Snacks For Weight Loss: What’s Good? What Isn’t?

These days a lot of foods (especially those with big ad budgets) are being promoted as snacks for weight loss and good health, but are they? Are we being tricked? Or are they truly healthy treats?

Fruit Smoothies

Many people think of fruit smoothies as diet food in a cup, and loaded with nutrition to boot. Are they right?

Trick!

What you’re often slurping up is mega calories, and as much sugar as what you’d get in a can of coke.

A small “Trim Down” smoothie at Smoothie King, for example, delivers about 250 to 350 calories (the equivalent of 1 to 1-½ Snickers Bars). A large cup tallies up 500 to 700 calories. (You’d have swallowed fewer calories with a Quarter Pounder With Cheese.)

Pick up a Five Fruit Frenzy at Jamba Juice for breakfast and pick up 340 calories (more than an Egg McMuffin).

What’s more, calories from liquids don’t curb your appetite as well as calories from solid foods do, which means you don’t compensate for those liquid calories by eating less later in the day. So unless you’re part of that rare species in America who’s trying to gain weight, you’re much better off steering clear of all liquid calories, including smoothies, and enjoying real fruit goodness — fresh, whole delicious fruit like apples, oranges, and a handful of grapes. (Whole fruit is a lot cheaper than a smoothie, too.)


Fat-Free Frozen Yogurt

We feel pretty proud of ourselves if we’ve chosen frozen yogurt chains like TCBY or Pinkberry for a snack or dessert. Should we be?

Both, actually.

Nonfat frozen yogurt is a healthy treat, especially when we choose fabulously fresh fruit like kiwis and raspberries for toppings.

But all too often we’re being tricked, too. That’s because the websites of chains like TCBY, Pinkberry, and Red Mango list calories for a one-half cup serving, but what they serve (even their small and regular sizes) are often two and three times larger.

If, for example, you order a Fat Free Dutch Chocolate at TCBY, you’re getting 200 calories for a small (one cup) and about 240 calories for a regular, not the 100 calories touted on TCBY’s website.

Ditto for Pinkberry and Red Mango. Their websites make a big deal of their 100-calorie servings, but the cups you actually order at their shops have 140 to 160 calories for a small, 220 to 260 for a medium, and 310 to 390 for a large.

Healthy? Well, yes. Yogurt is a rich source of calcium. Waist trimming? Not so much.

Make this a once-in-a-while treat, not an everyday one.


Almonds

Not only are they scrumptious, almonds are good for you because they lower cholesterol, say recent media stories. So trade in your cookies and crackers, these articles recommend, for a handful of almonds every day. Are they right?

Trick!

Almonds are certainly a healthier treat than cookies and most crackers. But when it comes to almonds’ cholesterol-lowering powers, here are the facts.

“Replacing cookies and crackers with almonds would very likely lower your LDL bad cholesterol because cookies and crackers are often loaded with cholesterol-raising saturated and trans fats like butter, tropical oils, partially hydrogenated oils, and/or egg yolks,” says Dr. Jay Kenney, Nutrition Research Specialist at the Pritikin Longevity Center. “Almonds have a small amount of saturated fat too, but they also have plant sterols and some fiber, both of which help lower LDL cholesterol.”

“But if the almonds are replacing, say, the garbanzo beans that you were putting in your daily salads, chances are your LDL cholesterol would go up because the garbanzo beans — all beans, for that matter — have much more cholesterol-lowering fiber than the almonds.”

What’s more, the beans will help you feel fuller longer — and for a lot fewer calories — than the almonds, so “over time you’d be more likely to lose weight, and that too would lower not only your LDL cholesterol but your triglycerides. Choosing beans over almonds would probably help raise your HDL good cholesterol, too.” A cup of cooked beans, such as pinto beans, black beans or cannellini beans, has only about 220 calories. A cup of almonds has 820 calories — yes, nearly four times more calories than beans!

So if improving your cholesterol and eating low-calorie-dense, filling food is your goal, bring on the beans! Fold pinto beans into corn tortillas with salsa and shredded lettuce. Puree black beans with fresh cilantro, jalapeno, lemon, and onions for a zesty dip. Whip up bean-rich soups like minestrone. For your heart and your waistline, beans can’t be beat.


Soymilk

Soymilk is promoted as delicious and better for your heart than dairy milk, even nonfat dairy milk.

Treat!

Soymilk truly is a treat. At Pritikin, our chefs serve both the vanilla and original varieties of Silk soymilk, as well as nonfat (skim) dairy milk.

“However, we do recommend soymilk as a slightly better choice, especially if reducing your cardiovascular risk is a goal,” says Pritikin registered dietitian and educator Kimberly Gomer, MS, RD. “Soymilk has zero cholesterol (even nonfat dairy milk has small amounts of cholesterol and fat) and the soy proteins have been shown to help reduce LDL bad cholesterol levels over time.”

Your best choices are the vanilla, original, or no-sugar-added varieties. Flavored varieties like “Very Vanilla” and “Chocolate” are too high in added sugars and are not recommended on the Pritikin Program.

Calorie content, calcium, and protein are very similar between soymilk and nonfat dairy milk, “so you are not missing out on any nutrition by switching from fat-free dairy to soymilk,” assures dietitian Kimberly Gomer.


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