Please, please…listen up! Diet foods are not going to make you skinny. Energy drinks, “power” bars and that cart full of sugar-free and non-fat foods are not the silver bullet. Deep down you know this but when you have a few pounds to lose, it’s easy to turn to something that claims to healthy when it’s really just a bunch of chemicals loaded into food that will not satisfy what you’re really looking for.
Now, I’m not a doctor. I’m not a nutritionist. Yet. But I’m an eater. I’m pretty freakin’ good at it too. And, I’ve been a “dieter.” I have tried lots of diets but always come back to being an eater. It works for me and it’s worked for my health and wellness. My second disclaimer…if you have food allergies, gluten sensitivity, lactose intolerance (my worst nightmare), etc. then you should be planning a diet with a registered dietician. If you’re vegan or vegetarian…some of this may or may not apply to you.
That said, when I started my healthier living journey 7 years ago, I focused mostly on exercise. That worked for me to lose the initial weight. Since being diagnosed with two autoimmune conditions almost 3 years ago, I’ve started to look at how I’m fueling my body and have done a lot of self-study and reflection. Here’s what I found.
- When I ate real, whole foods — foods in their most original form — I felt great. Tons of energy, great skin, nails, hair, etc.
- When I ate full fat foods — in smaller amounts — I felt more satisfied and ate reasonable amounts.
- When I planned my food — meal prepping started about a year ago — I felt in control of my health and more accountable to eating right.
So, here is a list of the foods I got rid of and have never looked back on! And, remember…7 years of keeping 30 pounds off. Last year for an insurance physical, I had amazing cholesterol numbers, low triglycerides and blood sugar and my autoimmune symptoms were in check. I must be doing something right.
Try not eating/drinking these foods for a week and see how you feel.
- Artificial sweeteners. Seriously. There is so much research out there about the harm aspartame, saccharine and other low-calorie sugar substitutes can do. Use real sugar if you’re going to sweeten your coffee, tea, etc. Might I suggest using raw sugar or honey?? I sprinkle cinnamon in my coffee with some cream and love the flavor. I don’t even miss sugar, and I was a devoted Splenda user.
- Diet soda. Mostly because of the artificial sweetener but also because research shows that it makes you want to eat more, and it can contribute to osteoporosis and other health problems. Not worth it. Read more here. But I do love the fizz that comes with a soda…I’ve just switched to having a flavored La Croix a day to satisfy that craving. Tons of flavors to choose from and lots of bubbles but no artificial flavors, colors, sodium, calories, caffeine, etc.
- Powdered coffee creamer. Ick. Just read the label. I get that people use it because it’s non-dairy (we were a powder creamer family for years) but I cannot even pronounce some of that stuff. There are so many non-dairy options out there. Almond, coconut milk substitutes. If it’s not a dairy issue for you, just use real cream or half and half. But use less. I’d gladly take a few extra calories vs. a laundry list of chemicals.
- Egg substitute. Stop it. Now. Eggs are not the enemy. Eggs are quite possibly the most perfect food out there. One egg has only 75 calories but 7 grams of high-quality protein, 5 grams of fat, and 1.6 grams of saturated fat, along with iron, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids.
- Margarine. Again…look at the label. Chemical laden. It’s a theme if you haven’t noticed. I’m working hard all the time to eliminate chemicals. I’m not saying put a half a stick of butter on your dinner roll…I’m saying use the real thing when possible. Or, use heart healthy olive oil with a little organic balsamic vinegar and my favorite Costco no-salt seasoning (organic also).
- White bread, white pasta. They won’t kill you but it doesn’t add anything to a well-balanced diet. They are low in fiber, highly processed and can spike blood sugar. With so many whole grain options out there, you can find one that meets your flavor and texture preferences and provides more of the good stuff.
- Juice. Unless you are freshly squeezing orange juice or buying the 100% juice variety, your child’s apple juice or your cranberry juice can have as much as 40 grams of added sugar! That’s right up there with a serving of soda. Opt for real fruit or be sure to read the label and avoid juices that are labeled “cocktail” or “drink” or “punch”.
- Salad dressings. Starting to sound like a broken record but READ THE LABEL. On an average bottle of ranch dressing you are going to see ingredients like vegetable oil, water, Phosporic acid, xanthum gum, modified food starch, monsodium glutamate, articificial flavors, disodium phosphate, sorbic acid, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate. There are plenty of recipe sites with amazing homemade dressings. Or, just use organic extra virgin olive oil and vinegar.
- Energy drinks. There is literally NO health benefit to these. In fact, they are more harmful than helpful in your health journey. Caffeine, herbal ingredients and supplements, and so much added sugar. Over consuming energy drinks has been linked to heart and nervous system problems. I would also include in this category..electrolyte drinks. Unless you are in intensive physical training, water will suffice. These drinks are marketed well but not worth the calories or chemicals.
- Some pre-packaged/frozen/canned fruits, veggies. I’m all for finding ways to incorporate veggies into my teenager’s life in a way that he will find palatable. Adding cheese, butter and other flavors make it a little better. But beware of those pre-packaged, canned or frozen veggies or fruits that have a sauce or seasoning. They can have tons of added sugar and sodium. Instead, make your own real cheese sauce or olive oil drizzle for veggies. Buy the already-sweet plain frozen fruit without sugar added. Frozen food is a great way to have out-of-season food all year round but check the LABELS!
So there’s my list…do I adhere to this 100%? Nope. But it’s always on my mind when shopping. And, guess what, my junk-food loving family has survived without having soda, juice and white bread in the house. Let me know what else you’d add to this list or what you’re doing to keep your pantry and fridge clean-eating friendly!