Why low-calorie foods can slow weight loss

When dieting, we are distracted by foods advertised as low-calorie. These are highly processed and not full of the ‘good stuff’ – this is when cravings start to happen. You might actually find that by eating more calories from whole foods, you’ll lose weight quicker. Here’s how to be cautious of the foods you’re eating not just the calories.

More and more cravings

If you’re watching your weight, chances are you’d choose a diet coke over a piece of fruit. Diet coke has zero calories and no sugar, whereas fruit contains sugar and calories (albeit not very many compared to other foods). You may not be aware that by ingesting sugary food and drink with zero calories, or specifically designed ‘low calorie’ foods, you’re actually messing with your body’s understanding of what it is digesting. It gets confused when you eat something extremely sweet but it has nothing to turn into energy! This is because when your body detects something sweet is in your system, it creates the hormone insulin to store sugar. When it realises there actually isn’t any sugar to digest, it starts craving more to put the insulin to use.

At this point, you’re more likely to give into cake or cookies which can seriously derail your diet. This effect is emphasised when you eat low-calorie foods when you’re hungry. Next time your stomach rumbles for a mid-morning snack before lunch, have some carrot sticks with some peanut butter. You’ll give your body happy, meaning you can feel satisfied with your healthy lunch later.

The secrets behind nutritional info

Zero or low calorie foods are not all they’re cracked up to be. If an ingredient isn’t a certain percentage of a portion size, it’s not in the nutritional information. This means that you could be eating fats and sugar without even realising! This is important to be aware of, especially as portion sizes on the back of a packet are usually smaller than the average, anyway. This is a way to sell a product – customers believe the food their buying ‘isn’t that bad’, but actually ignore the portion size and eat their usual amount. So not only are you already eating more bad stuff than you realise, you could be eating a lot more than you thought!

Real sugar isn’t sweet enough

While ‘low-calorie’ sweeteners seem a great option when dieting, they are much sweeter than natural sugars. Stevia is 300 times sweeter than normal sugar, while Splenda is 600 times. If you eat these often, your body becomes used to this level of sweetness and you’ll no longer satisfied by less-sweet foods. This again increases cravings because you need more sugar to stimulate the brain and feel satisfied.

Slowing your metabolism

When we deprive our body of food, our metabolism slows down because we go into starvation mode.  Some people think that by eating lots of low calorie foods they’ll keep their net intake down but still give the body something to work with. Fortunately, this isn’t actually true. Our metabolism speeds up when we ingest more calories and slows down when it realises it isn’t getting the amount of food it needs.

When dieting, of course you need to restrict your calorie intake, but think about the kind of foods you’re eating. Veg is great for a diet because it provides you with nutrients and minerals for optimum energy, the fibre in it is hard to digest keeping you fuller for longer and it is generally low calorie. But don’t just stick to veg or your body will feel deprived. Add lean protein and a controlled amount of healthy carbs so you don’t crave as much. Stay away from artificial low calorie foods as most of the calories they do contain are empty with no goodness at all – this will make you to feel tired and want a sugary hit!

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