We are often told that staying fit and maintaining a healthy weight is as simple as eating less and moving more – but wading through the reams of information available on our health can be confusing.
Grabbing products with “diet” or "low-fat" written across them seem like a failsafe option - but this unfortunately isn't true.
Here are 5 ways that diet and low-fat foods can in fact be harmful.
They change how you think about food
A recent study found that foods marketed as “healthy" can lead to weight gain, as people perceive them as less filling, and therefore eat more of it.
The study published in the 'Journal of the Association for Consumer Research' found that people subconsciously believed that food marketed as healthy, rather than unhealthy, was less filling.
Low-fat, but full of sugar
Manufacturers have responded to fears surrounding studies which show that saturated and hydrogenated fats can cause high cholesterol and heart disease by cutting the substance from food. But they have also have increased the amount of sugar in products so they continue to taste pleasant.
An investigation by The Telegraph in 2014 found that many low fat foods which are marketed as healthier options contained more sugar that full-fat equivalents.
An analysis of 100 products showed that dozens contained at least two teaspoons of sugar in one serving.
Margarine vs butter
The yellow spread is often chosen above butter as the healthy option, but studies show that it can be harmful.
Research by Canadian scientists published in The BMJ last year suggested that saturated fats such, such as those in butter and cheese, does not cause heart disease, stroke or diabetes. However, trans fats, which can be in margarine, were linked to these diseases.
But saturated fat wasn’t let off entirely, as researchers warned that consuming it in high levels increases the risk of obesity and the conditions associated with it, the NHS website warned at the time.
Food trends in 2016
Food trends in 2016
1/11 Celeriac root
We had a kale obsession in 2015, but 2016’s vegetable sine qua non is predicted to be the knobbly celeriac root. Celeriac milk (Tom Hunt at Poco in Bristol serves it with winter mussels and wild water celery), celeriac cooked in Galician beef fat (from Adam Rawson of Pachamama, hot new chef in the capital) and salt-baked celeriac (to be found in Matthew and Iain Pennington’s kitchens at The Ethicurean in the West Country) are just a few examples.
2/11 Middle Eastern food
The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook (£24.95, Phaidon) by grand-dame Salma Hage, author of the bestseller The Lebanese Kitchen (whose halva is pictured here), is out in April
© Liz & Max Haarala Hamilton
3/11 Non-alcoholic cocktails
Grain Store mixologist Tony Conigliaro has created Roman Redhead, a riot of red grape juice, beetroot, pale ale and verjus, and Rose Iced Tea (black tea, rose petals, anise essence, pictured here)
The discerning will be slurping Hepple gin – from chef Valentine Warner and cocktail guru Nick Strangeway – which is punctuated with bog-myrtle nuances
5/11 Argyll and Bute
Restaurant followers are getting in a froth about Pam Brunton in Scotland, who opened the Inver restaurant in Argyll and Bute to acclaim last year
6/11 Andy Oliver’s Som Saa
One of the most eagerly awaited restaurants of 2016 will be the permanent incarnation of Andy Oliver’s remarkable pop-up Som Saa opening very soon in east London. Oliver, who worked at Thai god David Thompson’s Nahm in Bangkok, raised a whopping £700,000 through crowdfunding, and is renowned for his piquant Thai flavours and obsessive attention to detail, including in his home ferments and DIY coconut cream
© Adam Weatherley
Another ruminant in vogue is venison, with Sainsbury’s doubling its line for 2016. It provides a protein-packed punch, with B vitamins and iron, and it’s low in fat. Its entry into the mainstream is in part thanks to the Scottish restaurant Mac and Wild, just opened in London, whose Celtic head chef Andy Waugh (who also runs the Wild Game Co) has been touting it as street food for years (his venison burger pictured here)
From Brett Graham’s The Ledbury to Angela Hartnett’s kitchens at Lime Wood Hotel in the New Forest, Cabrito is the go-to goat supplier among the chef cognoscenti (roasted loin of kid pictured here) – but this year, domestic cooks can get in on the action, as Sushila Moles and James Whetlor of Cabrito offer their meat through Ocado
Mike Lusmore / mikelusmore.com
Coffee sage George Crawford is launching the much-anticipated Cupsmith with his partner, Emma. Crawford believes that 2016 is the year purist coffee will finally meet the masses; Cupsmith’s mission will be to make craft coffee as popular as craft beer on the high street. The company roasts Arabica beans in small batches, improving its quality – but sells it online, at cupsmith.com, in an approachable way: expect cheerful packaging and names such as Afternoon Reviver Coffee (designed for drinking with milk – no matter how uncouth, most of us want milk) and Glorious Espresso
10/11 120-day-old steak
Hanging meat for extremely long lengths of time has become an art. In Cumbria, Lake Road Kitchen’s James Cross is plating up 120-day-old steak (pictured here). The beef is from influential “ager” Dan Austin of Lake District Farmers, who is currently investigating the individual bacterial cultures that go into this maturing process
11/11 Lotus root
Diners can expect root-to-stem dining - cue the full lotus deployed by the Michelin-starred Indian Benares in its kamal kakdi aur paneer korma
Sorry, but granola is a lie…
Oats, raisins and dried fruit: what could go wrong? But the truth is that granola can be packed with sugar.
"Most granolas are classified as high sugar, with more than 12.5g of sugar per 100g, much of which has been deliberately added to make it taste more palatable than the granola once found in health food shops," Anna Raymond, dietician and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, told the Mail on Sunday.
She also warned that honey is also a sugar and is “no more healthy.”
…and so are cereal bars
Cereal bars are guilty of a similar crime to granola. While they may be advertised as low-fat or low in calories, they are often high in sugar.
A study by Which? in 2012 found that all but one of 30 popular bars were high in the white stuff, with more than half containing over 30 per cent sugar.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said at the time, according to BBC News: "People often choose cereal bars in the belief they're healthier than chocolate or biscuits, but our research shows this can be a myth."