By South Beach Diet
When you think of “healthy” foods, what comes to mind? Vegetable chips? Trail mixes? 100% fruit juice? You might be surprised to learn that some of the most seemingly nutritious foods found in your supermarket are actually calorie-laden, sugary minefields that can quickly derail your weight loss goals. Even some of the healthiest choices, like sushi or yogurt, aren’t always as nutritious as you’d think. So before you go shopping, get the facts on these diet saboteurs posing as healthy foods.
Fruit juices, even some of those made from 100% fruit juice, can be a major diet buster. The reason: They’re high in the natural sugar called fructose, which can cause swings in blood sugar and cravings for more sugary foods. Furthermore, unlike whole fruits, which are high in healthy fiber, many fruit juices are not. On the South Beach Diet, you can enjoy most whole fruits on Phase 2 and fruit juices occasionally, starting on Phase 3. On Phase 1, quench your thirst with low-sodium tomato juice or a vegetable juice blend.
When made with nuts and seeds, healthy oils, and dried fruits, trail mixes can be a “healthy” snack food, eaten in moderation. But watch out: Many trail mixes contain candied nuts, buttered or caramel-covered popcorn, cheddar-flavored sesame sticks, pretzels, and sometimes even candy! Moreover, some of the ingredients, like granola clusters, may be cooked in fatty oils and overseasoned with salt. As an alternative, prepare your own trail mix, using walnuts, almonds, pecans, and sunflower seeds, and seasoning them with ground cinnamon, cumin, ginger, and chili powder for a little kick. Because even home-made trail mix is calorie-dense, stick to a 1/4-cup serving.
Fat-free salad dressings
As you navigate the salad dressing aisle, you may think you’re doing yourself a favor by buying a fat-free variety, but don’t put that bottle into your cart just yet. While many fat-free commercial salad dressings are devoid of just that — fat — they make up for it with added sugar to help boost flavor. When shopping for dressings, look for those with the fewest ingredients and with 3 g of sugar or less per 2-tablespoon serving. Also look for dressings made with healthy monounsaturated fats, like extra-virgin olive oil and canola oil.
Yogurt is a versatile food that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways on all phases of the South Beach Diet. However, not all yogurts are created equal. Full-fat yogurt and full-fat flavored yogurt are not recommended on the South Beach Diet because they are high in saturated fat and sugar. Instead, enjoy low-fat or nonfat plain yogurt on Phase 1 and low-fat artificially sweetened flavored yogurt on Phase 2. Plain nonfat (0%) Greek yogurt is always an excellent choice because of its higher protein content.
Moist, flavorful muffins are hard to resist, but you’ll want to pass on this breakfast staple unless you make your own from scratch with healthy ingredients. Here’s why: Many storebought muffins and muffins served at restaurants are made with white flour and large amounts of sugar, which can cause cravings for more of the same. And then there’s the butter. Starting on Phase 2, you can prepare homemade, lightened-up muffins, using whole-wheat pastry flour, fresh fruit, canola oil, sugar substitute, low-fat or fat-free buttermilk, and wheat or oat bran.
Storebought vegetable chips may have a photo of sweet potatoes, taro root, or parsnips on the package, but they are often made with potato starch or puréed white potatoes, and rarely have any actual vegetables in them. As a healthy alternative, make your own kale chips by cutting kale into pieces and tossing with a little extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and other seasonings of your choice. Spread the kale on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until crisp.
This classic Japanese menu item, traditionally made with raw fish, white rice, vegetables, and seaweed, sounds healthy, but many restaurants have re-interpreted it to include cream cheese, spicy mayonnaise, tempura (fried seafood or veggies), and other unhealthy ingredients. When dining out on Japanese food, stick with a rice-free roll (sashimi) or one wrapped in cucumber, or if you’re on Phase 2, enjoy sushi made with brown rice. Request lower-sodium soy sauce for dipping.
Packaged gluten-free snack foods
While plenty of gluten-free foods are nutritious, there are also many sugary, high-fat packaged products labeled “gluten free” that you should avoid altogether. Gluten-free cookies, crackers, and chips made with white potato starch or white rice flour can cause blood sugar swings that can lead to hunger, cravings, and weight gain. Read labels carefully on all gluten-free foods.