If a healthy diet is your goal, the general rule is that processed foods provide less nutritional value and more ingredients that can be unhealthy (such as artificial sweeteners and preservatives) than natural foods. But what about processed foods that claim to be low fat or low calorie? Can they be incorporated into a healthy diet? And what about natural foods? Just because something is natural, does that automatically make it healthy and nutritious?
For many of us leading full, busy lives, it’s tempting and very convenient to shop in the frozen foods aisle, picking up microwaveable meals we can heat up and eat quickly and without a lot of preparation or clean-up involved. When dieting, there are an abundance of such meals to choose from that promise to be low-calorie or low-fat, which would seem on the surface to make that convenient meal healthy as well. Some brands even taste good, increasing their allure.
However, reading the nutritional label on such products could be surprising. For example, a meal that claims to be low-fat could still be high in calories, and the reverse holds true as well with low-calorie foods having the potential to be high in fat content. Depending on the ingredients of the individual meal, such foods could also contain little nutritional value and might contain artificial sweeteners or preservatives that could ultimately be unhealthy.
Are All Natural Foods Good For Dieters?
Many decisions regarding good dietary habits are common sense when it comes to natural, healthy foods. Eating a salad can be very healthy – unless you top it off with fried chicken or a creamy Thousand Island dressing. Potatoes and vegetables are highly nutritious – until you batter and deep fry them. But there are other natural foods which, it may surprise you to learn, may not be as healthy for your diet as you think.
Honey is one such product. In its natural, raw state, honey contains more calories and is actually sweeter than refined white sugar, containing 65 calories per tablespoon (refined white sugar contains 48 calories/tablespoon). While it does contain some essential vitamins and enzymes lacking in table sugar, the nutritional value is destroyed when the honey is heated, such as when it is processed or used in baking. And, in nature, the honey bear suffers from tooth decay!
The avocado is a natural fruit which is hugely high in fat – a single medium-sized avocado can contain over 25 grams.
Peanuts are high in protein, and very filling, which often gets them included on the list of good, healthy, natural snacks. However, they are very high in fat and calories and in addition, they are high in Omega 6 fatty acids. The general dietary recommendation is to have an equal ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids in your diet. When that ratio gets lopsided in the direction of Omega 6, you are in danger of increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.
In conclusion, a few rules to remember when trying to eat healthy and lose weight:
Not everything vegetarian is necessarily good for your diet (French fries are technically vegetarian when fried in vegetable oil)!
Whole grains are great for health and diet, but when shopping for healthy breads, remember that multi-grain does not necessarily mean whole-grain. Read the labels!
Fruit juice drinks that are not 100% fruit juice can contain added sweeteners and other ingredients that add calories and detract from the nutritional value!
Fruit smoothies can contain a lot more than just fruit – check the ingredients for added sugar, sweetened yogurt or even ice cream.