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Health Food Imposters

hfiHave you ever thought to yourself, “Is the food I’m eating really as healthy as others claim?” Some foods are packaged to look like they’re good for you when in fact they’re anything but. For those trying to lose weight, here are some health food imposters to watch out for while grocery shopping:

Granola. Granola has long held a reputation for being healthy. It evokes an image of rosy-cheeked hikers exploring the great outdoors. In everyday life, it has become a breakfast or snack staple, as well as a popular topping for yogurt. The problem with granola is that many store-bought brands are made with sugary sweeteners, fillers, and palm and hydrogenated oils that are potentially unhealthy. Did you know a one-cup serving of a typical homemade granola could have as many as 600 calories? While granola does contain some wholesome ingredients like rolled oat, an excessive amount can turn what you thought was a healthy meal into a surplus of calories from sugar, which the body stores as fat. If you absolutely can’t part with granola, limit consumption to a quarter cup and always read the labels on granola products.

Smoothies and Fruit Juices. Fruit smoothies are all the rage. They seem to be a required accessory for anyone wearing yoga pants or spandex. But smoothies can cause trouble if the main ingredient is fruit juice. But wait…Doctors are always telling us to add more fruits to our daily diet, so how can something with fruit be unhealthy? The difference is that fruit juice lacks the fiber contained in solid fruits. Fiber makes us consume at a slower rate and feel fuller faster. Without the fiber, the liquid calories in fruit juice make it much easier to consume an excessive number of calories (some smoothies can have as many as 800 calories depending on size and ingredients). And that’s not even the worst part about fruit juice. If you look at most store-bought fruit juice nutrition labels, you’ll notice that sugar (in its various forms) and artificial flavors are front and center. Natural fruit juice is actually a small percentage of the product. So check the ingredients in that fruit smoothie first. You might also want to consider trying a vegetable-based smoothie. Vegetable-based smoothies are a healthier option and contain far fewer calories and less sugar.

Fat-Free Foods. Many products found in the supermarket come in a “fat-free” variety. For those with weight loss goals, naturally the fat-free products seem to be the most logical choice. But don’t be fooled. When the fat is removed from these foods, it is often replaced with a higher percentage of sugar and artificial fat substitutes to compensate for a loss of flavor. At the end of the day, we wind up consuming a higher number of sugar-laden empty calories with fat-free foods simply because we believe we are allowed to. We also physically feel less full with these foods, and may be unknowingly enabling a sugar addiction. When fat-free food dominated the packaged food industry in the 1990s, it did a huge disservice to the nutritional value of fats. We’ve heard it before, but it is very true. There are “good fats” (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) and “bad fats” (trans fats and saturated fats) The American Heart Association recommends 30 percent of your diet come from good fats. When purchasing fat-free products, check the nutrition label to make sure that it has fewer calories than the regular version and that it isn’t packed with sugars.

Dried Fruits and Nut Mixes. Some dried fruits and nut mixes are great sources of fiber, vitamins, proteins, and healthy fats. The problem is that many store-bought versions coat the fruits with sugar and the nuts with salt. Some brands of trail mix are also packed with flavors from shredded coconut and chocolate, both high in calories. Just a handful of trail mix can easily have over 300 calories. It’s hard to stop at just a handful when the sweet/salty taste of the nuts, fruits, and other flavors complement each other so well. Choose the healthier alternative by buying unsalted nuts and unsweetened dried fruits for your snack. But be sure to watch your portions to stay within your daily calorie limit.

Diet Soda. We’ve all heard about the studies that link the consumption of soda to obesity. So it would seem a wise choice to turn to the zero-calorie, zero-sugar diet soda alternative. Right? Wrong! Diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners, which send signals to the brain that very closely resemble that of natural sugar. That means that the brain responds to the “sweet” signal by telling the body to crave more sweet foods and drinks. But because the brain is receiving the “sweet” signal without the calories, this may cause us to actually consume an even higher number of calories to satisfy our cravings. In fact, research has shown that people who consumed diet soda versus those who did not had a 47% higher increase in BMI after eight year of consumption. There is evidence that diet soda might be useful in the short-term to wean regular soda drinkers off the sugary stuff, but it should not become an every day part of a healthy diet. If you’re looking for refreshment, good old H2O is your best bet.

Developing a curiosity for food’s health benefits will help you to avoid making choices that don’t support your health and weight loss goals. Don’t let your body suffer because of clever packaging, wording, or public misconceptions. Remember, facts are your friends! Always read the nutrition labels on packaged foods to determine if what you’re eating is the real thing or a knock-off that can set you back.

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Use Grocery Lists In Your Weight Loss Game Plan

Going grocery shopping while following a weight loss program can be a lot like playing in a football game. You’re the quarterback and you need to end the play with food selections that will help you reach your goal weight. But there’s a defensive line standing in your way in the form of aisles of tempting, unhealthy food. Without a good game plan, it will be harder to reach the goal line.

Think of your simple grocery list as part of that plan. If you call the right plays (that is, list the right types of food) before you step onto the field, you’re more likely to win the game and see weight loss results.

Research has shown links between shopping with a grocery list and improved diets with healthier weights. For example, a recent study in The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that those who regularly made a grocery list before going food shopping had a healthier weight than those who didn’t make a list. The study surveyed over 1300 participants, of whom nearly 80 percent were either overweight or obese. At the end of the study period, it was the grocery list-makers who weighed an average of five pounds less than those without a list.

One of the reasons why a grocery list might support weight loss is because it may serve as a good tool to control impulse buying. Supermarkets conveniently place dessert displays at the end of the aisle and sweets by the checkout counter to tempt shoppers. A list may be able to keep you more focused, because you’ll know exactly what you need to buy before you walk in. If you just select items based on what you see walking through the aisles, you run a greater risk of putting enticing junk foods into your cart.

So the next time you need to make a trip to the supermarket, take a few minutes to huddle up with the family to create your game plan. And if you need help determining which foods belong in the plan, just talk to a weight loss medical professional who can help you sketch it out. Remember, even though you’re the quarterback, you can lean on your team for help getting to your goal. That is the end game after all.

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Grilled Southwestern Burgers with Onion Rings

Summer barbecues are a perfect time to try this healthier version of a traditional burger with “onion rings” – so good you won’t miss the hamburgers of old, and a nice choice if you are following CMWL modified plan.

Servings: 4
Estimated Total Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Calories per Serving: 541
Total Protein per Serving: 41 grams
Total Carbs per Serving: 55 grams
Total Fat per Serving: 17 grams
Saturated Fat per Serving: 5 grams
Total Fiber per Serving: 4 grams

Ingredients
1 lbs 95% lean ground beef, preferably grass-fed
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tsp seasoning salt
1 tsp hot sauce
1 cup onions, sliced
1 tsp black pepper
1 cup barbecue sauce
4 whole-grain hamburger rolls (approx 1.5 oz each)
1 cup store-bought coleslaw

Preparation
Preheat grill. Combine beef, jalapeno, salt, and hot sauce. Once mixed, form four patties and place on grill. Cook to desired temperature, flipping only once.

While burgers are grilling, preheat saucepan on medium. Coat with cooking spray, and add onions and pepper. Cook until onions begin to brown, and add barbecue sauce. Reduce heat to low.

Split rolls and arrange each on a plate. Place beef patty on bottom of each bun. Top with barbecue onion mixture and cup coleslaw. Place top of bun on each and enjoy.

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