The diet food industry is a huge money maker. The Global Industry Analysts’ most recent report indicates that the diet food segment of the global food market would likely hit $47 billion dollars for 2015. Diet food may seem appealing because it is designed and developed specifically for dieters. However, the truth is you can successfully lose weight without specially marketed diet foods.
The Myth of Diet Food
The term diet food always reminds me of the term flu season. Yes, there is a time when flu is more prevalent, but at the end of the day, the flu is an illness not a season. The same holds true for diet food. All food can be part of a diet, not just certain types or brands of foods marketed to dieters.
Diet food can be healthy or not. It’s a marketing term and nothing else. If you keep that in mind when shopping and planning meals, you will be able to avoid the diet food trap and make sure you purchase foods that you like, will eat, and will help you meet your goals.
What Is Diet Food?
When I use the term diet food I don’t mean whole, natural foods that are popular with dieters, such as salads, vegetables, fruits, and other lower calorie whole foods. I’m talking about foods that manufacturers market directly to people wanting to lose weight, like:
– Low calorie crackers- Low calorie cookies- Diet drinks- Diet ice cream- Fat free or lower fat dairy products- Low fat processed meats- Diet shakes- Diet granola or fruit bars- Fat free fruit snacks- Frozen diet dinners
Why Avoid Diet Food?
Food manufactured specifically for dieters isn’t necessary for successful weight loss. I used to eat a chocolate diet cookie called SnackWell’s. Boy those things were good, and you know what? I didn’t magically lose weight eating a diet cookie. Nor did I lose weight drinking a diet soda or choosing baked chips over fried ones.
A cookie is a cookie, a chip is a chip, and a diet cracker is about the same as a regular cracker.
The reason to avoid diet food is that it’s not necessary, and because the foods are highly processed, they contain ingredients that aren’t good for you, don’t help your weight loss, and can increase cravings.
Take those SnackWell’s cookies, for example. They weren’t any better for me than a regular cookie–they just had not quite as many calories. But since I ate way too many of them, I definitely didn’t lose weight.
Numerous research studies have shown that artificial sweeteners used in many diet products increase your cravings for sugary foods, which is the exact opposite of what you want.
How to Break the Habit
If your pantry, refrigerator, or freezer have diet foods in them, relax. You don’t have to ditch them or donate them if you don’t want to. Just use them wisely and don’t buy any more once they are gone.
It is easier to buy a frozen diet dinner or diet cookie than make them yourself, but think about what’s in the food. The ingredient list reads like a chemistry experiment.
Here’s an example of the ingredients in a SnackWell’s reduced fat vanilla cookie:
Unbleached enriched flour (Wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), riboflavin (Vitamin B2), folic acid), sugar, soybean and/or palm oil, dextrose, glycerin, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, wheat, starch, salt, emulsifiers (datem, sodium stearoyllactylate), leavening (baking soda, calcium phosphate), cellulose gum and gel, cornstarch, natural and artificial flavor (contains milk).
Sure they are lower in fat, but definitely not good for you.
I believe if you want a cookie, you should make a small batch using wholesome ingredients. Eat one or two, freeze or give away the rest, and count the calories toward your daily allotment.
Do the same thing with any other diet food. Choose a less processed option, make your own, or skip it entirely. After all, no one needs diet soda or diet cookies to survive.
Over time, you will likely find the taste of highly processed diet foods to be unappetizing. I can’t tell you how many clients of mine end up turning away from these types of foods and drinks completely after getting used to whole food options. They say things like, “It tastes like chemicals” or “All that food tastes the same.”
Breaking the diet food cycle can help you lose weight because you are relying on real food that is good for your body and your weight loss.