Diet plays a key role in keeping your body functioning at optimal levels. When choosing what to eat, look for foods that won’t cause your insulin levels to spike or your metabolism to stall. That means taking a closer look at whether your favorite foods are actually good for you. Not everything that seems healthy is.
Processed bread and meat
Sandwiches are a quick, easy way to have a satisfying meal. They’re also a trap. White bread can wreak havoc on your blood sugar. Your body digests carbs quickly, causing your blood sugar to rise. In response, your pancreas produces more insulin. That means you should bypass white bread and grab some brown, right? Not necessarily. Many food manufacturers add caramel coloring to give their bread a brown color, making it seem like a healthy choice.
If you’re going to add bread to your diet, check the label for whole-grain flour. If the bread has caramel coloring or other dyes added, avoid it. To really keep your insulin levels in check, look for bread made from whole grains like quinoa or oatmeal, which are lower on the glycemic index than white or whole wheat.
The meat you choose might be just as unhealthy. Lunch meat and other cold cuts are highly processed and packed with sodium.
Diet food and drinks
Diet soda — or pop, depending on where you’re from — won’t help you lose weight, despite what it’s called. Diet drinks cut down on calories by replacing natural sugar with artificial sweeteners. While this might reduce your daily caloric intake, it can negatively affect your body as a whole. This is partly because of cephalic phase insulin release. This occurs when we see, smell, or taste food. Our bodies release insulin before sugar reaches the bloodstream. The sweetness of sugar replacements like aspartame and sucralose can fool the body into releasing this insulin.
Salads are another common diet food — but think twice before purchasing one that’s ready-made. Prepackaged salads often contain tasty extras that drive up the fat and calorie count. Cheese, nuts, bacon, croutons, and rich dressings all add up. Before purchasing any salad from the grocery store, carefully check the label to determine its actual nutritional value.
Dried fruit might seem like another healthy choice for a quick snack. Don’t be fooled. Dried fruit is full of nutrients, but it’s also packed with sugar. Without the water content of fresh fruit, dried fruit tends to be smaller but higher in calories. That can easily lead to overeating. Be extra careful of dried fruit that has added sugar or syrup for taste.
Everyone needs a special treat at some point. The problem occurs when people treat special occasion foods like pizza or ice cream as staples.
It’s easy to justify grabbing a quick slice. After all, one pizza can cover all the food groups with grains, veggies, dairy, proteins, and even fruit. That’s healthy, right? Wrong. Pizza also contains large amounts of sodium and saturated fat. Add in tons of sugar in the crust and sauce, and a single slice becomes a hazard. If you just can’t cut pizza from your diet, limit how often you eat it and consider making your own homemade slice from scratch. Using yeast, whole-grain flour, and simple tomato sauce and cheese will cut down on all the bad stuff you’ll get from store-bought and fast-food pizza.
Ice cream provides calcium, but that doesn’t mean you should have it too often. As with pizza, moderation is key. Most ice cream is filled with processed sugar and fat. It’s high in calories, and those calories are empty. If you’re dying for something sweet, try fresh fruit instead.