the carbohydrate maltodextrin, which acts as a filler. Basically, you swap healthy fats for empty carbs and twice the amount of sugar, and all you save is a paltry 10 calories.
More: The Truth About Calories
“I’ll just have a salad” has become the universal slogan of the well-intentioned eater, but if you pick up a premade Caesar-salad kit at the grocery store, you might as well have stopped at Burger King for a Whopper, says Greaves. Consider this: Some restaurant chains serve salads that hover around the 1,000-calorie mark. Wendy’s BLT Cobb Salad with croutons and avocado ranch dressing contains 740 calories, 50 g of fat (15.5 g of saturated), and 2,140 mg of sodium. (Two Wendy’s Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers pack 700 calories.)Right the wrong
When you’re dining out, always ask for dressing on the side. Dip your fork into the dressing before you spear the greens. At the salad bar, skip protein that’s mixed with mayonnaise, such as tuna or egg salad, and choose grilled chicken breast, tofu, or half a cup of chickpeas instead. “If you love cheese, dust a tablespoon of grated Parmesan over your salad before eating to give it a lot of flavor with way fewer calories,” says Greaves.
Find the best salads for your diet.
Just because you didn’t chow down broccoli or gobble up your brussels sprouts as a child doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it now says Sarah Krieger, MPH, RD, LD/N, and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.Right the wrong
Stop being picky—you’re an adult, and you know veggies are good for you. Try cooking them a different way or seasoning them with healthy spices. Use fresh herbs whenever possible, but dried thyme, rosemary, and marjoram will do in a pinch. Liquids like vinegar and citrus juice enhance flavor, and dry mustard and hot peppers add zip to your dishes.
Find out how to make eating your veggies even easier.
Dietitians don’t want us to starve in between meals, but loading up on sweet treats during snack time isn’t the way to go. “Snacks offer nutrition and fullness to bridge one meal to the next and should be eaten daily,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, CSSD, LDN, and author of The Flexitarian Diet. “Treats offer no nutrition or fullness and should be eaten only occasionally.”Right the wrong
Just to set the record straight, Fudgesicles, pudding cups, low-fat ice cream sandwiches, baked chips all count—even 100-calorie snack packs—as treats. If you want a real snack that will sustain you until your next meal, choose whole foods. Eat a pear and string cheese or an apple with raw almonds.
Up Next: Turn Junk Food Junkies into Whole Food Fans.
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