The next time you’re at the grocery store, check out the foods that fill other peoples’ carts: Chances are, you’ll be able to guess whether the person is on a “diet”. That’s because certain foods scream “DIET!”. The thing is, not all stereotypical “diet food” actually promote weight loss. So steer your cart clear of the diet foods that don’t work, and fill it to the brim with those that do:
Diet Foods That DON’T Work
Reduced-fat cookies and crackers: Reduced-fat foods aren’t calorie-free. That said, “reduced-fat” foods sound guilt-free, so you may be more inclined to gobble down larger servings of them. Instead, opt for one 100-calorie package or just one serving of the real deal. Then, back away from the package!
Diet shakes: Diet beverages, bars, and meals all work the same way: they take the guesswork out of counting calories by providing you with a finite amount of food. And when you swap your regular fast-food lunch for a can of Slimfast, you might just take in fewer calories and eventually lose weight. The thing is, these diet products are often meant to replace a meal. Meaning? Even if the serving size looks skimpy, it contains a whole meal’s worth of calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrates. So when you pack a meal-replacement bar to eat with your regular lunch, or peel open a second or third bar in one sitting, you might end up eating way more calories than your body needs. The bottom line: Eat as directed and these products can help. But add them to your regular diet and you might end up sabotaging your own efforts. Your best bet? Satisfy your appetite the natural way: eat real food.
Fat-free dressings: A 2012 Technische Universität München (TUM) study found that the scent and taste of olive oil helps you feel full longer. Better yet: dressings made with olive oil taste way better than the fat-free stuff. Toss your salad with a few teaspoons of olive oil, plus a mixture of two parts vinegar or lemon juice, plus one part water. Then season to taste with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, plus your choice of oregano, basil, parsley, or dill. Bonus: You’ll sidestep added sugars and preservatives found in packaged dressings.
Diet Foods That DO Work
Fruits and veggies: The fiber in fruits and veggies help you feel full and chock full of calorie-free water. (It’s why you squirt your neighbor when you bite into a juicy apple or tomato.) The high water content means a large-looking serving of produce has very few calories. And when you eat larger-looking servings, you trick your brain into thinking you’ve eaten way more calories than you’ve actually consumed. The result? You’re not so hungry after eating a heaping bowl of salad.
Cottage cheese: Fat-free cottage cheese is actually an awesome diet food. Full of satisfying protein, it fills you up without the blood-sugar spike that follows sugary yogurts and sends you straight back to the fridge or nearest drive-thru window. Not a fan of the lumpy texture? Choose fat-free Greek yogurt and mix in fresh fruit for flavor. Use either dairy product as a dip or a spread.
Hard-boiled eggs: Pop out the yolk to toss–that’s where the fat and cholesterol live–and you’re left with egg white. Unlike red meat, for instance, which contains a mix of protein and high-calorie, unhealthy fats, egg whites contain straight-up, super satisfying protein to keep you full until your next meal. Other options that work in the same way: plain grilled chicken and canned tuna (just hold the mayo!).