We are excited to share one of our fave stories from Prevention here on FitSugar!Improve your weight loss plan by avoiding these health diet disasters
By Alyssa Shaffer
Thanks to confusing labels and unearned reputations, it's difficult to know what's good for you. You might automatically reach for items with a "health halo," such as spaghetti sauce (love that lycopene!), or labels like reduced fat!, low sodium!, and whole grain! But unless you're a super savvy shopper, be warned: your diet may conceal some nasty surprises. That low-fat cottage cheese you love? It could be higher in sodium than potato chips. And the low-fat dressing you drizzle on your salad? It could contain nearly as much sugar as two chocolate chip cookies.
The truth is that no manufacturer wants to compromise on flavor, so even healthy-sounding products can contain appalling levels of sugar, salt, and bad fats. To save you time, we've flushed out some of the most surprising diet food offenders — and found some truly healthy alternatives.
Fast Food Chicken Caesar Salad
Culprit: McDonald's Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken contains 890 mg of sodium — more than half the recommended daily limit. And that's without the Caesar dressing, which can pile on another 500 mg. (Select the low-fat Italian and it's even 30 percent higher!) In these ready-to-go salads, says Lona Sandon, RD, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, "the worst part is usually the chicken, which is often cooked in a high-sodium marinade for flavor and may also be injected with a sodium solution to keep the meat moist."
Smarter choice: Skip the entrée salad and go for the burger with a garden salad on the side. A McDonald's plain hamburger has 520 mg of sodium (250 calories, 9 g fat); add the side salad (20 calories, 0 g fat, 10 mg sodium) or snack-size fruit-and-walnut salad (210 calories, 8 g fat, 60 mg sodium).
Have you fallen prey to other "fake" diet foods? Keep reading to find out!
Fat-Free Cottage Cheese
Culprit: Breakstone's Fat-Free Cottage Cheese has 400 mg of sodium per 4-ounce serving (70 calories). That's like eating 2 ¼ 1-ounce bags of Lay's potato chips. In order to give cottage cheese its curds-and-whey consistency, manufacturers must add salt during production. This salt, plus the natural salt contained in the milk used to make the cheese, gives this typical health fixture a surprisingly high sodium level.
Smarter choice: Equally creamy and still diet friendly, Sorrento Low-Fat Ricotta (140 mg sodium and 100 calories per 4 ounces) is worth trying.
Regular Jarred Tomato Sauce
Culprit: Prego Traditional Italian Sauce sounds like a healthy food. (How could "traditional" marinara be anything other than wholesome?) But its third ingredient is sugar, which is added to balance out the acidity. Combined with the natural sugars in the tomatoes, that makes for a total of 10 g.
Smarter choice: Muir Glen Organic Garlic Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce has only 4 g of sugar. For an option that's also low-salt, try Amy's Organic Low Sodium Marinara Sauce (5 g sugar and just 100 mg sodium).
Low-Fat Ice Cream
Culprit: Häagen-Dazs Low-Fat Vanilla Frozen Yogurt has 21 g of sugar in a half-cup serving — nearly double the amount in real ice cream such as Edy's Grand French Vanilla (11 g) and close to your limit for the entire day.
Smarter choice: Edy's Whole Fruit No Sugar Added Fruit Bars will satisfy your sweet tooth with just 2 g of sugar and only 30 calories per serving (0 g fat).
Baked Veggie Chips
Culprit: Calbee Snack Salad Snapea Crisps may be vegetable-based — and baked — but they still have 8 g of fat per 1-ounce serving. That's almost as much as a small bag of Lay's potato chips.
Smarter choice: For a chip-like feel with a protein bonus, try Glenny's Lightly Salted Soy Crisps, which have just 1 g of fat per serving (5 g protein and only 170 mg sodium). If you're looking for vegetable chips as a healthy snack, try Just Tomatoes, Etc.! Just Veggies, a mix of freeze-dried carrots, corn, peas, peppers, and tomatoes that has 1 g of fat (4 g protein and just 40 mg sodium).