Best and Worst Diet Foods

LOW-FAT AND FAT-FREE FOODS: Of fat-free foods, Dr. Kulze says, "When you take all the fat out, you have to put something else in there to give it taste. What you see with foods that are marked fat-free or low-fat is that they're loaded with sugar or refined carbs." She calls foods like this "a metabolic torture device." One recent study shows people on a low-fat diet actually gained six pounds while those on a moderate-fat diet lost nine pounds over 18 months. Dr. Kulze says if you want an occasional treat, choose a sweet with fat, rather than one without. Fat will help slow the body's glucose response to the sugar in the sweet, which is better for those watching their weight.

FROZEN MEALS: Dr. Kulze says low-calorie frozen entrees are convenient and they force people to practice portion control. Many of these meals can be worked into a very healthy diet, but Dr. Kulze says beware: they are not all created equal. She says, "I would definitely stay away from frozen entrees that feature or that have pasta and white flour products like bread, potatoes, white rice." She calls these "the great white hazards" as they perpetuate the appetite. Instead, look for meals that contain fiber, non-starchy vegetables and/or whole grains. Also, reach for those that have at least 15 grams of protein to fill you up. Dr. Kulze says, "Protein is nature's diet pill. Protein will satisfy the human appetite longer than any of the other macronutrients."

SUGAR-FREE FOODS: Dr. Kulze says sugar-free foods are "a classic example of labeling schizophrenia at its finest." For example, if you look at the ingredients on most sugar-free cookies lining the shelves, you'll find white flour as the first ingredient. "White flour in the human body is handled exactly like if you sat there and ate sugar out of the bowl." In fact, if one serving of sugar-free cookies contains 24 grams of carbohydrates, that's equal to five teaspoons of sugar! So nix those sugar-free traps, and choose healthy whole foods instead.

DRINKING YOUR MEALS: Liquid meal replacements are quickly becoming a "has-been" in the diet world. One reason says Dr. Kulze, "They are so boring. They completely take all of the joy out of eating because you are not eating." They are quick and easy and can help people who may be driving hours at a time -- like truck-drivers -- in the short-term, but the results don't last. Liquid calories don't suppress the appetite the same as solid food calories. Studies show people who drink 500 calories will eat more afterwards than people who eat 500 calories.

LOW-CARB FOODS: Perhaps the most popular diet trend of the last decade is the low-carb craze. This approach can work with some modifications to the strict "no-carb" approach. Dr. Kulze says the likely reason people lose weight on low-carb diets is because they're getting so much more protein -- remember, protein is nature's diet pill. But just because something is labeled low-carb doesn't mean it's good for you. Some foods labeled low-carb (like creamy sauces) actually contain more fat and more calories per serving than the same product that doesn't have the "low-carb" label. Instead of going low- or no-carb, go "right carb" and include fruits whole grains and beans, which are vital to health and metabolism. And for long-term diet success, remember: there are only three macronutrients -- protein, fat and carbohydrates. Dr. Kulze says, "You can't expect long-term success with body weight by just restricting one of the macronutrients. It really does take the right carbs, the right fats and the right proteins. That's the best way to lose weight."

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