- Margarine: Do you know what ingredients are in your margarine? Here is a list of ingredients in a margarine spread from a popular UK grocery store: water, rapeseed oil, palm oil, reconstituted buttermilk, salt, emulsifier, stabiliser, preservative, lactic acid, vitamin E, colour flavouring, vitamin A, vitamin D. There is nothing ‘healthy’ or ‘natural’ about margarine spread so throw it in the trash and go buy some real butter! Would you like to know the ingredients of butter? There is one ingredient: butter. Butter is naturally rich in vitamin A, D and E, which is why it doesn’t need to be fortified with vitamins like the margarine. Yes, it has about double the fat content, but fat will leave you feeling more satiated and it is better to get your fat (we all need fat in our diets; it’s all about the type of fat and the source of fat) in natural forms rather than synthetic, processed ‘food-like products’ such as margarine. If you cringe at the idea of spreading butter onto your rice cakes, oat cakes, or toast, then try spreading them with some avocado and a pinch of salt instead. You will be surprised at how delicious and creamy it is!
- Low-fat or Light Yoghurt: Would you like to know how they make low-fat yoghurt taste so delicious? They add a ton of extra sugar. What happens when you consume sugar? Your body stores it as fat. Also, your body burns through sugars pretty quickly as it uses them for quick-access energy, leaving you craving more and probably as a result, eating more than you should as well. Swap out the low-fat stuff for some 0% Fat Greek Yoghurt, which is very high in protein but has almost zero sugars, or some full-fat natural or greek-style yoghurt. If you want to sweeten it, use some berries, which are lower in sugar than most other fruits, or add a tablespoon of your favourite protein powder. You could even add a drizzle of honey and some cocoa powder to make it like chocolate pudding! You could also top it with some crumbled dark chocolate and shredded coconut. Get creative and just make your own versions of your favourite flavoured yoghurts.
- Salad Dressing: Salad Dressings are a complete con. There was a brand of salad dressing that I used to eat in the states called ‘Ken’s Steakhouse Dressings.’ I will now shock you with the nutrition information of their honey-mustard salad dressing; ingredients: soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, distilled vinegar, water, dijon mustard, honey, egg yolk, sugar, spices, xanthan gum, salt, natural flavour, paprika, yellow #5. Did you read all of that? High fructose corn syrup AND sugar. There are 130 calories in just two tablespoons of this stuff, and that teeny tiny serving size contains 11g of fat and 6g of sugar. Is there anything ‘healthy’ about this stuff, which many Americans are pouring over their salad? Not really. Salad cream, in the UK, isn’t any better. Two tablespoons of this stuff contains 100 calories, 8g of fat and 6g of sugar. The ingredients include rapeseed oil and sugar. To put it simply, salad dressings contain refined sugar so stop putting them on your salad as you are defeating your objective of eating healthy! Instead, why not make your own?
- Mayonnaise: The only reason you even have mayonnaise in your refrigerator is for making sandwiches. What nutritional value is mayonnaise adding to your diet? Nothing! The ingredients of mayonnaise sold in a popular UK retailer include: water, rapeseed oil (75%), and sugar. Again, more refined sugar that you are adding to your diet and more dodgy oil that probably isn’t doing your body any good. There are traditional British foods such as egg mayonnaise and tuna mayonnaise that you can make using your own ingredients. In fact, I recently made egg mayonnaise by combining plain greek yoghurt, dijon mustard, extra-virgin olive oil, and salt. It totally worked and completely satisfied my cravings but without any of the “bad stuff” in mayonnaise.
- Cheese: Why are you eating cheese? Are you putting it in your sandwiches, on your baked potato, in your eggs, or just eating it by the slice? Cheese is OK to enjoy occasionally as a treat, perhaps with some crackers or chutney at Christmas time (my dad’s favourite), but it shouldn’t be added to foods that don’t need it (except salads, which you could also add nuts to so that it’s a proper meal and not just half a chicken breast with some leaves). Trade in the brie and camembert for some feta or goat’s cheese. It’s much better for you. Make sure that you check the protein content and choose the brand with the highest protein. Also, don’t be fooled by some of the supermarket own brands; if you can find the more authentic Greek feta or French goats cheese, it is likely that the ingredients will also be more authentic and the nutritional content will be far superior too. My favourite Greek brand of feta is ‘Tranos’; it is so delicious!
- Jams and Marmalades: As a nation, we love our PBJ sandwiches, marmalade on toast, Nutella and other spreads and condiments. Trust me when I say that I still occasionally have wild cravings for Nutella and refuse to buy it because my self-control just isn’t that strong! Food manufacturers know that we are addicted to sugar and they design foods like spread and condiments for us to add to our food so that we essentially become addicted to it. No, this isn’t a conspiracy theory. Think about people who can’t have french fries without ketchup, can’t have eggs without HP sauce, can’t have chicken without Hot Sauce, can’t have salad without dressing, and the list goes on. One of my best friends lost weight just by eating her food plain! This doesn’t mean that you need to eat all of your food dry and bland; just think of creative ways to make your own versions of these things or find alternative snacks. The other day, I had a craving for PBJ so I spread some Meridian peanut butter on a wholegrain rice cake and put some thawed frozen raspberries on top. Craving sorted, and it was delicious. You can also make your own Nutella using ingredients such as hazelnut butter and cacao powder, but I haven’t tried that one yet!
- Fruit Juice: Fruit juice is like liquid sugar. In fact, you may as well eat a whole packet of sweets or candy because the sugar content will be the same. A serving size of 200ml of orange juice contains approximately 20g of sugar, and if you are drinking a pint glass of the stuff, you are consuming a whopping 40-60g of sugar in one beverage. You could eat 10 Lifesavers (for my US readers) or a fifth of a 190g bag of Wine Gums (one of the UK’s favourite sweets) and consume the same amount of sugar. If you are drinking it for the Vitamin C content, why not take a multivitamin? Or put lemon wedges in your water? Or eat 1/4 of a grapefruit with your breakfast (6g of sugar, 33mg of vitamin C)?
- Soda/Fizzy drinks: Soda, pop, and fizzy drinks are one of the main causes of obesity in my opinion. They are often referred to as ‘liquid calories’ and are just pure sugar. In fact, for one summer when I was 21, I was completely addicted to soda. I was working in a fast-food restaurant, and wasn’t eating real food but just running on the fuel of Mountain Dew and Dr Pepper. The effect it had on my body was that I lost a little bit of weight but my blood pressure absolutely shot up. How crazy is that? Age 21 with high blood pressure, and all because I was drinking about 1-2 liters of soda a day. In one individual-sized (intended for one person) bottle of sprite, there are 64g of high fructose corn syrup. In one can of 7-Up, there are 36g of sugar. These drinks are highly addictive and I would seriously encourage you to quit drinking them! Swap them out for sparkling water if you crave the carbonation, and swap them out for diluting juice if you crave the flavour. Aim to cut them out completely and just drink more H20. Water is what your body needs; drinks that are high in sugar actually dehydrate you so just replace them with water.
If you are an overweight person and can cut out a lot of the rubbish, and sugar, from the majority of your diet for at least 2-3 weeks, you will more than likely shed weight pretty quickly. Much of it will be water weight since your body actually retains more water through consumption of sugar than salt (it is true). However, a lot of it will be because your body will start burning fat for energy rather than the sugar and carbs you were feeding it to keep it going. If you are a non-overweight person, you will probably start to sleep better, have more energy throughout then day rather than peaks and crashes, and you may find that your overall mood improves as well. Finally, when you cut sugar out of the majority of your diet, you can treat yourself occasionally without feeling guilty. Say goodbye to all the foods that are disguised as ‘healthy’ and start re-thinking the way that you eat.