Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Are dry foods sabotaging your diet?

Photo credit: kmohman (Flickr)

If you find yourself noshing on foods, like pita chips, baked chips, or whole grain crackers and you're trying to lose weight or eat healthier, you may want to perk up your ears...I mean, eyes.  Although possibly better options than what you were previously consuming for snack time, these foods could be sabotaging your diet.  So, how can this be?  First of all, "dry" foods tend to take the place of whole, fresh vegetables or fruits that could be eaten instead.  Most people need at least 4-5 cups of vegetables and fruits daily.  Vegetables and fruits are generally low in calories and heaping with a variety of nutrients.  Not only are they filled with satiety-enhancing fiber, but they are also higher in water content than "dry" foods.  Foods with a higher water content may help reduce calorie intake, which is helpful for someone trying to lose weight.  For example, a 1 oz bag of Pop Chips offers 120 calories, 4 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein, 1 gram of fiber, and a minimal amount of other nutrients.  On the other hand, a small baked sweet potato with 2 Tbsp of 2% Greek yogurt with a sprinkle of cinnamon offers about 75 calories, 0.5 g fat, 2 g fiber, 4 g of protein and a host of essential nutrients, like vitamins A and C.  Which snack option do you think would offer greater between-meal staying power -- the dry 1 oz bag of Pop Chips or the moist sweet potato/yogurt combo?  You drink a large glass of water with those dry snacks, you say?  Well, while that water will definitely satisfy your thirst, it is not as effective at satisfying your hunger as foods that have a high water content.  I also find that people sometimes find it more challenging to control portions with "dry" foods since they need to eat more to feel more satisfied.  For instance, which would satisfy hunger more effectively -- 10 grapes or 10 raisins?

I understand the role that some dry foods play in the diet.  Maybe they satisfy that craving for something salty, crunchy, or savory.  That's fine.  At the same time, if your goal is to lose weight and/or eat healthier, then you might consider increasing your intake of whole vegetables and fruits first.  Including more vegetables and fruits in your diet will boost your intake of a variety of nutrients and naturally crowd out excess calories from other foods, including "dry" foods.  Then you'll definitely be on the path to achieving your best health.

Thank you for visiting and make it a nutritious day!       


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