Are diet foods and drinks worth the expense? Should they be included in your weight loss diet plan?
Image from Healthy and Wealthy Living
A certain person I know can’t help mentioning the topic of weight loss whenever I see her. Over the years, she’s probably gained and lost the same twenty pounds dozens of times. Atkins, Sonoma, South Beach — if a diet plan has been on a bestseller list, then she’s got an opinion about it. Her fridge has the diet frozen dinners and the diet soda you’d expect, but now I’m beginning to wonder — are diet foods and drinks worth the money? Why not stick to organic food options instead?
Take meal replacement bars like the ExtendBar. You could pick up 15 of them for about $26 from Amazon. For close to the same amount of money, you can buy the ingredients to make several weeks’ worth of granola bars. Then there are the meal replacement shakes like EAS’s Myoplex Lite Powder in Chocolate Cream. At around $2.50 a serving plus the cost of milk or water, it seems more economical to hit the fridge to whip up a smoothie. If you want the convenience of the ready-to-drink cans of Myoplex Lite, you’d pay even more. On the Slim-Fast Plan, the shakes cost a little less, but the expense still adds up if you’re replacing two meals a day.
Diet Foods and Drinks: 100 Painfully Expensive Calories!
On snacks. Everywhere I look at the grocery stores, I notice the 100-calorie packs of snacks. They have brands we know — Oreos, Chips Ahoy, and the like. However, the Center for Science in the Public Interest took a look at the cost of 100-calorie packs and concluded that consumers are paying a considerable premium for the amount of snack food they’re buying. I’d prefer to hand out the apples and nuts that I know are nutritious and less processed.
On diet drinks. Over the years, my friend and I have shared many cans of diet soda. However, as the Freakonomics blog pointed out, Diet Coke is mostly water with some additives in it. With the filtered water from your pitcher and some reusable bottles, you could save hundreds of dollars over the years. The last time I noticed, the cost for a 20 ounce bottle of soda had crept up to $1.38 around here. That adds up to a swimming pool of savings if you don’t spend that money.
As for the diet herbal teas advertised in magazines and on the web, I don’t want to risk my health with an unfamiliar ingredient. If I want some variety in my beverages, I can stir up some lemonade to share.
On diet ingredients. While sweeteners like Splenda can cost more than regular sugar, the expense is justifiable if you’re worried about conditions like diabetes. Watch for sales and coupons, and you’re likely to bring your monthly costs down. Be aware though, that there may be associated health effects from artificial ingredients, so make sure you know the risks of ingesting these, no matter how minuscule those risks are!
Frozen Dinners: DIY Them
A frozen dinner like the South Beach Diet’s Chicken Santa Fe Style Rice and Beans might cost less than $4, but you’d have to study the label to make sure that you’re not taking a hit in terms of fat or sodium. However, given that you can make a similar cheap meal you can cook at home from scratch then freeze the leftovers for another day, you might be better off shopping for the chicken, rice, beans, and seasonings instead. Plus, your family can sit down to eat at the same time — something that doesn’t happen with the single serving of the frozen dinners.
Pizza, another frozen food staple, can also be made at home. Sure, it takes an investment of time to make pizza from scratch, but if you’re controlling the ingredients, you can make it tasty and less calorie-laden than delivered pizza. Over the years, I’ve swapped regular pepperoni for turkey pepperoni and I’ve learned that less cheese can still yield a tasty pie. Instead of covering every square inch of the pizza with red peppers, meat, or other toppings, you can cut back a little to save on calories and expense.
Don’t Let Your Weight Loss Diet Plan Backfire!
In addition to the single-purchase cost of diet foods and drinks, you might want to keep an eye on the hidden expenses of possible weight gain. Time reported that Canadian researchers studying rats have found that reducing the animals’ caloric intake may have led them to overeat. So the next time you try to have your low-calorie cake and eat it too, be aware that you may be prone to eating more of it!