Many people turn to low-fat or reduced fat foods to help with weight loss. It sounds good in theory, but in actuality these foods can be worse for you. Fat-free foods can lack taste, so food manufacturers pour sugar, flours, thickeners, salt, and artificial ingredients into the products to give it more flavor, according to Web MD. The end result? A fat-free, artificially packed food that’s doing more harm than good. Here are 6 reduced fat or fat-free foods you should avoid.
1. Reduced Fat Peanut Butter
While it may sound like a good option, reduced fat peanut butter is not a low-calorie or healthier alternative. If you compare labels, you’ll find that both regular and reduced fat peanut butter contain the same amount of calories. The difference? Cooking Light writes that the reduced fat peanut butter actually has more sugar. Also, when it comes to peanut butter, it’s okay to eat some fat. Regular peanut butter contains more monounsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated fats can provide a lot of health benefits. According to the American Heart Association, monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood, which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. These fats also provide you with nutrients that help develop and maintain your body’s cells.
When you’re shopping for peanut butter, take a look at the nutrition facts. Look for a natural peanut butter that doesn’t contain any added oils. Or, if you’re feeling up to a project, you can make your own at home. If you’re going to make your own peanut butter, use plain roasted peanuts as opposed to dry roasted, which are seasoned with paprika, garlic, and onion powder, per Cooking Light. The end result will be a smoother, tastier peanut butter.
2. Low-Fat Yogurt
Many turn to yogurt to get their healthy dairy fix. But if you’re eating low-fat yogurt, you could actually be wreaking havoc on your diet, according to Authority Nutrition. When food manufacturers remove the fat from yogurt, they make up for its lack of flavor by pouring in sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and other artificial sweeteners. Whenever possible, you want to stay away from artificial sweeteners, which are often composed of chemicals that can end up making you feel hungrier and crave sugar.
This is why it’s important to carefully examine labels before deciding what yogurt to pick up. If your fat-free yogurt’s label has fructose, high fructose corn syrup, simple syrup, fruit juice concentrate, acesulfame potassium (aspartame), sucralose (Splenda), or neotame listed, it means it is loaded with extra sugar and artificial ingredients, Eat Well With Gina writes. If you are looking for a yogurt you can feel good about, stick with Greek yogurt, which is a thicker, higher protein yogurt.
3. Fat-Free Salad Dressing
Salad dressing combines vinegar, which helps control blood sugar, with plant oils that provide us with essential fatty acids and antioxidants. In other words, dressing in its full-fat state is really good! However, somewhere along the line, we developed a fear of fatty foods. As a result, fat-free and reduced fat salad dressings were born. The end product is a fat-free dressing loaded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial ingredients, and other unnatural food products.
Stick with the original when it comes to dressings. Fitness writes that our bodies actually need fat to absorb some of the nutrients in vegetables, so using a healthy dressing as a veggie dip is a great snack. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people who used fat-free dressings also didn’t absorb any lycopene or beta-carotene, two health-boosting antioxidants, per Fitness.
There’s actually no need to buy salad dressings ever again. Simply make your own good-for-you dressing by whisking together 2 teaspoons of olive oil, 1 ½ tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, ½ teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and a pinch of minced garlic.
4. Fat-Free Chips
Sad, but true. Those chips you thought you could eat guilt-free? Not the case. Shape writes that a Purdue University study showed that rats fed foods containing Olean, which is found in fat-free chips, ate more overall and gained more weight compared to those fed a high-fat diet that included regular full-fat chips.
According to ABC News, Olean is the brand name for Olestra, a calorie-less, fat-free fat substitute that is used as a food additive in snacks. “Our bodies make predictions on what to prepare to digest based on taste and how food feels in our mouth,” Susan Swithers, a psychology professor at Purdue University, said to ABC News. “When we get cues that something is fatty, but no calories arrive — like with fat substitutes — our body gets confused. This confusion can make the body stop preparing to digest fatty food when it does come.”
Instead of munching on fat-free chips, Shape suggests snacking on organic chips that have been cooked in coconut oil instead of GMO vegetable oils, such as corn or soybean.
5. Low-Fat Cheese
There’s a good chance you won’t find many low-fat or fat-free cheeses at your local deli. Wondering why? When you take the fat out of cheese, it requires manufacturers to include less cheese too. Shockingly, many cheeses that have been processed to remove the fat aren’t even labeled as cheese. Instead, it’s called “cheese food,” meaning only 51% of the end product has to be actual cheese.
As for the the other 49%, it’s usually comprised of whey solids, preservatives, emulsifiers, coloring, and any other additives manufacturers can think to dump in there. In case you aren’t convinced yet, Shape writes that reduced fat cheese generally has about 20% more sodium than full-fat cheese, which increases the “cheese food’s” flavor and shelf life.
6. Fat-Free Milk
Milk in its full-fat state is a great source of vitamins A and D. When you remove all of the fat from milk, your body is no longer able to properly absorb several key vitamins, which are important to healthy metabolic function. Instead of opting for the fat-free or skim versions of milk, Fitbie suggests trying 1%. It’s low in saturated fat but has enough of the nutrient to enable vitamin absorption.