The Skinny On Reading Food Labels

You walk into a grocery store on a mission to choose healthy, fresh foods in order to keep your body trim and functioning at its best. Then, out of nowhere, the overabundance of diet marketing splashed across the aisles fools you. A "bad" purchase is made, despite best efforts, and you wonder why you just can't seem to add definition to your abs.

It happens all the time. We think we've made the healthiest choice, when in reality, we've been tricked by clever advertising. Here are the common buzzwords on packaging to watch out for:

Fat-free
"This really means that the fat has been replaced with sugar and artificial ingredients, and has a high glycemic index," says celebrity nutritionist Paula Simpson. And when this is the case, the food typically breaks down fast during digestion and releases glucose rapidly into the bloodstream, spiking your blood sugar levels and making you hungrier again faster.

Reduced fat
"Similar to fat-free foods, reduced-fat foods have carbohydrates that replace the fat," Simpson explains. These types of carbohydrates, when metabolized, turn into sugar and can cause weight gain.

Sugar-free
These foods contain artificial sweeteners and chemicals instead of sugar and are added to sweeten the taste of food. But while you aren't consuming calories from sugar, the chemicals used to artificially sweeten have been shown to cause overeating in scientific studies.

Gluten-free
Gluten, which is commonly found in bread, is also an ingredient in foods like ice cream and ketchup, where it acts as a thickener. But avoiding gluten won't necessary cause you to lose weight as they are only beneficial to people that have the gluten allergy. And sometimes, cornstarch and gums are added to these foods to make up for lack of wheat gluten.

Your best option is to stick to whole foods and not to rely on gimmicks. Stick to eating fresh, locally grown, non-processed foods and you shouldn't have a problem fighting the fat.

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