Avoid “light,” sugar-free, and reduced-sugar products.
This may sound backwards, but products with these labels are undesirable for a few reasons:
- They are often artificially sweetened, and research has shown that consuming artificially sweetened products can cause you to eat more later, which defeats the purpose of using calorie-free sweetener in the first place.
- Research has shown that people eat larger portions of foods they perceive to be healthier or lower in calories. So instead of eating 2 regular cookies, you might find yourself eating 4 of the sugar-free kind, just because you think they’re not as bad for you.
- These products are highly processed and unnatural. (Think scientists concocting your Light yogurt in a lab). While it’s unclear how eating packaged, processed food is related to weight loss, we do know that it’s not good for your overall health.
What kinds of products should you avoid?
- Reduced-sugar or sugar-free cereals, granola bars, jam, syrup, cookies, pudding, Jello, hot cocoa, ice cream, popsicles, candy, creamer, or any other product that traditionally contains sugar in the regular version.
- Light yogurt, bread, English muffins, crackers, chips (note: reduced-fat chips, crackers, etc. are fine).
- Diet or artificially sweetened beverages
Are there any exceptions to the rule?
Yes. There are some situations where the word “light” may not mean that artificial additives are included (see answer to next question). Light can also mean a product is lower in fat, calories, or sodium than it’s regular version.
To know for sure, read the ingredients (look for aspartame, stevia, sucralose, saccharin, erithrytol, malitol, sorbitol) to be sure there are no calorie-free sweeteners added.
What Light or sugar-free foods are OK?
Light soymilk, Light canned/boxed soup, Light ice cream (not sugar-free), and any food that is called “light” because it’s lower in sodium. Sugar-free gum is also a better choice than regular gum because it doesn’t promote tooth decay.
What should I eat instead?
- Choose unsweetened foods as often as possible. You can choose add a little real sugar/sweetener if you like a sweeter taste.
- Real, whole foods that don’t come in a package are best. Most of these foods are naturally sugar-free.
- As far as treats (sweets, chips, candy, etc) – choose the real thing. Just make sure to keep your portion size small.
Disclaimer: If you are a diabetic or suffering from another diet-related health problem, make sure to consult with your doctor about sugar-free and reduced-sugar products. The advice in this post is for healthy individuals and not intended to cure any health problem.