When life gets busy we can’t always plan what we’re going to eat, but that doesn’t mean we want to abandon our resolution to eat better. Sometimes what can seem like the healthiest choice can end up falling short.
“The foods that are marketed to dieting people are rarely the best choices. The best choices for anyone trying to lose weight are the foods you’ll find at the edges of the supermarket. They are the fresh produce you’ll find, the fruits and vegetables usually come with a little bit of sugar, a little bit of carbohydrate, but within some fiber so that they don’t rush into your blood stream and stimulate all sorts of hormonal chaos that leads you to put weight on,” says Dr. Mehmet Oz.
Experts say we should all be looking to add fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean dairy to our diets whenever we can. And the overeating can start with breakfast. Believe it or not, a donut usually ends up having less calories than a muffin or bagel. “A donut will be smaller, and that’s all you’re going to order but with this bagel, which we said is large and could be the calorie equivalent of four slices of bread, then if you put on the whole packet of cream cheese, now we’re talking a breakfast that’s over 500 calories, and you’re not even aware of that,” says registered dietician and Boston University nutrition professor Joan Salge Blake, who says a lighter alternative is an English muffin with some jelly.
Many hit the salad bar to try to have a healthy lunch. At Lambert’s fruit in Westwood, MA, there are great options to get those greens in. But a couple of wrong moves here can really cost you. “You start putting on cheese and egg salad and things with mayonnaise or cream sauces and bacon bits and a creamy dressing, you could be over 800 calories, that’s where you think you’re doing something healthy,” Salge Blake says. Adding plain tuna, grilled chicken, or beans can be okay in moderation, but make sure you stick to the light dressings.
When you’re at work, you’re usually forced to hit up the vending machine for a snack. Don’t be fooled by some of the buzz words on labels. Our nutritionist says, the baked chips and controlled calorie cookie packs you may think are the best bets, might not be. “This unsalted trail mix, only because all it really is, is raisins and nuts, that’s it, there’s nothing else added to it, is a very good choice,” Salge Blake says. “Another good choice is popcorn, because popcorn is a whole grain, now this one has some cheese in it, so it’s going to have some saturated fat in it, but the portion size keeps it small, keeps it curtailed, and you’re going to get some fiber.”
Fast food isn’t always a bad thing in a pinch, but our expert says having a salad doesn’t always mean you’re being good. If you get a Caesar salad topped with fried chicken, cheese, croutons and creamy dressing isn’t your best bet if you’re watching what you eat. A cheese burger can actually have less calories. If you’re still hungry, grab a side salad with light dressing to fill you up, and give you a serving or two of vegetables. “Now you have a meal that’s full, that’s going to fill you up and not going to be anywhere near as high in saturated fat and calories as some other options,” Salge Blake says.
Grabbing dinner at the supermarket certainly is easy enough, especially in the frozen foods section. But those meals marketed as light, are good for portion control, but can be high in sodium, “People eat these smaller dinners, but they’re not really full because they didn’t have enough vegetables and all of the sudden, later on in the evening, they’re back in the kitchen hunting, and we all know that doesn’t always come out to be caloric-ly good for you,” Salge Blake says. Instead, according to our dietician, try frozen veggies, some brown rice, and protein for a filling, healthy meal.
The prepared food section can be full of options, but portion size, here, could be the problem. “A three ounce serving is the size of a palm of a female’s hand, and if you look at that, the salmon, that turkey, and some of these chicken breasts, that could be six ounces,” Salge Blake says. Make sure to ditch the fatty skin on otherwise healthy chicken and turkey, and when watching calories, packaged meals could contain cheeses, oils, and other fats you aren’t aware of. So next time you’re eating on the go, take a few minutes to read the labels, and think about what your diet is missing, and your smart choices could show up, on the scale.