Diet Food Traps

seltzer water

Challenging classes, adjusting to a new living environment, and managing your social life are among the many issues that college students have to juggle. Eating healthy and exercising can be a challenge during your college years, and you might feel tempted to snack on “diet foods” to stay slim. However, these “diet foods” are actually higher in calories, fat and sugar than you may think. These products are loaded with artificial sweeteners and chemicals with little to no nutritional value. Foodie On Campus investigated some common “diet foods” that are typically perceived as healthy. Follow these strategies to avoid these “diet foods,” and your body will thank you for it.

Sugar-Free Sweets

While you might think you are eating healthier by choosing sugar-free desserts, this is not always the case. Many of these sugar-free cookies and candies lack real sugar, and instead are manufactured with artificial sweeteners, fat and/or sodium. The fat and  sodium are added to help achieve the same flavor profile of a cookie or candy made with real sugar. Additionally, some studies show that artificial sweeteners actually trick the body into craving more calories. A teaspoon of sugar has about 15 calories; you can certainly find a way to work that small caloric amount of real sugar into a healthy diet when you are craving something sweet. Instead of going sugar-free, get creative with different exotic fruits, or enjoy a small piece of real delicious dessert.

Diet Soda

Just like sugar-free desserts, diet soda is also made with artificial sweeteners. By the way, regular soda is loaded with sugar and calories, so in this case the “real thing” is not really  a good alternative. If you still want that carbonated pick-me-up, try seltzer water with fresh pieces of cut up fruit. You can also try mixing the seltzer with a splash of fresh juice to create a new flavor. Many soft drink companies are now making naturally flavored sparkling waters to attract a health-conscious audience. Poland Spring sells several varieties, including Raspberry Lime, Lemon, and Mandarin Orange. Pick up a naturally flavored sparkling water to still get that carbonated effect and tasty flavor of soda without the sweeteners and calories.

Trail Mix

Nuts are full of healthy fats and can be very energizing, but vending machine and convenience store trail mix bags are usually too large with multiple servings and are very high in sodium. Try making a homemade container of trail mix and putting a serving size into small plastic bags to eat throughout the week. Start with your favorite variety of unsalted nuts, sunflower seeds, a bit of dried fruit, and some healthy whole grain cereal to add more crunch. You can even put in some dark chocolate pieces if you are feeling like something rich. This is not only a healthier option, but also is much lower in sugar and sodium than the typical store-bought trail mix packs.

Fat-Free Salad Dressing

Ever look at the sodium and sugar levels on fat-free salad dressing? They are usually extremely high, and as a matter of fact, much higher than their regular salad dressing counterparts. Moreover, your body needs healthy fats to help absorb certain nutrients that come from the vegetables and leafy greens in your salad. Reduced-fat dressings that are olive oil based are a much better alternative and provide you with heart-healthy fats. Even plain olive oil drizzled onto a salad with red wine vinegar and a spritz of citrus is delicious. You can also make your own salad dressing if you have the time. Start with an olive oil base, then add balsamic vinegar, mustard, and a dash of orange juice.

Don’t be fooled by the savvy marketing and packaging techniques; “diet foods” aren’t always the best when trying to maintain your health. Remember these simple tips and try to eat clean, natural, and fresh foods to stay energized and healthy.


Photo credit: Paige Swint

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