When roaming around the supermarket many of us are adding items that we think will help us reach our weight loss goal and improve our overall health. However, in some case these foods could be contributing to our jeans feeling that bit tighter, or just pumping more of the sweet stuff into our bodies. Our Nutritionists reveal all…
“Weight loss is all about cutting calories. This is a myth. All calories are not created equally. Calories from sugar and refined carbohydrates are likely to be stored as fat, whereas calories from healthy fats such as protein and vegetables are to help shed fat. I’d recommend that you skip calorie counting and shed the weight by eating whole, unprocessed foods,” explains Lily Soutter, Nutritionist and weight loss expert at lilysoutternutrition.com.
Friend or Foe?
“The amount of protein and vegetables you actually get in sushi is often very tiny (if not minuscule) in comparison to the amount of white rice in each serving. Some outlets do have brown rice sushi which would be better, but that is still a higher serving of starchy carbohydrates to vegetables and protein. It would be healthier to have a fist sized portion of protein alongside half a dinning plates worth of vegetables and a brown rice portion that fits into an espresso coffee mug,” (Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist at SuperfoodUK.com).
“Although this is a natural sugar, you should only use it sparingly. Honey is a simple sugar, made up primarily of glucose and fructose, and so it is absorbed into your blood stream quickly hence, it’s not ideal for controlling your blood sugar, or trying to loose weight. The fructose content can be up to 40% in some honeys.” (www.marilynglenville.com).
“Plant milks are not only a helpful alternative for those who genuinely cannot tolerate animal milks, but many people drink them because of the trend to consume less dairy. Rice milk unfortunately is made from white rice which is quite sugary and release its sugar more quickly than brown rice. Instead look for a brown rice brand (they used to be almost non existent) but companies are slowly realising brown is better than white,” explains Shona.
“Soya products such as tofu burgers are often touted as being ‘healthier’ than eating meat and commonly used to fulfill protein requirements by vegetarians and vegans. However, soya contains small amounts of plant oestrogens. These may be helpful for women who have menopaused (no longer have a period) and therefore have a diminished supply of natural oestrogen in the body, but women who are still of menstruating age often do not need extra oestrogen. Eating soya products in moderation is preferable, for example once or twice per week, but not all day every day,” says Nutritionist, Cassandra Barns.
“They sound so healthy – surely cereal is good for you? Yes cereal itself may be fine – especially if its wholegrain. But many cereal bars contain a great deal of refined sugar and worse – sugar syrups, such as glucose and high fructose corn syrup. These types of sugar syrups travel through our bodies very quickly and are potentially damaging on a cellular level – which isn’t good for immune system and skin for example. Fruit added to cereal bars is often pre-coated in sweet syrups so that just loads on more sugar,” says Shona.
“Muesli conjures up a picture of a healthy breakfast and is often accompanied in adverts in a beautiful alpine setting with trees, bright blue skies, clear lakes and clean air. But not all muesli’s are the same, and as with anything you buy you need to read the label and not just go by the hype on the front of the packet. Many can be laden with high amounts of added sugar and salt and this can turn a healthy breakfast into an unhealthy one,” explains Marilyn.
“Shop-bought fruit smoothies can seem like a healthy choice – fruit is good for us, right? But a single serving bottle of fruit smoothie can easily contain 25 grams of sugar or more – that’s 5 to 6 teaspoons! Therefore, these drinks are not a great idea especially when trying to shed a few extra pounds. Try making your own smoothie at home with 100g of berries, quarter of a large avocado (or half a small one), a small handful of spinach and topped up with unsweetened almond milk. As well as containing less sugar, it will fill you up for longer and make you less likely to want to snack on sweet foods later in the day,” says Shona.
Low fat fruit Yogurt
“The label might say ‘low fat fruit yogurt’ and so you would think it would help with controlling your weight, but the yogurt can contain up to 8 teaspoons of added refined sugar. Often sugar is the next ingredient after milk in highest amounts in the yogurt. This type of yogurt will be a high GI food, causing your body to release more insulin to deal with the quick rise in blood sugar (blood glucose) and insulin is your fat storing hormone of the body,” says Marilyn.
“Butter spreads often combine a smaller amount of butter with buttermilk or other oils, which may seem healthier due to the bad reputation of saturated fats. Those with buttermilk and without vegetable oils may not be a bad option. However, spreads that do contain a higher content of vegetable oils may not be a good choice.
In order to make vegetable oils (which are naturally liquid at room temperature) into a solid substance, they may be partially ‘hydrogenated’. This process changes the structure of the fat molecules in the oil, and they can turn into an unhealthy form of fat called a ‘trans’ fat. This type of fat is not found naturally in foods or in our body. When we consume these types of fats, they may be incorporated into our cell walls and replace the natural fats that should be there; and when consumed in large quantities, they may be linked to negative effects on our health, for example, for heart health and hormonal balance. Real butter may be high in saturated fat, but At least this is a ‘natural’ fat. When consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet, it should not be a cause for concern for most people,” explains Shona.
“If you want to buy a healthier loaf of bread, make sure you choose one which is made using wholegrain wheat (or ‘whole’ versions of other/mixed grains) as the main ingredient. Those labeled ‘wholemeal’ are usually made from the whole grain. However, avoid those that just say ‘brown’ bread – this can be made from refined grains with colourings added to make it look brown. Also, look carefully at all the ingredients of your bread, even wholemeal loaves, as they can contain less-healthy ingredients such as sugar and salt, potato starch, and stabilisers. Usually, the smaller the number of ingredients, and the fewer chemical-sounding names, the healthier it is!” says Shona.
So next time you’re at the supermarket ask yourself “am I actually choosing a healthier option?”