We’ve all heard it, eat fewer calories than you burn and you will lose weight. It sounds so reasonable, but is it really that straightforward? The short answer, is it’s NOT.
Trust me, I used to be a calorie counter too. I figured if I ate fewer calories than I burned, I’d lose weight! When it didn’t work, I was confused. My research led me to understand that it is much more complex than the calorie in calorie out myth.
Food is MUCH more than just a source of calories; it is information for our bodies! And our bodies are not simple scales, balancing calories in and calories out. Our bodies have many complex chemical systems that break down the food we eat and process each ingredient in a different way!
Armed with this information, I thought about the foods I used to buy because I thought they were healthy. Keep reading to find out what these foods are along with the reasons that I no longer buy them.
Food Marketing is Tricky
An important point to keep in mind is that food marketers are after their best interest, not yours. The truth is that their main concern is what helps their bottom line.
- Making the food as cheaply as possible.
- Making the food's shelf life as long as possible.
- Making the food addictive so we want to keep eating it and buying it.
Their goals are definitely different than mine. I don’t want the cheapest ingredients in my body. I actually want my food to go bad because if it will last on a shelf forever it must be full of chemicals to keep the bacteria away. And I certainly don’t want to be addicted to my food.
To make matters worse food companies throw in buzzwords like “gluten-free,” “low fat,” “heart healthy,'' and “all natural” to confuse us. This type of marketing makes us believe the foods are good for us even when they’re not.
Boca Burgers and Veggie Burgers
For years I believed that eating red meat was bad for me, so I turned to meat alternatives. The label showed that soy patties have less fat and less cholesterol than a beef burger, and I was sold.
But we don’t have to be afraid of fat! Research has found that cholesterol in the diet does not play a strong role in determining the body’s cholesterol levels. In fact, we need good healthy fats to survive.
We should, however, be cautious with any food product that has a long ingredient list, especially if it contains words you don’t recognize. A good rule of thumb is: "If you wouldn’t want to eat the ingredients plain, then why eat them all combined in a food-like product?”
A good grass-fed burger that comes from a healthy cow that was able to walk around and eat its natural diet while it was alive has only one ingredient: beef! It has important nutrients, and I’d choose that over meat alternatives any day!
Fruit flavored yogurt
I used to eat fruit-flavored yogurt every morning. I loved that it was only 80 calories. But now I look at it and see that it contains “natural and artificial flavors.” I mean, what does that even mean?
I don’t consume much dairy now, but when I do eat yogurt it will be PLAIN FULL FAT yogurt. The less processed the better.
When the milk came out of the cow it had fat in it. Wouldn’t you prefer to keep it that way? The fat is actually HELPFUL in keeping your blood sugar stable for longer periods of time without spiking. And if you want fruit-flavored yogurt, you can add your own real berries!
Orange juice was my go-to beverage growing up. I mean who doesn’t like a delicious “natural” fruit juice in the morning?
But a glass of orange juice gives you 26g of carbohydrates! Unless you are SUPER active, most people will gain weight and start to have blood sugar control issues with 150g of carbs in a day. With one glass of OJ, you are already 17% there.
In addition, there is no dietary fiber in orange juice. Even “homestyle” and “fresh squeezed” orange juice have the carbs without the fiber. If you love oranges, eat them whole. The membranes between the segments are fiber! That will fill you up and keep you much more satisfied than the sugar found in the juice by itself.
Whole Grain or Wheat Bread
When I heard that white bread wasn’t a good option, I switched to whole grain bread. But honestly, it isn’t a good option either.
The way bread is made now is VERY different from traditional methods of making bread. Previously, grains were slowly soaked and sprouted, making them easy for our bodies to digest.
Companies that make bread in bulk have found cheaper and quicker methods to make bread. Unfortunately, these practices wreak havoc on our digestive systems and lead to inflammation!
Look at the ingredient list on your bread. Traditional bread has flour, water, yeast, salt, and maybe a sweetener or herbs. But the ingredient list on processed bread is huge. Most of the time simple is better when it comes to nutrition, and that's the case here.
Season packets are awfully convenient. There's taco seasoning for tacos, fajita seasoning for fajitas, etc. I loved them until I read the ingredients! I mean, why is the first ingredient corn starch?
Many of these packets also have MSG and gluten (if you see the word “natural flavors'' that likely means it contains gluten). Even if it doesn’t have MSG, it will likely have maltodextrin or disodium inosinate. Who wants that in their tacos?
I have learned that making your own seasoning blends is easy, cheap, and delicious without any of the additives. Here is a quick recipe for a good taco/fajita seasoning blend. It's easy to make and keep with your other spices to use in these dishes!
Food marketers used to me on this one. The packages say light, gluten-free, and only 80 calories, so it must be good, right? Just one look at the ingredient list will tell you otherwise. In addition to the length of the ingredient list, most dressings contain unhealthy oils.
While fat is extremely important, it is important to get the right kinds of fat. Healthy fats can be found in real food sources like coconuts, olives, avocados, fish, meat, etc.
When fatty acids are processed at high temperatures or high pressures, it makes them either unrecognizable or inflammatory to our bodies. (Keep reading more about this in canola oil below.)
Canola Oil, Vegetable Oil, and Margarine
I was told that these oils were good for you. They were also promoted with words like “heart healthy” right on the label. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
These highly processed oils did not exist until the early 1900s. Since then, they are found in nearly EVERYTHING (salad dressing, bread, crackers, chips, baked goods, etc.).
They are cheap and have a very long shelf life. Manufacturers love that. But what is this doing to our bodies? This video explains how these oils lead to all sorts of inflammatory diseases that we think of as commonplace. They can even lead to heart disease and cancer!
Please avoid these like the plague. Instead, cook with coconut oil, or animal fats like ghee and lard! And when the oiI doesn’t need to be heated you can use olive oil to make your own salad dressings.
Wheat Thins, Pretzels, and Crackers
The old me saw “reduced fat” and “whole grain” on the label. I was immediately sold. Since then I have learned a few things.
- There are no nutrients found in a grain (whole or otherwise) that couldn’t be found in vegetables.
- All the carbohydrates mess with your blood sugar whether it comes from crackers or candy. (See my rant in the orange juice section about too many carbohydrates if you missed it earlier.)
- These products almost always contain low-quality oils discussed in the canola oil section above.
There are just no redeeming qualities in these foods, so pass them up when you can!
I often bought prepackaged fruit to put in my lunches. It’s fruit, right? How could it be unhealthy?
Well, yes it is fruit, but do you know many prepackaged fruits contain added sugar? Fruit is already sweet, so you really don’t need the extra sugar. Why would you add sugar to pineapple, pears, or peaches?
The best thing to do is cut your own fruit. Yes, it is one extra step, but I believe it’s worth it to skip the sugar and added ingredients!
I used to buy special K every time I went to the store. There was a Special K Challenge: eat only Special K for a week or two to lose weight. I can’t believe I ever thought that would be a good idea!
There is plenty of research to show that when you put only good nutrient-dense REAL FOODS like fruits, vegetables, and meats into your body, it will naturally move toward your ideal weight.
This high carbohydrate cereal has a long ingredient list, including a giant list of vitamins. It looks like it has a high quantity of nutrients, however, the vitamins are artificially added into the foods during processing. They are not in the natural forms or in ratios that mother nature had originally packaged them.
According to this research article, there is some evidence that excess vitamin intake (from fortification or supplementation) is linked to obesity and diabetes. When it comes to vitamins, your best sources are those naturally found in foods in their proper ratios and with proper co-factors for ideal absorption and utilization.
If Not These Foods, What Should You Eat?
If you made it this far, you may be wondering what you should be eating. We would never leave you with a list of what not to eat without guiding you in the right direction. Replacing our old food choices with healthy nutrient dense food is key to long-term success.
Check out these articles to learn more about foods that will nourish your body.
- Healthy Fats
- Healthy Proteins
- Eat the Rainbow
- Healthy Salads
- Healthy Breakfast Ideas
- Healthy Lunches
- Tomato Soup Recipe or Butternut Soup Recipe
There are so many delicious foods that are packed full of nutrition. Once you get in the habit of choosing nutrition-dense foods your taste buds will start to change. You may be surprised that you are starting to enjoy a variety of healthy snacks and meals.
Are there foods that you eat, but wonder how healthy they might be? Let's talk about it on Facebook. Someone else will probably find the information helpful as well!