Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Are Low-Fat and Sugar-Free Foods Really Better?

By: Lucy Nelson, Guest Blogger

The Low-Fat Farce

Since the 1980’s fat has been villainized as the cause of weight gain and heart disease. Products parade low-fat labels in order to persuade consumers that they are healthier. But the replacements for natural fat are as bad, if not worse, and fats are a necessary part of a balanced diet.

In order to maintain flavor in low-fat products, the fats are replaced with sugar and altered vegetable oils, some of which contain trans-fat. The result is a product higher in sugar and carbohydrates that your body burns faster. The quickly digested low-fat products lead to blood sugar swings and cravings, making it even harder to control your eating habits.

Fats are important in helping our body absorb vitamins. By providing our bodies fatty acids, such as omega-3 which are essential fats that we must acquire through food, we can maintain nerve function and produce hormones that promote healthy heart and blood vessel activity. Low-fat diets can lead to a deficit in vitamins A, D, E, and K which in turn can lower immunity and the body’s ability to heal.


Healthy fats and How to Include Them

Foods high in healthy fats include avocados, fish, nuts (especially walnuts), olive oil, flaxseed, and leafy vegetables. Full fat milk, yogurt, and peanut butter also contain helpful fats and vitamins.
  • Try making your own trail mix with different nuts and dried fruits to substitute snacking on chips. 
  • Avocado is a great topper for toast in the morning (or any other time!). 
  • Replace mayonnaise with plain yogurt, just add a bit of lemon juice and a few choice herbs such as chives or rosemary. (This is a great dip as well!)
  • Top salads with flaxseed, or add a spoonful to smoothies.
Sugar-Free 

Sugar-free products also contain replacements and additives counterproductive to health. Sugar substitutes are much harder for our bodies to digest and can sometimes cause digestive issues. Some studies have even shown that artificial sweeteners are addictive. Many countries have banned alternative sweeteners on account of health concerns.

The best way to watch sugar intake is to make better choices instead of trying to trick our bodies with chemicals. If you think of how we used to eat, before civilization and grocery stores, sugar was hard to come by. The sweetest things, fruit and honey, were either paired with lots of fiber or protected by stinging sentries. So while a chocolate bar or a soda every once and awhile won’t kill you, it’s best to try to eat sugar in its natural forms.

Natural Sugar and Where to Find It
  • Fruits! Make a yummy smoothie instead of buying a carton of ice cream.
  • Honey is great sweetener and has added effects of immune support. 
  • Maple syrup (the real stuff) contains minerals and antioxidants, but it is still sugar so use sparingly. It’s great for fall flavors in treats. 
  • While fruit juice is natural sugar, keep in mind that a glass of orange juice probably amounts to four or five oranges. You wouldn’t eat that many oranges in one sitting, and it is possible to overdo natural sugars.
  • Buy plain yogurt and add your own sweetness with fruit, honey, or maple syrup. That way you know just how much is in each serving.
How do you ensure everyone in your family is eating healthy fats? How do you cut back on the sugary sweets that children love?


About the Author: Lucy was born in Western North Carolina. She is a current student at UNC Chapel Hill. While engaged in a yoga teacher training program, Lucy became concerned with mental, emotional, and physical health. She hopes to discover a career that involves these concerns.

45 comments :

  1. Sugar is the biggest issue in our home! One of my girls loves candy and it's been a hard battle this year to have her eat nutritional snacks after-school to prevent her binging on candy. Fortunately, she doesn't mind replacing candy by beef jerky or popcorn so we're cutting down on sugar by adding savory or sugar-neutral snacks in our pantry. Thanks for the advice!

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    1. Good job doing a replacement. There are naturally sweet items out there that might help with that sweet tooth. And fruit is def. a great, sweet option!

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  2. My husband is such a sugar bear so we have far too much in our home but my son is really good about understanding that something is a treat and can only be enjoyed in small servings.

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    1. That is awesome that your son understands this. Maybe he can help your sugar bear out by guiding him to less sugar :P

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  3. These are wonderful explanations about natural sugars and natural oils that are healthy for you.

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  4. Great ideas. I have been trying to stay away from low-fat foods for a while now. Sugar on the other hand, well, my hubby and I both have issues with sugar. One day maybe we'll kick the habit.

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    1. Try going for naturally sweetened things like fruit instead of a candy bar. Soon enough a candy bar will be too sweet for your liking.

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  5. It drives me crazy that companies can label their foods low fat or sugar free by replacing the sugar with the other sugar like substances or preservatives. I prefer eating real food as much as possible. I read labels and try to use better alternatives like honey or maple syrup when I really want something sweet.

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    1. Isn't it just wrong that they are allowed to do that?!

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  6. I try to cut back on sugars! It's crazy how
    Much sugar can be found in things like juices.

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    1. YES! Juices are FULL of sugar. Sports drinks are another that you would think wouldn't have that much but again, FULL of sugar.

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  7. I've just started making my own smoothies and was so surprised by all the benefits of flax seeds. We struggle with trying to maintain lower sugar snacks for our little. This was so helpful. Thank you!

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    1. We love smoothies! You can pack them full of fruits, veggies and seeds!

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  8. This is some helpful advice. I remember there being some popular diets that avoided fats altogether. I'm glad we have better info now!

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    1. Here is another great blog that talks more about healthy fats: http://choosykids.blogspot.com/2014/12/dietary-fat-is-it-good-or-bad.html

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  9. It's better to go all natural than to avoid sugar and fat completely. You're absolutely right, there are good fats and healthier alternatives to sugar and they will be so much better for you and your family!

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  10. I'm on the stage of dieting and I must say that its not that easy, I'm having a hard time on what I'm going to eat, but at the end I decided to make my own smoothies :)

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    1. Smoothies are an excellent choice. Keep it simple. I love the "caveman diet" because they didn't have candy bars, lunch meat, etc. They had whatever they could grow, pick or kill/catch!

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  11. Great tips! I bought into the lowfat thing for a while, but all I've been reading lately has definitely changed my ways and thinking. We've been working really hard to lower our sugar intake too.

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    1. Shann I know you are taking this to a whole new level on your blog :) Keep up the excellent work -Christine

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  12. Very informative article. I'm conscious with using sugar because I try to lose weight.

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    1. Just remember that you also have to be physically active too!

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  13. I try to go for foods with very little to no sugar in them. I check the products when I go grocery shopping too. I want to make sure my family is being very healthy.

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    1. Great job making healthy choices for your family!

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  14. The lesser the sugar the better. I always check the label, if the sugar content is so high then it is a no no for my son.

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    1. It is hard to find those products, huh?

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  15. I am also very careful with what my kids eat. I am very strict when it comes to chocolates and candies.

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    1. Teaching children at a young age about what sugar and sweets can do to their bodies will help them better understand why you say no and offer them another option.

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  16. Im not a fan of anything sugar-free. My mom sweetens everything with honey or applesauce.

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  17. This is great information that even though it is fat free that we do need healthy fats in our diets and that sugars are not necessarily bad. Natural sugars are actually better than what they have to substitute. Awesome and informative post!

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    1. Yes- natural is the way to go. Check out this blog post too for more info on healthy fats: http://choosykids.blogspot.com/2014/12/dietary-fat-is-it-good-or-bad.html

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  18. There are fats to be avoided and then, there are fats that your body is definitely going to need! I'd rather give my kids food that contains good fat than have them avoid it. I agree with that list of sugar alternatives!

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    1. You are correct, Amanda. Check out this post for more info on healthy fats: http://choosykids.blogspot.com/2014/12/dietary-fat-is-it-good-or-bad.html

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  19. I am a little bit strict when it comes to sugar intake. I always make sure that our family has a balanced sugar intake.

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    1. Balance is key. But so is education on what is good and bad for our bodies.

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  20. I live alone but when my kids were growing up, I read everything on food I purchased. That was the only way I knew how to make sure my family was getting healthy fats in our diet.

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    1. Label reading is still hard, but it is getting easier!

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  21. I just started learning about nutrition about a year ago when my boyfriend decided he wanted to try and lose weight. We quickly learned that low fat is really over hyped.

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    1. Wonderful that you are helping him with his decision. Keep it simple!!

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  22. These are awesome tips and information. We tried to cut back on sugar but we always fail. It's hard!

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    1. Start slow. Maybe try to sweeten your tea with honey instead of sugar...just an idea!

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  23. I am a soda fiend and drink it three to four times I day. I switched to Diet a couple of years ago but I guess the artificial sweetener does more harm than good, I am better off drinking regular soda

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