1. “Lean” Frozen Meals
Now I know you know which one’s I’m talking about. They are basically TV dinners that are marketed as “diet” food. First of all, don’t be fooled. There is nothing healthy about these meals. If your goal is to lose weight than by all means knock yourself out and have one. However, if your goal is to lose weight AND be healthy, well then I suggest you avoid them all together.
So what is so bad about these frozen dinners? First of all, they are VERY low in calories. Some as low as 150 calories. I have snacks that are more sustainable than that. Like I said, if you want to lose weight, 150 calories is a great number. However, if you want to attain balance, they simply do not supply enough nutrients to be considered a “meal.” Second, they are still too high in sodium. As an adult you shouldn’t exceed 2,300-2,400mg. Some of these lean meals are around 500mg and because they are so high in sodium and so low in calories I can guarantee that you will be eating more to feel full and thus probably increasing your sodium intake.
My suggestion, cook! Cook extra servings of your dinners so that you can pack some for your lunch. I mean this way you know exactly what you are getting and you don’t have to worry about feeling hungry in an hour.
2. “Vegetable” Frozen Sides
Much like the frozen meals there are a ton of additives. I am not talking about frozen vegetables that are just vegetables. I am talking about these new things that food companies are trying to do to make their vegetables sell in a society that doesn’t eat enough vegetables. These are usually vegetables mixed with some sort of pasta or rice in a creamy sauce. They are interesting because you just stick them in the microwave and BAM 5 minutes later you have this pasta/veggie side dish. Now really think about it. First, they are in a bag. Do you really want your vegetables to come processed out of a bag? Second of all they add pasta AND a cream sauce. Who knows what is in that cream sauce?!?!?! Again, like the frozen meals they are really high in sodium and since they are mostly vegetables, they are low in calories too. To me that combo never seems to satisfy.
My suggestion, if you are in a jam and want to serve a vegetable side with dinner, just buy the normal frozen vegetables. You know, the kind that are boring and usually the cheapest ones in the frozen vegetable aisle. The best part of buying these vegetables is that you can “dress them up” however you want. Make them spicy by adding some sriracha sauce or sprinkle a little parmesan on them to make them cheesy. Not too much though!
3. “Diet” Bars
Ahhhh, my favorite to love and hate at the same time. I used to eat all kinds of Power Bars when I was in college and since I wasn’t as informed as I am now, I thought I was eating healthy. It didn’t dawn on me that I was loading up on unnecessary calories until a good friend of mine told me, “Hey, you know those bars have so many calories.” It’s not until then that I started thinking about why I was eating these bars. I finally realized that I was using them as a healthy alternative to a candy bar. I was curbing my sweet tooth with these bars that were made in a chemistry lab. Crazy!
The thing about diet bars is that they are usually REALLY loaded with calories for what they are. I mean for the same amount of calories you could probably have a tablespoon of natural peanut butter and a banana. Not to mention that the PB and banana are natural and the diet bars are the furthest thing from natural that you can find.
My suggestion, plan ahead and take an orange, apple or banana with you in your purse of car. These are natures candy and they are way more friendly on your diet because they provide natural nutrients and are not grown in a lab!
4. “Candy” Trail Mix
I will be the first to admit that trail mix is sooooo yummy. However, trial mix usually has either candy pieces various dried fruits and/or yogurt chips. These are all CANDY!!! Don’t be fooled. You might be thinking, but dried fruit is fruit! Yes it is. I will give you that. However, it is not the way it came from nature. Dried fruit works like this, you take a plum and you condense the crap out of it until you get a prune. However, that prune has now taken all the sugars and condensed them into a smaller package. Meaning you have more bang for your buck. So if you have a prune, which are relatively small, you are essentially eating a plum but without any of the water which takes up space in your stomach and helps satiate your appetite. Thus, you tend to eat more.
Which brings me to the biggest pitfall of trail mix. It is VERY hard to just eat the serving size. Go ahead try it! I’m sure that you will either eat more or spend the rest of the day craving more. It’s very addictive and lets not even mention the kind that has granola in it. Granola is the biggest calorie culprit in trail mix.
My suggestion, if you like trail mix buy the kind that is already divided into serving sizes. I suggest a trail mix from Trader Joe’s called Omega Trek Mix. It has nuts, dried cranberries and raisins. Now wait a minute, didn’t I just say that dried fruit is bad? I didn’t say that, but think about the size of a cranberry and a grape. Now think about the size of a dried cranberry and a raisin. They are VERY similar in size thus they aren’t as bad because you are not taking out as much water as say a plum or an apricot. Plus with the trail mix I just suggested, they come divided already and it’s hard to eat beyond a serving size. If you are eating beyond a serving size you will know it because you will be opening another little pack.
5. “Diet” Desserts
A few years ago there were these 90 calorie brownies that came on to the market. I will admit that I was curious and that I tried them. First of all, they didn’t taste like a brownie. They tasted like chemicals. Second of all, how could a brownie be only 90 calories? Well, you guessed it, they took out all the REAL ingredients and replaced them with chemicals. Even the fiber that they claim makes their product different comes from an extract call chicory root. I would much rather get my fiber from fresh fruits, vegetables and grains.
Lastly, these desserts usually have high fructose corn syrup. This type of sugar is a man made, highly processed sugar. Studies have shown that our bodies process this sugar differently than sugar that comes from a sugar cane. Also, high fructose corn syrup has been linked to obesity because of the way it is stored in our bodies.
My suggestion, if you want something sweet, eat the real thing. Yes, eat the real brownie! Just don’t eat it every night and don’t have a whole tray of brownies. Also, you can always make your own desserts at home. One of my favorite things to make is oatmeal “cookies”. They are cookies, but I add protein powder, agave nectar and dark cocoa. I make sure that I’m fulfilling my need for something sweet but also making the calories count by adding the protein.