We've been asked the following question frequently.
Can liquid meals, frozen dinners, and sugar substitutes really help you with your weight loss?
When you walk into your local super market, you're deluged with a menagerie of foods; low carb, low fat, low sugar, low calorie, low this and low that.
And they all promise great taste, and the ability to quickly get you back into your skinny jeans.
Despite our consumption of low everything, we just don't seem to be slimming down.
No question, these food sales are growing, but so are our waistlines.
In fact, rates of obesity in North America are increasing each year.
Many of these low this, low that foods, can play a role in a healthy diet, but by themselves, they're not the magic bullet many are looking for in our goal of permanent weight loss.
Sweet Or Not?
The sugar-free business is booming.
Sales are up 24% since 1999, with sugarless gum and soda the two top sellers.
Americans spent an estimated $8.8 billion on low-sugar products last year, reports ACNielsen, and many of these were sweetened with additives such as sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal), or saccharin (Sweet'n Low).
It seems preliminary research isn't all that sweet.
The research suggests that these products may actually ramp up your appetite, especially when its a beverage.
A 2004 Purdue University study found that rats that drank liquids artificially sweetened with saccharin ate more food than those that had been fed sugar sweetened fluids.
Those of us who inhale sodas containing these sweeteners "may" react by overeating.
Also, your risk of becoming overweight rises about 65% for every diet soda you down each day.
This is according to a study presented in June 2005 at the American Diabetes Association meeting.
Note though, that if you're a diabetic who can't use sugar or honey.
Low-calorie sweeteners don't affect blood sugar, so they allow diabetics to get some sweetness into their diet without endangering their health.
And if you like your cakes and cookies, "Splenda", the additive that's best at retaining its sweetness at high temps, makes it possible to create low calorie desserts.
Use a mix of sugar and Splenda when baking and you won't notice a difference at all.
North Americans spent almost $1.5 billion on low-cal frozen dinners (such as Lean Cuisine, Weight Watchers, and Healthy Choice) in 2004.
These single serving meals cost anywhere from $3 to $5 each, pack up to 400 calories, and are quickly nuked for lunch or dinner.
In 2004, a University of Illinois study found that women who followed a 1,365-calorie diet in which they ate two packaged frozen entrées a day shed about 5 pounds more in 8 weeks than those who were instructed to follow a diet (with the same number of calories) based on the food pyramid.
I personally can't advocate these products unless (at the very least) you opt for fresh, healthy and nutritious soups or salads...super natural foods...in addition to the frozen meals.
But, I will say this.
If you find it hard to guesstimate your portion sizes.
These frozen meals can give your eyes (and stomach) a chance to adjust to what serving sizes should be.
A thought might be serving them to your kids for lunch (cuz they can probably burn it off easier) for maybe a week or so, and then keep the little trays and use them while making your own dinner as an easy way to determine your portion size.
It's a thought.
(P.S. Buy these when they go on sale too)
These types of frozen dishes are also a better option for busy people with no time (or desire) to cook and those who would otherwise grab fast food or order in pizza.
Some people have said they've used them over the years whenever they needed to lose weight because apparently you can't beat the convenience.
You just pop 'em in the microwave.
And there's no way you can overeat.
I'd like to suggest trying to pick the ones that have whole wheat or are mostly meat and vegetables, as I'm told they stick with you longer.
The bottom line here is that these products can give dieters a push in the right direction.
Frozen entrées can make dieting easier because they remove the guesswork when it comes to figuring out portion sizes.
Just make sure to supplement your meal with hefty sides of fruits and veggies to ensure you get enough nutrients and stay full.
The fruit and vegetable portion in most of these meals is tiny.
You need 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
These generally contain about 250 calories per serving, subbing for one or two meals a day.
Sales of these products have dropped 16% from 2002 to 2004, but this method is still popular with some dieters.
In 2003, a Columbia University analysis of six studies found that people who used a liquid meal replacement were likely to lose more weight (ave, 7 lbs) in a year than those who simply followed a reduced-calorie diet of about 1,200 calories per day.
(No word on how the dieters fared after that.)
If you're always on the go, liquid meal replacements are quick, easy, and convenient we admit.
These shakes might be appropriate for executives who travel a lot.
As you can take them with you in a briefcase, purse or even in a pocket, instead of eating at an airport or ordering in room service.
Another suggestion might be to have one shake before a business dinner, so you could have a light meal of perhaps a salad, instead of a high-fat, high-calorie entrée at the restaurant.
These shakes are fairly low in calories, so you'll want to add fruit or a side dish of vegetables to provide more filling fiber.
Another thought is to mix the shakes in a blender with ice and fruit, which makes them thicker and also whips up air to fill your tummy.
These drinks could also be helpful for night snackers.
If one of your danger times is after dark, you can always use a shake to curb those night time cravings for sweets.
These products can also be a quick and easy diet aid for those that might be pressed for time.
But the experts warn that dieting on liquid shakes and meal replacements may not lead to a lasting weight loss, because they don't teach you how to eat "real" super natural foods.
Fat Free Facts;
Low fat products have been around since the '80s and are still super popular weight loss foods today.
In fact, sales topped $35 billion in 2005, dwarfing the performance of all other categories, such as low carb, according to ACNielsen.
Research is suggesting that a low fat diet may not quite do the trick when it comes to weight loss.
A recent Harvard Medical School study found that those on a low fat (20% of calories) diet actually gained 6 pounds, while those on a moderate fat (35%) diet lost 9 over 18 months.
Use them though, if you're a big eater who usually has large portions to feel satisfied.
Some of the fat free or low fat salad dressings are lower in calories, so just put a little dressing on large amounts of vegetables and you can eat a lot for very few calories.
This also holds true for low fat or fat free cheeses.
I like to go for a sharp Cheddar, which still has that strong (sharp) taste.
Dairy products such as milk and cheese are high in saturated fat, so 1% or fat free versions are also a great way to get your needed calcium and protein.
**** There is a catch to this category.
I know...always a catch, right?
Some fat free and low fat salad dressings have added sugar, so check the label (2 tablespoons of fat free Italian for example, contains 15 calories, while 2 tablespoons of a Honey Dijon contains 50 cals).
Now, if you're diabetic, pre-diabetic, or carry a lot of weight around your middle.
All of these indicate that you may be prone to insulin resistance, and low fat foods, which are likely to be loaded with sugar, could worsen the problem.
Most fat free foods, with the exception of dairy products, tend to be refined carbs, which will just drive up your blood sugars and overwork your pancreas, making you even more insulin resistant.
You should also steer clear of them if you have elevated triglyceride levels.
I've known people who think they're being super healthy following a fat free diet.
Then they're shocked to learn they have insulin resistance or even high triglycerides, but as soon as they cut back on the refined carbs and add in some healthy fat, the problem goes away.
The bottom line is that low fat usually doesn't necessarily equal low calorie, so go with a small portion of a regular version instead.
Many of the above mentioned products have just as much, if not more calories than the full-fat versions.
The manufacturers have simply cut out fat and poured in the sugar.
One of the repeated mistakes we hear about is people putting too much faith in low fat peanut butter.
What is it with peanut butter?
People think that because it's reduced fat, they can just keep eating tablespoon after tablespoon right from the jar.
But they're getting almost as many calories as with the regular variety, and it's actually more harmful to their health because they're losing 3 g of heart-healthy fat and instead adding in extra carbs and sugar.
Again, these products discussed "could" help you get started on your goal but we think you've got a much better chance at overall weight loss, health and longevity by following our guidelines with the super natural foods described throughout our site.
Read about Super Natural Foods and the; Super Natural Foods Update and then try some of the absolutely awesome super natural food recipes sprinkled throughout our site!
The Low Carb Lowdown;
Around 7 years ago, low carb bars, shakes, cereals, and ice cream flooded the market, with sales peaking in 2004 at an estimated $2.6 billion, according to ACNielsen.
But this weight loss trend has since cooled off.
Sales of low carb products fell by 10% in 2005, and Atkins Nutritionals Inc. filed for bankruptcy in July of that year.
There is some evidence that low carb diets, not specific products, promote weight loss.
It's not the lack of carbohydrates that's key.
It's the fact that people on low carb diets tend to eat more protein, which is very satisfying and filling.
A recent University of Washington study found that people on a weight loss diet that was 30% protein, ate fewer calories and reported less hunger than those who followed a meal plan that was 15% protein (the diets had identical amounts of carbs, which suggests that protein really made the difference).
If you're not willing to cut portion size though, they're often as high in fat and calories as the foods they're supposed to replace.
We routinely explain to people that these products are calorie traps because manufacturers are just replacing sugar with fat.
Ahhhhhhh yes, the taste issue.
It seems the cereals have the texture of cardboard, the ice cream has a slimy feel in your mouth, and the pancake mix isn't anything like the real thing.
Also know that some low carb treats replace regular sugar with large amounts of sugar alcohols like maltitol, which can have a laxative effect.
Honestly, staples like the low carb breads and cereals do make sense, but skip the snacks.
Heck, it's a lot cheaper and healthier to have a snack like a banana with peanut butter for about the same amount of calories.Tweet
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