I’m a realist when it comes to food.
What does that mean, exactly?
I prefer to eat whole, natural foods, as opposed to processed foods filled with chemicals and artificial ingredients.
I'm not saying I’m the healthiest eater by any means. I just like to know what I’m putting into my body.
For example, I would rather eat a Snickers bar than a protein bar any day of the week.
Because half of the protein bars on the shelf are calorie-laden, taste like cardboard and have an ingredient list a paragraph long, with words I can’t even pronounce.
I know a Snickers bar isn’t health food, but it has real peanuts and chocolate. It doesn’t leave a chemical aftertaste in my mouth for hours.
Today, our grocery stores are filled with gimmicks.
Labels flash “fat-free, “sugar-free" or “all-natural," and immediately, people are sold.
If something is fat-free, it must be healthy, right?
Fat doesn’t always make you fat.
Our society has convinced us that fat of any kind is the devil.
Well, society is wrong.
Of course, if you eat too much fat (and the wrong kinds of fat), you’ll gain weight.
However, if you eat the right kinds of fat in the right amounts, you’ll see the number on the scale decrease.
You'll be on your way to a happier and healthier you.
Here are three common low-calorie products that actually aren’t healthy at all:
1. Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a calorie and fat-dense food. It has 190 calories and 16 grams of fat per two tablespoon serving.
A reduced-fat variety is intriguing if you’re trying to be healthier. But don’t reach so quickly.
Most of the fats in peanut butter are healthy, unsaturated fats. They are actually good for you.
The reduced-fat version takes away those healthy fats and replaces them with sugar.
Stick instead with a regular, all-natural peanut butter. It has a good dose of healthy fat and protein.
Just make sure to cap your serving off at two tablespoons because the calories add up quickly.
2. Fat-Free Ice Cream
Ice cream gets a bad reputation, but in reality, it isn’t the worst treat.
Made from mainly milk, sugar and eggs, ice cream is a good source of calcium and protein. It is minimally processed if you reach for the all-natural version.
Although a fat-free version seems tempting, the fat is replaced by high fructose corn syrup and other chemicals.
3. Reduced-Fat Cookies
If you’re trying to get healthier, sweets are usually out of the question for you.
A reduced-fat version may be tempting if you’re trying to stay healthy and get your sweet fix.
If you look at the ingredients, reduced-fat cookies -- just like the peanut butter and ice cream -- are filled with artificial flavorings, chemicals and corn syrup.
Just because you’re dieting, that doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself.
Reach instead for some dark chocolate to tame your sweet tooth.
It has less sugar than milk chocolate, and it also packs a dose of antioxidants.
It has even been linked to lower blood pressure if you eat it two or three times a week.
Make sure to look for the highest percentage of cocoa in the dark chocolate.
The more cocoa, the healthier.
The examples listed above are only a few of thousands of products filling the aisles of our grocery stores.
A good rule of thumb to use when you’re shopping is to not be drawn in by the label.
Instead, read the ingredients list.
Look for a short list with names you recognize.
If a product has a long ingredients list filled with names you don’t recognize, it might be best to put it back and look for something else.
Lastly, do not fear fat.
Fat is a vital part of any diet. Instead, try to avoid saturated and trans fat.
Look for foods containing less than three grams of saturated fat per serving and no trans fat.
The food industry is tricky, but if you follow these simple rules, you’ll be on your way to fueling your body smarter and living a healthier life overall.