You try to eat healthy. You’ve increased your veggies and lean proteins and cut way down on your snacks and junk food intake. You read all the latest info; you know that whole grains are good and simple carbs are bad. You follow a reasonably disciplined exercise plan. So why isn’t the scale moving down faster?
You may want to take a look at your snacking. As far as healthy snacks go, there are some imposters out there—foods that seem healthy but are really nutrient-poor, or foods that are healthy but can turn on you if you eat them in excess.
We’ve made a list of five of the most common of these sneaky snacks, along with some healthy alternatives.
Granola. Yeah, you read that correctly. Oats are packed with soluble fiber, which helps you feel full and helps lower “bad” cholesterol levels. But buy the wrong kind of granola—the kind that’s laden with sugar, peanut butter, chocolate and other fun stuff, and you might as well roll a Snickers bar in oats and call it a day. Choose granola that’s high in—drumroll please—oats, and low in sugar, salt, preservatives and additives in general. To really control what’s in your granola, consider making it yourself. And keep this in mind: even the healthiest granola is naturally high in calories.
The Smoothie. Fruit? Check. Skim milk or yogurt? Check. But what else is in your smoothie? If you buy pre-prepared smoothies from a smoothie shop or smoothie mixes from the store, you may be getting far more than you bargained for. They can be loaded with calories, preservatives and sugar. Your best bet is to make smoothies at home. Fresh or frozen fruit, 100 percent fruit juice as a sweetener and skim milk or yogurt. Done! Protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals in one shot.
Rice Cakes. Yes, they’re low in calories. But they’re not high in much that’s good for you. And the flavored ones tend to have unfortunate amounts of salt and/ or sugar. Your best bet for a little salt and crunch? Popcorn cakes. Popcorn is a whole grain, and popcorn cakes are arguably tastier than rice cakes. Or, just make yourself some fresh popcorn. To control the amount of oil and salt that go into your popcorn, skip the microwave stuff. Buy the seeds yourself and use your stove or an air popper to pop them. It takes the same amount of time, and you can entertain yourself by coming up with fun new flavors.
Pretzels. Pretzels have the same nutritional problem as rice cakes—being low in calories and low in fat is pretty much their only virtue. They’re usually made with white flour, and are high in salt. If you must have pretzels, eat whole grain varieties, watch your portion sizes, and dip them in hummus, low-fat cottage cheese or mashed avocado for a more nutritionally balanced snack.
Low-fat cheese. Or cookies. Or salad dressings. Or anything, really that has had its fat removed in an attempt to make it more “healthful.” The lack of fat in these items makes them less satisfying, so you end up eating more. And more often than not, they are pumped full of sugar and unnatural additives to help them taste better. Your best bet? Eat the full-fat stuff in moderation. Practice portion control, and choose the healthiest, most natural options you can find.