Green coffee extract pills, veggie straws, Slimfast shakes, protein bars … the list goes on. This time of year, you’ll find items like these lining entrance ways of grocery stores and displayed on every aisle endcap. To the untrained eye, all of these products look like the keys to successful weight loss. But sadly, most of these products are just promotions that will be wasting your time and money. Remember, your diet is not made healthier by the addition of one single superfood or supplement, rather health is derived from a synergy of nutrients from a variety of sources and food groups. This time of year, I strive to provide helpful reminders of what is actually healthy for you and what is just a big gimmick.
Veggie Straws, Vegetable Thins, Vegetable Crisps. These crunchy substitutions may sound healthier because of the word “vegetable” in their title; but, in reality, they are simply glorified chips and crackers. They are still processed, still contain a bunch of added chemicals and still do not count as a serving of vegetables.
Fat-Free or Sugar-Free Anything. I know it’s incredibly tempting to think that something without fat or added sugar would be a shoe-in health product. The problem is that removing the fat and sugar from a recipe often requires the addition of several fillers, starch modifiers and other chemical substitutes. Basically, you are now consuming a more processed, less-natural food product.
Recently there has been a large movement in health that regards the quality of our food more so than the actual amount of fat, calories or sugar in a product. In fact, America’s obesity trends show that obesity rates began to sky rocket when the low-fat guidelines were implemented back in the 1970s. This stimulates the theory that low-fat or fat-free products are not as healthy as we once thought they were.
100-calorie packs. While these items are great for their convenience factor and controlling portions, the downfall is that you really are only consuming 100 calories worth of simple carbs and sugars. The lack of protein, healthy fats and other filling nutrients in these items will leave you hungry and dissatisfied. Another point to consider is that these 100-calorie snack packs are the more expensive form of you purchasing the regular-sized version of the food product and separating the package into individual servings yourself.
Pre-Made Super Juices. While I agree that juicing at home is a great way to incorporate extra servings of fruit and veggies into your day, you want to stay away from the commercial, pre-made kinds. Naked Juice and Bolthouse juices seem to be the more popular varieties sold in stores these days. The phrases “100% juice” or “all natural” is quite enticing to most people, but really these sayings do not hold much value. Naked Juice, which is owned by PepsiCo, was sued last year for having “all natural” on their label when in fact, they contained synthetic ingredients. All you are really paying for in these juices is liquid sugar with a squirt of vitamins, not to mention a nice blood sugar spike in persons with pre-diabetes and diabetes.
Weight Loss Supplements. The bottom line is that they are not safe. Every year, dozens are pulled from store shelves due to lawsuits and fraudulent claims; I know this because I worked at Walgreens and would have to do this from time to time. Even though they have a label that looks similar to the nutrition facts label on food products, these items are not regulated by the FDA. This means that the actual amount of the ingredients in each pill could be drastically different than what’s listed on the label. Weight loss pills are often the most dangerous in their side effects, especially when combined with other prescription drugs such as those for blood pressure or heart disease. These supplements may temporarily alter your body’s chemical balance and metabolism which may result in weight loss; however, the results will be short-lived and your body will most likely regain all the weight back once normal eating habits are resumed. Remember, the best recipe for weight loss is the good, old-fashioned habits of eating healthy and exercise.
Weight Loss Wardrobe. Do you remember the Sketchers Shape Ups? I thought that this would be a quick fad, but they keep producing them because people keep buying them! It’s not the shape-ups that help you lose weight; walking and exercise help you get a fitter physique. The same goes for any tight-fitting clothing that gives the promises of burning extra calories during your workout. You may sweat more because your body basically cannot breathe through the material, but keep in mind that sweat loss is not the same as weight loss.
Cleansing Diets. I’ve seen fruit juice cleanses, vegan cleanses and of course the all-star of the group, the lemon water + cayenne pepper and maple syrup cleanse. There is no need to put yourself through the torture of a 10-day “detox cleanse.” Your kidneys and liver do this every day for you. The primary reason you may feel better after participating in one of these cleanses is the fact that you cut the junk out of your diet for the past 10 days. I’ll admit that I have not been eating as clean the past month as I normally do. My skin looks awful, I’m not sleeping well and my energy level is much lower. Do I need a cleanse? No. All I need is more water, less sugar and less processed foods and I’ll be “cleansed” and back to my old self in no time!