Don't Be Fooled! Learn the Facts!
For years we have been tricked into thinking these foods and beverages are loaded with nutrients. Let’s uncover the culprits and devise some nutrient-dense alternatives!
The Truth about Fat Loss ...
Please understand that no food is going to "facilitate fat loss". If you want to burn fat, then you have to stop eating! Don't freak out! Let me explain.
Food is a mixture of protein, carbs and fat (and as we all know, protein and carbs will spike insulin levels). Therefore, whenever you eat food, your insulin levels go up. Insulin suppresses fat oxidation (i.e. fat burning). So as long as you are eating, then you are storing energy (as glycogen and fat). If you are not eating (i.e. you are fasting), then your insulin levels will go down and you will finally start burning your stored glycogen and fat for energy.
Key Points: You burn fat when you are fasting. You burn your food when you are eating. In order to burn body fat, your insulin levels must be very low. This can be achieved through short-term fasting. Click here to subscribe to my Free Intermittent Fasting Tutorials!
The Truth about "Bad Food" ...
What is a bad food? Well, we've all been told a bad food is unhealthy for us, meaning it's probably high in calories, low in fibre and loaded with sugar, salt, saturated fat, etc.
If you eat a "bad food" one time, you will not instantly pack on 5 pounds. However, if you chronically over-consume bad food (i.e. you follow a "bad diet") and you habitually eat in caloric surplus, then it can lead to nutrient deficiencies, obesity and obesity-related illnesses.
- The term “bad food” is a misnomer. No food consumed one time will cause you harm. There are, however, “bad diets”. Make sure you understand the difference between the two.
- You do not have to avoid "bad food" if you eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods while respecting your caloric limits.
On that note, let’s get down to business! And just so you know, I don't demonize the foods on this list. I consume them in moderation because I understand how to factor discretionary calories into my diet without sabotaging my lean physique or my body's micronutrient needs.
Offender #1: GRANOLA
Although high in fibre, granola is also loaded with excess sugar and high fructose corn syrup, both of which are linked to diabetes. If you must indulge in this fattening, high calorie snack, then purchase granola cereal and bars that are low in sugar. This means reading the label is a must! Avoid brands that list sugar as the first ingredient: ideally a whole grain should be listed as the first ingredient. Look for at least 3g of fibre per serving. Do not be seduced by granola bars with sugary fruit filling and chocolate or powdered yogurt coating. A better option is to make your own granola.
- A bowl of a 1/2 cup of rolled oats with real fruit (1 cup of berries or 1 chopped apple) and cinnamon.
Offender # 2: RICE CAKES:
Although low in calories, rice cakes are devoid of nutrients. They also lack fibre, which makes them a less filling snack. This explains why we tend to binge on them. And to make matters worse, they are a high glycemic index carbohydrate (GI = 82). This means they will spike your insulin, which as we know, promotes fat storage. And if you opt for the flavored versions, then you will also be ingesting sugar and sodium, which, if chronically consumed in excess, is linked to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. If you absolutely love them and insist on consuming them, then lessen their impact on your blood sugar levels by slathering 2 of them with 1 to 2 TBSP of all-natural zero-sodium nut butter sprinkled with cinnamon.
- I prefer to use wholegrain rye crispbread in place of rice cakes because they are high in fibre. High-fiber foods take longer to digest and therefore produce a slower rise in blood glucose levels. Rye crispbread has a moderate glycemic index (GI) of 63. Please note that these are not gluten-free. I slather my “chocolate peanut butter” (see recipe in #3) onto 2 pieces of crispbread to further slow the release of glucose into my bloodstream. You can also elect to use other nut butter options such as cashew butter, all-natural peanut butter, almond butter or pumpkin seed butter.
Offender #3: REGULAR and FLAVOURED PEANUT BUTTER
Regular peanut butter contains hydrogenated oils (to prevent oil separation), sugar and salt. And do not be fooled by flavoured peanut butter such as chocolate flavoured peanut butter. The label may read “no hydrogenated oils,” “no trans fats,” “no cholesterol,” and “all natural” but upon examination of the ingredients, you will see it contains a variety of offenders such as evaporated cane juice (which is nothing more than a less refined table sugar) and salt. It's also very hard to exercise restraint with flavoured peanut butter (it's like eating icing, so you may end up eating the entire jar, which is unbelievably high in calories!).
- All natural peanut butter (no sodium and no flavouring). Unlike regular peanut butter, all natural peanut butter does not contain hydrogenated oils, trans fats, sugar or salt. They are made solely with peanuts! A freshly opened jar contains a layer of oil on top. I store the jar upside down in my pantry to keep the oil at the bottom. I also stir to blend the oil with the rest of the butter upon opening.
- Instead of purchasing flavoured peanut butter loaded with extra carbs, sodium and sugar, make my “Chocolate Peanut Butter Recipe” which is low carb, low sugar, low sodium and packed with protein! The best part of this recipe is that it prevents you from over-indulging in peanut butter because the mixture with the whey protein not only produces a greater yield, but also promotes satiety. This is a great trick for people with nut butter portion control issues (and I speak from experience: one time I ate half a jar of white chocolate-flavoured peanut butter in under 10 minutes!)
Sara’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Recipe:
- 1 scoop of chocolate flavoured whey protein isolate
- 1 TBSP all natural (sodium-free) peanut butter
- 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
Moisten the mixture with a sparing amount of water until a pudding consistency is achieved with mixing. Eat it as a pudding, or spread it over 2 pieces of wholegrain rye crispbread, use it as a dip for your berries and apples or use it as icing for your healthy baking recipes.
Nutrition Info: Calories: 173, Fat: 8g, Saturated fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium 5.1mg, Carbohydrates 4g, Fiber: 1.7g, Sugars: 1g, Protein: 25.1g
Offender #4: LOW FAT FOOD
Fat has become the “new F word” thanks to its bad reputation for causing weight gain. The media and junk food industry try to convince us that eating “fat-free” foods will actually make us thin and healthy. I used to buy into this concept – and was left feeling confused when my daily ritual of eating an entire bag of fat-free licorice made me fat. So exactly why is the North American population getting fatter and fatter while consuming this “low-fat/fat-free” food?
Low-fat is a synonym for HIGH SIMPLE CARBOHYDRATES (SUGARS!). Check the labels on low-fat/fat-free foods. Look how high the sugar and carbohydrate levels are! Simple carbohydrates (sugars) spike our insulin levels. This suppresses fat oxidation (i.e. fat burning), making eat easier for dietary fat to be stored whenever you eat in caloric surplus. Remember: Excessive caloric intake of any food is what makes you fat. Key point: Whenever fat is removed from a food product, the only way the company can keep the food palatable is by overcompensating with more sugar, sodium, artificial sweeteners and other questionable chemicals.
- It's okay to include fat in your diet. My top picks are salmon, walnuts, omega-3 eggs, avocado, ground flaxseed and fish oil. Be sure to obey your portions! If you eat more calories than you expend on a daily basis, then all the dietary fat you are eating will be stored as fat! Know your calorie limits and stay within them! Establish your daily calories and macros by using my FREE calorie and macro calculator! p.s. I designed it myself!
- If you are craving fat-free candy such as licorice or jujubes, then opt for low-glycemic index (GI = 29) Goji berries instead. Not only is this superfood packed with protein and fibre, but it is also high in vitamin C, beta-carotene and iron. Because of the low glycemic index, goji berries will not spike your blood sugar levels or lead to energy crashes and sugar cravings the way candy does.
Offender #5: Muffins (including Bran and Low-Fat varieties!)
I decided to research the nutritional information (or in this case, nutrashional information) on a variety of “seemingly healthy” muffins sold in popular coffee shop and bakery chains, and uncovered the following:
|Low Fat Blueberry||290||2.5g||0||750mg||62g||32g||2g|
Muffins are notorious for containing between 300 and 600 calories each. They are nothing more than cakes in wrappers! Yes, the bran muffins may be high in fibre, but they are also alarmingly high in sodium, carbohydrates, fat, cholesterol, calories and sugar! Opting for a low-fat muffin instead of a conventional one still overloads your system with the same high levels of sodium, carbohydrates and sugars! What is the message here? As long as the fat levels are low, then the rest doesn’t matter??? I strongly disagree with this nutritionally backwards message for the following reasons:
A) 32 grams of sugar and over 60 grams of carbohydrates!
Did you know that 32g of sugar is equivalent to eating 8 sugar cubes?
It’s no secret that chronic excess sugar consumption is implicated in obesity. According to the American Heart Association’s (AHA) report published in the journal Circulation, several studies have linked high sugar intake to insulin resistance, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and type 2 diabetes. To quote Jeff O’Connell, author of Sugar Nation, “Your bloodstream is supposed to contain a teaspoon or so of glucose at any given moment. Tissues begin suffering damage when this small amount rises by even one-fourth... The linings of arteries and capillaries begin suffering damage... High blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and diabetes likely aren’t far behind”.
B) over 750mg of sodium!
Health Canada has set the adequate daily intake of sodium at 1500mg (with an upper tolerable limit of 2300mg). Would you have predicted that over 50% of your daily sodium intake would be in your muffin? Salt is ubiquitous, and thanks to sodium-laced processed and restaurant foods, Canadians are now consuming an average of 3100mg of sodium a day! Excessive sodium intake can cause high blood pressure, which is linked to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.
Offender #6: SPORTS/ELECTROLYTE DRINKS
Sports drinks were created for high-level athletes who engage in INTENSE exercise in hot outdoor temperatures. A typical 12 oz bottle contains 300 calories, 200mg of sodium, a whopping 78g of carbohydrates and 42g of sugar!!! Unless you need to replenish lost electrolytes because you are competing in an Iron Man in the middle of the Sahara desert, then opt for water. Drinking a sports drink would be the equivalent of swallowing 10.5 sugar cubes, which is heinous! Since the average person’s body will not require this much sugar to fuel a typical workout, you are, in essence, ruining the desired fat-burning outcome of your workout by consuming this beverage. Instead of burning through your glycogen and fat stores during your workout, you are burning your sports drink. You just defeated the entire purpose of your workout! You would have been further ahead staying home and drinking a glass of water while watching your favourite t.v. show! And if that is not enough reason to abstain from sports drinks, then consider this: Sports drinks often contain high fructose corn syrup. According to research presented in the Journal of Hepatology (2008: 48:993-9), high amounts of high fructose corn syrup has been linked to diabetes.
- Trade in your high calorie, high carb, high sugar and high sodium sports/electrolyte drinks for water!
Offender #7: Juice, Smoothies, Flavoured Waters
Did you know that flavoured waters, iced teas and juice are typically loaded with excessive sugars, carbohydrates and empty calories? Fruit juice labels often try to disguise their high sugar content by bombarding us with statements such as “contains real fruit juice.” And reconsider drinking 100% real fruit juice because it is high in calories and devoid of fibre.
You may be surprised to learn that the fruit smoothies you have been purchasing are often loaded with excessive sugar, carbohydrates, calories and sodium. I decided to research some common restaurant smoothies, and uncovered the following:
|Restaurant Chain Fruit Smoothie||530||7g||180mg||118g||106g||1.9g||5g|
Yes, you may be getting your daily recommended fruit serving, but not without cost! With nearly 120g of carbohydrates, you are consuming nearly a day’s worth of carbohydrates in one beverage! And do not turn a blind eye to the whopping 106 g of sugar, which is equivalent to eating 26.5 sugar cubes! This exceeds the AHA’s daily-recommended sugar intake of 20g for women by over 5 times! Why are these levels so unreasonably high? Not only do these smoothies contain excessive portion sizes of dairy and fruit, but they also contain added sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup.
- Make your own flavoured water by adding some lemon, lime, orange, cucumber or strawberries to your glass of water.
- Trade in your flavoured iced tea for Matcha Green Tea or Oolong Tea. The many purported health benefits of these teas include their potential to fight cancer and heart disease, lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, burn fat, prevent diabetes and stroke and even ward off dementia.
- Trade in your fruit juice (which lacks fiber) for real fruit naturally packed with satiating fibre!
- Make homemade fruit smoothies using 8 oz of unsweetened almond milk or water, crushed ice, 1 scoop of a low sugar/low calorie whey isolate protein powder, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, and 1 serving of low-glycemic index fruit (such as strawberries or blueberries). You can even add a tablespoon or two of ground flaxseed to provide you with fibre and heart-heathy omega-3 fatty acids. This recipe compared to the restaurant brand smoothie has 10 times less sugar, nearly 8 times less carbohydrates, 5 times more protein, 4 times less sodium, 3 times less calories and it will not spike the daylights out of your insulin levels!
Offender #8: Fat-Free Salad Dressing:
Similar to the foods discussed thus far, fat-free salad dressing is also chock-full of extra sodium, sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup.
- balsamic vinegar or lemon juice mixed with extra virgin olive oil
- apple cider vinegar
- You don’t have to demonize "bad food". Remember, everything in moderation. Even moderation in moderation!
- Ensure your daily caloric input does not exceed your daily energy expenditure.