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DIET MISTAKE: Consuming sugar-free everything to lose weight

CONTRIBUTOR Jillian Morgan, RD, LD, CDE 

THE FLAW: When trying to create a calorie deficit, many people swap sugary beverages and treats for sugar-free alternatives, which are sweetened with sugar substitutes, such as stevia, sucralose or saccharin, or sugar alcohols like erythritol or xylitol. “While this switch can drastically decrease an item’s calorie content,” says Roper St. Francis Healthcare affiliated dietitian Jillian Morgan, “research shows that sugar alternatives can increase cravings and cause you to overcompensate for the missed item by overeating.” Sugar-free items may contain low or no calories, but if you’re hungry, you’ll need a lot to feel satisfied.

THE FIX: “Checking nutrients and ingredients is important, but listening to your body is also helpful. When looking for a treat, identify your goals,” says Morgan. Worried about blood sugar? An unsweetened or sugar-free alternative may be your best bet. Looking to improve body composition? “A moderate amount of the full-sugar original may satiate more, leading you to eat the right amount for your body,” explains the dietitian. In short, go for the option that satisfies your hankering. A craving also might be your body telling you it’s time to eat. If so, selecting foods that balance carbs, fiber, fat and protein, like orange slices and cheese, may just do the trick.

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