HAVE plans to slim down this year? You might want to take a little look at the seemingly ‘healthy’ foods you’re consuming.
It turns out some of our favourite ‘health’ foods can be total fat traps.
This includes granola, soups and even the diet staple: salads.
So what mistakes are you making when it comes to your diet?
We spoke to two experts who shared their tips on what to avoid and what to enjoy…
Salads are slimming right?
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“Salads can be really nutritious and a great way to up your plant intake; however not all salads are created equal,” says Sophie Bertrand a Registered Nutritionist and author of Forking Wellness.
Dressings can pack in calories as well as additional saturated fat and extra salt.
Rob Hobson, Head of Nutrition at Healthspan Elite, says creamy Caesar salad dressings are filled with calories and fat as are ranch-based dressings.
He says: “If your dressing comes on the side, then swerve it and instead add your own.
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"Try a drizzle of olive oil with vinegar or some lemon juice.”
Crunchy, crispy croutons, while delicious, are essentially cubes of fried bread.
Give these a miss and instead toast half a pitta for some crunch.
Not sure what to look for when buying a salad? Or, what to include when making your own?
For a well balanced, filling salad (that won’t leave you reaching for the biscuit tin half an hour later), Sophie says it’s best to look for a protein source (such as beans, cheese, nuts or chicken), essential fats, such as avocado and olive oil, and some whole grain carbs like brown rice, quinoa and wholegrain pasta.
“I so often see a bowl of leaves and that really isn’t going to energise or satisfy you,” says Sophie.
She adds that some pre-made salads may also contain added bacon which is quite a fatty meat.
Can’t turn down some crispy bacon? Keep your portion controlled and avoid having this every time.
A breakfast favourite, crunchy granola is full of goodness; dried fruit, oats, honey… what’s so bad?
Truth is, most granolas are high in sugar. From the binding ingredient (such as honey) as well as dried fruits, which are sugary.
The nuts used in granola also pack in a lot of fat and often, a portion of granola can include a considerable amount of nuts, meaning a fair amount of fat.
It’s also worth noting that a portion of granola tends to be around 30g, considerably less than the portion you might pour for yourself.
Check the ingredients list on packet granola; if one of the first ingredients is sugar, Sophie explains this means that the majority of that product is made up of sugar.
The word ‘sugar’ may not necessarily be so obvious. Other types of sugar such as honey will likely be listed instead. Or even maple syrup.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking that maple syrup is a healthier alternative.
“People often think ingredients such as coconut sugar or maple syrup are ‘healthier’ sugar alternatives.
“But the truth is sugar is sugar and things like honey and maple syrup are metabolised in the same way,” says Sophie.
Sophie suggests blending your own oats and mixed nuts at home and enjoying it with some Greek yoghurt for a more nutritious breakfast that still offers a delicious crunch!
It’s also worth remembering that granola tends to contain very little to no protein.
Rob explains: “If you’re on a weight loss mission, studies have proven that protein at breakfast can help support a healthy weight loss.
“To make your granola a little more protein packed, try making it with protein powder, or have a small portion alongside a couple of boiled eggs.”
A staple during the winter months, soups offer a great way to keep warm, stay hydrated and pack in nutrients.
However, ready made soups can often contain a lot of added salt, according to Sophie.
“If it contains more than 1.5g of salt per 100g it is considered high in salt,” she says.
Check the label before buying and opt for low salt/low sodium soups.
Not only does salt contribute to water retention (aka bloating), but research has found higher sodium diets tend to be linked to weight gain.
Sophie explains that pre-made soups can sometimes lack protein too.
“Try adding some beans or cheese and enjoying with a side of nuts to help increase satiety and keep you going throughout the day,” says Sophie.
Or whip up a chicken soup (great during cold and flu season!), for a protein-filled dinner.
Sophie says you can't beat homemade soup: “Use your leftover veggies and mix everything up in a pan with some tinned tomatoes. It's super easy and a great way to pack in the veg.”
Add some chicken for extra protein.
Want a creamy soup without the calorific, high fat content?
Pureed potatoes or even chickpeas can offer a creamy consistency while also packing in fibre and other nutrients.
A warming winter breakfast, homemade porridge with oats and skimmed milk is a tasty way to keep full till lunch, however, there are now many pre-made porridges on the market.
These are often filled with nasties that won’t do your waistline any favours.
“Again, things like honey and maple syrup are just the same as your average sugar,” says Sophie, who explains these are often added to pre-made porridge pots.
“Porridge is typically made with oats and water or milk but ready made ones may contain extra sugar so check the ingredients list.
“You can make your own nutritious porridge on the stove top with oats and milk or water and then add some fruit for some natural sweetness and antioxidants.”
Rob says that pre-made instant oatmeal packets can also be packed with salt and artificial colourings.
Make your own and save the excess sugar and calories.
A 150ml serve of unsweetened fruit juice, vegetable juice or a smoothie, counts towards your five-a–day, however, these only ever count as one portion, no matter how many you have.
Aside from this portion, fruit juice might not be as beneficial as you think.
Rob explains that many fruit juices contain added sugars.
Plus, the sugars from the fruits are heavily condensed into one portion which can spike blood sugar and potentially lead to an energy crash shortly after.
This energy crash might have you reaching for more sugary foods to help lift your energy up again.
“Try to enjoy a predominantly vegetable-based juice as this might contain less sugar,” he says.
Another pitfall of fruit juices is that they lack the fibre that’s found in whole fruits and vegetables.
We need this fibre for a healthy digestion, plus it’s said to aid in maintaining a healthy weight.
“Juices can be enjoyed as part of a well balanced diet however what they lack is fibre.
“Fibre actually slows down the release of sugars,” says Sophie, who recommends opting for the whole fruit where possible.
A bar that's filled with protein; it must be good, right? Not necessarily.
Rob says protein bars are often filled with sugar and trans fats, which could counteract any of the benefits the bar provides.
“Although protein bars are convenient, it’s far better to get your protein from whole sources such as lean meats, eggs, fish and tofu, to name a few.
“Plus, protein bars often don’t contain that much protein, and other ingredients found in these bars can cause digestive issues for many,” adds Rob.
If you’re on the move and can only grab a packeted bar to tide you over till your next meal, check the ingredients and look for a bar that contains a sugar content of less than 2g.
Also, the shorter the ingredients list, the better.
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Need a protein bar that won’t disrupt your diet too much?
Give Healthspan Elite HiLo bars a try (£24.99 for 12) or Misfits Protein bars (£1.83 per bar).
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