Forget low-cal and fat-free foods.
Now there are zero-calorie foods— from zero-calorie salad dressing and chocolate sauce to caramel dip and whipped peanut butter spread. Come on, can any food really have zero calories? Uh, no.
Here’s the deal: You can thank a government loophole in labeling laws for this new “trend.” “If a product has less than five calories per serving, the manufacturer can claim that it has zero calories,” says Brooke Joanna Benlifer, R.D., a dietitian in San Diego. Many companies even tinker with serving sizes, whittling portions until they can claim the food is calorie free.
The claim is a lie. Most of these foods have calories. Yes, the amounts are very small, but if you’re eating a lot of them while thinking they have no calories, your gut will soon hate you. “You’ll wonder why you’re not losing weight,” Ben- lifer says—or worse, why you’re gaining. And these “fake” zero-calorie foods aren’t even satisfying because there’s no protein, fat, or fiber to help fill you up. “If you’re used to eating real, whole foods, there can also be a big discrepancy with these products,” she says.
Benlifer’s advice: Never base your meal around a zero-calorie food.
Instead, use them to augment a dish and trim a few unnecessary calories. For instance, dump “zero”-cal noodles in a stir-fry or pasta dish, or use the dips and sauces in place of fattening condiments. “If you replace half the noodles in a dish with low-cal noodles, you can slash a substantial number of calories.”
And don’t eat too much: Limit intake to one to two servings a day. That way, you can fill up on real foods with real vitamins, nutrients—and yes—calories.