Six Diet Foods Your Diet Doesn’t Need

Leslie Beck wrote . . . . .

If you’re a snacker who’s keeping tabs on the bathroom scale, calorie-controlled snack packs and light and fat-free foods might seem like a dieter’s boon. After all, nixing a few extra calories here and there can make the difference between reaching your goal weight or holding steady. Or worse, putting on a few pounds each year.

Not all diet foods are helpful, though. Some might actually prompt you to overeat and others can shortchange your diet of essential nutrients, not to mention deliver potentially risky ingredients.

And, despite the label claims – light, fat-reduced, sugar-free – you may not be saving as many calories as you think.

The following foods don’t deserve a regular place in your diet (it’s not an all-inclusive list), whether you’re trying to slim down or not. Here’s why, plus better-for-you stand-ins.

100-calorie snack packs

The built-in portion control of miniature packages of cookies, chips and chocolate helps prevent mindless munching to the bottom of the bag. That’s as long as you stop at one pack which, research suggests, doesn’t always happen.

A 2008 study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that smaller snack packages encouraged chronic dieters to eat twice as much as when the snack was offered in a larger package. It’s thought that once dieters have eaten to a certain point a “what-the-hell” effect kicks in, willpower is abandoned and people keep on eating.

On the nutrition front, these highly processed snacks don’t offer much beyond white flour, sugar and, well, 100 calories. They also lack appetite-suppressing nutrients such as fibre, protein and healthy fats.

Diet fix: Eat 100 calories’ worth of real food: three dried apricots + 3 walnut halves, 1/3 cup of plain yogurt + 1/2 cup berries, 15 grapes + half an ounce of cheese, or a 12-ounce (a “tall” at Starbucks) skim-milk latte.

Light peanut butter

Fat-reduced peanut butter isn’t unhealthy, but what’s the point? Per tablespoon, you’re saving only 10 calories and two grams of fat (80 calories versus 90 calories for Kraft’s fat-reduced and regular peanut butters). Big deal.

Plus, peanut butter provides heart-healthy fat, half of it from monounsaturated fat, the type that’s thought to help improve blood vessel function and benefit blood-sugar control.

Diet fix: Stick with regular peanut butter and practice portion control to prevent spreading too many calories on your toast. Even better, choose a “natural” peanut butter made only with crushed nuts and perhaps a bit of salt.

Diet pop

If you read my column, you know that I’m not a fan of artificially sweetened drinks. While studies haven’t shown a causal link, some research has linked habitual diet-drink consumption to weight gain over time, even after accounting for factors such as diet and exercise.

It’s thought that by providing a sweet taste without calories, artificial sweeteners may impair the body’s ability to gauge calorie intake, causing us to consume excess calories later on.

A 2014 study published in Nature demonstrated the ability of saccharin, sucralose and aspartame to disrupt the balance of gut bacteria in mice and people, an effect that could lead to obesity and glucose intolerance.

Diet fix: Swap diet soft drinks for naturally calorie-free water, sparkling or still. To infuse flavour, add a splash of pure fruit juice or a slice of citrus fruit.

Fat-free salad dressing

To me, the main purpose of salad dressing is fat. Oil – be it olive, grapeseed, sunflower, canola or walnut – adds flavour, texture and nutrients such as vitamin E and alpha linolenic acid (an omega-3 fat) to salads. It also helps your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins and beneficial antioxidants from greens and other vegetables.

What’s more, using fat-free salad dressing, made mainly from water plus emulsifiers, thickeners, preservatives and sometimes added sugar, may not be trimming a substantial number of calories from your meal.

Kraft Fat Free Italian dressing delivers a mere five calories per tablespoon (it’s mostly water, remember). The company’s full fat Zesty Italian dressing, on the other hand, has 25 calories a tablespoon – not a heck of a lot more.

I know what you’re thinking. Who uses only a tablespoon? Sure, the calorie savings will add up as portion-size increases. Even so, in my experience people tend to use full-fat foods more judiciously than those labelled fat- or calorie-free.

A “lighter” tasting salad could also persuade you to add more fat-reduced dressing.

Diet fix: If you buy commercial salad dressing, go for the full-fat version (ditto for mayonnaise) and drizzle your salad with a measured two tablespoons. My preference: dressings made with olive or canola oil instead of soybean oil, an inexpensive oil high in omega-6 fatty acids that’s widespread in processed foods. If you’re cutting back on salt, look for a product with less than 200 milligrams a serving.

Fat-free cheese slices

A 20-gram slice of fat-free processed cheese serves up a measly 25 calories. But along with your so-called cheese (flavourless, in my opinion), you’re also getting water, corn starch, salt, binders, natural and artificial flavours, colouring and preservatives.

Diet fix: If you crave cheese, opt for real cheese, be it cheddar, Swiss or Parmesan. Invest in a cheese plane which allows you to slice cheese in very thin slices.

Two thin slices of aged cheddar cheese (15 grams, I weighed it) adds satisfying flavour to sandwiches and burgers for only 55 calories and 2.8 grams of saturated fat.

The additional 30 calories isn’t going to break your diet.

Rice cakes

Two puffed rice cakes serve up 70 calories – about the same as a small (30 gram) slice of 100-per-cent whole-grain bread – but not much else. No fibre and negligible vitamins and minerals, despite being made from brown rice. They’re also high on the glycemic index scale, meaning when eaten by themselves they spike your blood sugar and insulin, which can lead to premature hunger.

Diet fix: Trade rice cakes for nutrient- and fibre-rich snacks such as 20 almonds (equivalent of 140 calories, or four rice cakes) or raw vegetables dipped in a few tablespoons of hummus. If you love rice cakes, pair two with a tablespoon of (full fat) nut butter or thinly sliced (real) cheese.

Source: The Globe and Mail

Sauteed Salmon with Corn Sauce


2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
4 center-cut salmon fillets, about 4 oz each
2 cups corn kernels
1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup chopped green onions, green and white parts
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (fresh coriander)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. To make the marinade, in a shallow glass baking dish, combine the soy sauce, garlic, lemon juice and sugar. Add the salmon fillets, turn to coat both sides, cover, refrigerate and marinate for 15 minutes to 8 hours.
  2. To make the sauce, in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the corn, tomatoes, water and cumin. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the tomatoes are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the green onions and cilantro and stir to mix well.
  3. In a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the marinade. Transfer the salmon to a work surface and coat with the pepper. Discard the remaining marinade.
  4. Add the salmon to the hot pan and saute for 4 minutes. Turn and saute the fish until it just separates when pressed with a fork, about 4 minutes more.
  5. To serve, divide the fillets among 4 individual plates. Top each with an equal amount of the sauce.

Source: Cooking for Healthy Living

What’s for Lunch?

Ramen Set Lunch

The Menu

  • Pork Ramen
  • Deep-fried Scallop

The Restaurant

Women with Migraines Have Higher Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality

Women diagnosed with migraines have a slightly increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, and are somewhat more likely to die from these conditions than women who do not have migraine, according to findings of a large study published in The BMJ today.

These results add to evidence that migraine should be considered an important risk marker for cardiovascular disease, say experts. But more research is needed to determine possible causes, and whether treatments to prevent migraines could help to reduce these associated risks.

Migraine has been consistently linked with an increased risk of stroke, but few studies have shown an association of migraine with cardiovascular diseases and mortality.

So a team of US and German researchers carried out a large prospective study to evaluate associations between migraine, cardiovascular disease and mortality.

They analysed data from 115,541 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study II. The participants were aged 25-42 years, free from angina and cardiovascular disease, and followed from 1989-2011 for cardiovascular events, diseases and mortality.

Overall, 17,531 (15.2%) women reported a physician’s diagnosis of migraine at baseline. Over 20 years of follow-up, 1,329 total cardiovascular disease events occurred and 223 women died due to cardiovascular disease.

When compared to women who did not have migraine, these results show that women who reported a migraine had a greater risk for major cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, strokes and angina/coronary revascularization procedures.

These associations remained after adjusting for other factors that may have increased the risk for these diseases.

In addition, migraine was associated with a higher risk for cardiovascular mortality. This association was similar across subgroups of women, including by age, smoking status, hypertension, postmenopausal hormone therapy, and oral contraceptive use.

In a linked editorial, Rebecca Burch from Harvard Medical School and Melissa Rayhill from The State University of New York at Buffalo caution that “the magnitude of the risk should not be over-emphasized,” as “it is small at the level of the individual patient, but still important at a population level because migraine is so prevalent.”

While the current study controlled for a large number of vascular risk factors, no information was available for vascular biomarkers, and migraine specifics, such as migraine aura.

Nevertheless, the authors say “these results further add to the evidence that migraine should be considered an important risk marker for cardiovascular disease, at least in women,” and there is no reason why the findings can’t be applicable to men.

“Given the high prevalence of migraine in the general population, an urgent need exists to understand the biological processes involved and to provide preventive solutions for patients,” they conclude.

The editorialists Rebecca Burch and Melissa Rayhill agree “it’s time to add migraine to the list of early life medical conditions that are markers for later life cardiovascular risk.”

They say this latest study raises questions about whether treatments that decrease the frequency or severity of migraine may reduce later life vascular risks, and conclude by saying “what little evidence we do have suggests the need for therapeutic restraint [to prevent cardiovascular risk] until we have a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the link between migraine and vascular disease.”

Source: EurekAlert!

Today’s Comic