BY ZACK ZEIGLER
If you want to hit your training and physique goals, you need to fuel your body with the right foods. And while junk food may be tempting, it won’t do you any favors while you’re trying to get beach-ready. Some unhealthy foods are no-brainers, but there are plenty of “healthy” options that aren’t actually waistline-friendly.
“It comes down to moderation,” says Franci Cohen, CEO of Fuel Fitness in New York and creator of SpiderBands. “In general, you’re looking to limit the things that produce the fat storage hormone insulin in the body. Throughout the day you don’t want big peaks and drops in insulin levels, you want those levels to remain relatively steady.”
Whether it’s scaling back insulin-spiking foods or cutting down on the things that slow metabolism, if you’re munching or sipping on large quantities of these items too often, you could be inadvertently hindering progress.
White bread is high on the Glycemic Index (GI), a system that ranks food based on its effect of blood-sugar levels. Foods with high GI have a greater impact on blood glucose levels. Does that mean since white bread has a high GI you’ll want to reach for the nearest brown bread? (Hint: No.)
“Many companies take cheap white bread and stain it with caramel colors—the same thing used to make Diet Coke brown,” she explains. “It’s the same with white riceOpens a New Window.; the germ layer has been stripped from it. No germ layer equals no fiber equals an insulin increase. Whole grain is always better.”
Reassure yourself you’re getting the healthiest option by checking labels. Companies often trick consumers by labeling breads “grain,” or “healthy-grain” on the package.
“If the first ingredient doesn’t say ‘whole-grain flour’ it’s a red flag,” Cohen adds. “Ingredients are labeled highest to lowest in terms of concentration, so if it says white flour and caramel coloring as the first and second ingredient…that should tell you that you’re probably buying white bread that’s been dyed to look like whole-wheat bread.”
Fresh fruit contains vitamins and minerals, and it’s high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Dried or dehydrated fruit can contain added sugar and sulfur to extend its shelf life. What’s more, the removal of water from the fruit can lead to overeating.
“When you eat a fresh apricot, apple, or peach you might be full after eating one with something like come cottage cheese,” Cohen says. “But with dried fruit you can eat the whole box and consume thousands of calories and not feel it because the water has been removed. Also, the GI Index for dried fruit is higher than fresh food because changing the physical structure of food—with the exception of water—changes how your body digests the fruit.”
Store-bought salads can quickly turn a healthy meal into a fat bomb when the add-ons and dressing are applied to the greens. “Check out how many calories are in the salad,” she suggests. “And then look at the calories with the dressing that’s provided. Sometimes it’s nearly double!”
Other salad fixins like bacon bits, cheese, croutons, dried fruits and nuts can also cause the calorie count to skyrocket if they’re not used in moderation.
An easy three-step remedy could be to purchase pre-washed bagged salad and something similar to Trader Joe’s Healthy 8 Veggie Mix (which contains—you guessed it, eight different types of veggies). Then add two tablespoons of oil and vinegar or another light dressing, and you’re set.