For the average person's ideal diet plan, most nutritionists stick by the mantra of "moderation". You can eat anything you like, as long as it is in moderation. Of course, the right level of moderation for different foods differs from person to person. To know yours, book an appointment with a dietitian or nutritionist who will chart out the ideal meal plan for you.
While they recommend diet plans to several people, there are certain foods you will never find in the kitchens of these health experts. Aware that they contain no nutritional value, the health experts don't crave these foods even on cheat days. As for the other foods, when there are healthier alternatives, why go for the unhealthier ones, say these nutritionists.
Take a peek at the grocery shopping lists of health experts and you will these items missing:
1. Low-fat, sugar-free or diet
Labels that scream "low-calorie", "sugar-free" or "diet" do nothing to attract the attention of these health experts. If a food or drink item's recipe has been altered to make it a part of weight-modification diets, Kavita Devgan, a nutritionist and author from Delhi, stays away from them as a precautionary measure. "The process of making diet food usually requires finding an acceptable low-calorie substitute for a high-calorie ingredient," explains Kavita. "This can be as simple as replacing some or all of the food's sugar with a sugar substitute," she adds.
Elaborating on this sugar substitute, most commonly found in "diet" sodas, Anupama Menon, a Bangalore-based nutritionist, says it is a sweetener called "aspartame". "It tends to increase sweet cravings when consumed regularly," says Menon. Other side effects of this sweetener include brain fog, dehydration or retardation, warns Menon.
It may be popularly believed that diet sodas are a comfortable alternative to their unhealthy counterparts but health experts think otherwise. "Diet sodas are high on acid content which tends to corrode the stomach lining and intestines, leading to inflammation," says Payal Kothari, a nutritionist from Mumbai. The resulting acidity does not make ideal conditions for those looking to lose or maintain weight by opting for diet sodas.
Butter is always the better bet for Devgan. She says, "I'd much rather have real butter than the additive-loaded and coloured margarine." Menon adds that the allegedly low-calorie, modified butter is simply "processed trans fats which are harmful to the heart". In fact, they may even be carcinogenic.
Besides, these trans fats are known to raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol. "We do need some fats," says Devgan but for that, butter is the best "because it is natural," she says. Even Menon recommends consuming a teaspoon or two of pure ghee or butter.
Monosodium glutamate (aka MSG) and any foods that contain this additive are strictly avoided by Menon. She explains, “It is an excitotoxin which excites one’s cells to such an extent that it could cause brain damage. It can also worsen learning disabilities in children.”
In addition, MSG is also often linked to obesity and depression hence the expert suggests it's best to stay away from MSG.
4. Fruit juices
This one may come as a surprise, it did to us too but Shirin Kapadia, a Mumbai-based nutritionist, explains, "Fruit juice is fructose which is basically natural sugar but it is still sugar." Kapadia prefers eating whole fruits instead of juicing them.
"Fruit juices contain way too much sugar than one can consume at one go," explains Kapadia. The only time one needs those kinds of fast-absorbing carbohydrates, says Kapadia, is before or after strenuous activity. It's no wonder then that fruit juices are mostly recommended before or after a good workout.
5. Ready-to-cook meals
From instant noodles to oats, soups, and other ready-to-cook meals, Kapadia never eats any type of packaged foods no matter how "healthy" they claim to be. According to the health expert, almost all the ingredients added to these meals, in the form of sodium, sugar, artificial chemicals, and colours, are unhealthy since they have nothing to offer – no nutrition at all.