If you're watching your weight, there's a good chance you've caught on to the low-fat, low-carb craze taking over supermarkets and restaurants across the country.
However, making these foods a staple of your diet may actually be more of a hindrance than a help.
Elisa Zied of the American Dietetic Association gives The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm these tips:
Low-Carb Beer And Wine
Low-carb beers and wines have really become a trend of this past year, but they don't benefit you unless you're watching your portions - and a portion size is 12 ounces for beer and 5 ounces for wine. These low-carb alternatives are good news if you're watching your portions, but most people, if they're drinking alcohol, will have two, three, four beers or a couple glasses of wine. With multiple drinks, you're loading up on calories, and the carb count at this point doesn't really have much of an impact. As far as daily portions go, men should aim for no more than two a day and women, one a day.
In this case, calories are the bottom line when trying to maintain or lose weight. And we all know, too many calories will sabotage your effort to keep your weight down. So the more you drink, the more calories you will take in.
Distilled spirits have no carbs to begin with, but you get carbs and calories from the mixers, like Coke and orange juice. The more you have, the more calories you'll absorb. Again, it's all about portion control.
People are using artificial sweetener products in an attempt to save calories. However, there's some evidence that you may actually increase your daily calorie intake by relying too much on sweeteners, but its very preliminary. A recent study was conducted to demonstrate how sweeteners, like saccharin, can disrupt your body's natural ability to count calorie intake. Our bodies are able to judge by a food's taste and texture the amount of calories we're taking in over the course of a day, and artificial sweeteners can trick this natural balance, forcing us to eat more calories that we're normally used to eating.
Most popular sweeteners - NutraSweet and Splenda, which is popping up in lots of new sodas - can cut the amount of calories from soda in half. This is good news if you're a soda drinker.
The bottom line, artificial sweeteners are OK in moderation, especially if they're being used to replace higher calorie foods or beverages. But until we know more about whether or not they can actually contribute to weight gain, it's better to proceed with caution.
Fat-Free And Low-Fat Foods
Like many foods with artificial sweeteners, a lot of these so-called low-fat and fat-free foods are packaged, processed and offer lower carbs and calories, but not much else in terms of nutrition. The exception: low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese and low-fat milk. They can provide some nutrients. On the other hand, low-fat muffins, for example, contain fewer calories than regular muffins, but there's not much else besides calories.
You're better off eating foods that are naturally low-fat, such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber. These foods are low in calories, high in water and high in energy density.
A recent study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that subjects who ate a big salad with a little dressing as a first course during lunch ate fewer calories than those who did not. If you're eating fruits and vegetables instead of low-fat muffins, you're not sacrificing the taste of the food, and you're getting much more nutrition.
To manage your weight, limit the amount of processed and packaged foods that are often loaded with refined sugars, and emphasize plant foods, and add some protein and fat to add taste, texture and palatability to your meals.