Why Diet Food Just Doesn’t Work (And 3 Foods That Do)

A couple of years ago, diet food took a deep dive in terms of popularity. But don’t be fooled. There’s still plenty of diet food on the shelves. It’s just masked as health food. The problem? Neither are foods. Despite the label to the contrary, health food grows from the ground or comes from animals. Anything else is, well, not food.

In the long run, diet foods don’t work when you’re trying to lose weight. Weight loss happens as a result of a consistent calorie deficit and regular exercise. That’s it. The reason people turn to diet food – or “health” food – is to cut corners or make things more convenient.

But over time, these destructive foods wreak havoc on the digestive system and introduce issues beyond weight. Our advice is to steer clear of them. But you may not be convinced until you read exactly why diet food doesn’t work. As a bonus, we’ve included 3 foods that really do work if you are looking to get a leaner, healthier figure.

The Problem With Diet Food

Diet Food

Image credit: Mike Mozart, Flickr.

Special K with freeze-dried strawberries, fiber bars, low-fat turkey bacon, and low-fat yogurt. Gluten-free, sugar-free, cholesterol-free, etc. These are just some of the foods marketed to people who are trying to change their lifestyle and lose a little weight.

On the surface, they seem completely harmless. Who couldn’t benefit from a little more fiber and a lot less fat? Everyone should watch what they eat, right? And these foods provide easy ways to eat what you want while cutting some of the calories.

Diet food creates problems. Here’s just a short list:

  1. Empty calories/lack of nutritional value
  2. High in simple carbs
  3. Don’t address actual issues leading to weight gain
  4. Take the focus away from real food
  5. High sodium
  6. High number of processed ingredients
  7. Lead to hunger/feeling of deprivation

Look at a few of these reasons in detail.

Very little nutritional value

Prepackaged food tends to offer very little nutritional value if any at all. You should keep the amount of prepackaged food you consume to a bare minimum. These products cater to a crowd that wants to feel like they are eating something, but not consume any calories. That’s not the point of a healthy diet and calories are not inherently evil.

Yes, you need to maintain a calorie deficit to lose weight. But you can and should do so by eating whole foods.

Some “healthy” varieties of packaged foods actually create problems. Sugar substitutes are well-known to cause actual health concerns. Low-fat products make up for taste in salt and sugar.

Clever manufacturers find synthetic ways to flavor fake foods to disguise their taste – and you end up eating a bunch of chemicals that pose for food in the name of lower calories. It doesn’t make sense to do that when two aisles over, you can find plenty of low-calorie options that nature provides for us all!

Diet foods don’t address weight gain issues

Health issues

People who eat more calories than their bodies can use gain weight. If this happens over long periods of time, the weight gain becomes noticeable. If that goes on for years and years, the weight becomes harder to shed than it was to gain.

There is a saying that goes like this: “Weight comes on quickly and comes off slowly.” Well, that is not 100% true.

More often than not, weight gain occurs slowly in tiny increments at first.

A half pound a week or even quarter pound a week. Think about it. If you gain 20 pounds in a year, most likely that gain occurred over the course of several months. A quarter pound per week weight gain equals 13 pounds a year.

Eventually, the weight begins to snowball, as increased weight leads to a more sedentary lifestyle. Depression and stress play a factor as well. The less you like your body, the less healthy and happy you feel. If you continue that mentality, you’ll start to feel helpless and get into a rut.

Health problems also impact and sometimes cause weight gain.

So, how exactly does diet food address those issues?

If you guessed “not at all,” you’re right. The only thing that comes close to helpful is the low number of calories. However, the concern here is that if you succumb to the marketing of low-calorie diet foods, you aren’t learning how to eat for sustainable weight loss and you’re not taking care of your body.

Starving yourself may help you lose weight, but it’s just unwise. Likewise, eating diet foods is unwise.

Diet food costs more and helps less than a diet of whole foods.

Diet food takes the focus away from whole food

Diet salad

All other things considered, the fact that diet food takes the focus away from healthy, real, whole food is the primary reason to stay away from it. The human body needs whole food. Our bodies process and utilize nutrients from whole foods more quickly than processed food.

Our digestive system recognizes the molecules in whole foods and knows what to do with them. Fake food messes up our digestive tract while leaving us starved for real nutrition.

Whole food gets a reputation of being expensive and unattainable because of the way fake food is marketed. However, that reputation is undeserved and not even true. Go to any farmer’s market and you will see just how affordable whole food straight from the ground really is. You can grow your own whole food, too.

Your body needs the nutrition that whole foods provide. Diet food cannot provide that nutrition naturally.

  • Synthetic vitamins added to cereals cannot replace the real vitamins found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seafood, poultry, and meat.
  • Synthetic oils cannot replace the incredible healthfulness of real olive, coconut, or grapeseed oils.

3 Foods You Should Be Eating

Want to lose weight? We recommend ditching diet food altogether and swapping them out with their whole, real food counterparts.

Whole Grain

Whole Grain

A lot of people have kicked carbs to the curb due to popular diet fads. But whole grain has so many benefits.

  1. Provides fiber. One cup of cooked brown rice contains 3.5 grams of insoluble fiber. One cup of oatmeal contains 4 grams of fiber. Foods high in fiber clean your digestive tract and provide tons of energy throughout the day.
  2. Cuts cravings. Whole grain foods contain B vitamins, known for fighting the pesky cravings that drive us to eat sugary foods.
  3. Balances appetite. Grains provide bulk, which creates a feeling of satiety. In other words, you’ll feel like you’ve eaten enough food after eating a cup or two of whole grain. You’ll get plenty of calories, too.

Apples, Pears, and Other Whole Fruits


If you’re trying to lose weight and have a sugar addiction, start breaking that addiction by eating whole fruits like apples and pears.

Both apples and pears contain low amounts of natural sugar while providing tons of fiber and vitamins. They are the epitome of healthy whole fruit and help you cut a potentially devastating sugar problem.

Try eating an apple a day or bump it up to two (one in the morning, and one with dinner). Cut them up and eat them with cinnamon for a boost of energy, and fold them into your oatmeal for sweetness without refined sugar.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive Oil

This last recommendation may surprise you! You really do need a healthy source of oil in your everyday diet. Extra virgin olive oil is best-kept weight loss secret. It fills you up, provides healthy fats, and keeps your hair, skin, and nails looking their best as well.

Your body uses oils for nutrition in the same way it uses other whole foods. Extra virgin olive oil contains omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin K, and enough saturated fat to keep you satisfied.

Olive oil is anti-inflammatory, too, which means you’ll benefit from its ability to combat inflammation in your body (which leads to bloating and pain).

Lastly, some research suggests that an increase in olive oil leads to a decrease in the consumption of unhealthy foods. The reason is that you’ll likely be eating more fish or meat and veggies as you look for ways to incorporate olive oil into your diet.

Please note that the high-calorie count in olive oil means you should use a little of it here and there.

Recipe: Easy Olive Oil & Vinegar Dressing

  1. Try this recipe on your next salad:
  2. 1 tablespoon vinegar (try white vinegar or apple cider vinegar for a twist)
  3. 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  4. 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  5. Freshly ground black pepper
  6. Sea salt to taste
  7. Optional: minced garlic and dried herbs

Shake all ingredients in a mason jar (or use an old mayonnaise jar) until well blended. You should have enough for three servings. Keep in mind that one tablespoon of olive oil equal 119 calories – so go easy on it!


Dieticians, fitness experts, and personal trainers all agree: you should stay away from diet foods. You can definitely lose weight without them. And since you can, you should. Anything you want to do, you can do without fake food. If you need advice, we suggest talking to a personal trainer to help you set up an effective plan to reach your goals.

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