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CANDY, NUTS, POPCORN
How Do They Affect Your Weight Loss Program?

Candy

This is a feel-good product which I used to be addicted to. As such, I know how dangerous it can be. It's just like smoking: If you're able to smoke 1-2 cigarettes per day, fine! However, chances are you'll smoke more, and that's when bad things start to happen. As with smoking, the best way to quit is to quit completely, i.e., stay away from the temptation altogether. It's the best way to safeguard your weight control efforts. Therefore, my recommendation would be: Don't shop in this aisle!
One possible exception: Sugar-free fruit candy bringing in 5-15 calories per piece, which you may use to curb hunger between meals. Still, if you have 10 pieces per day, you will have ingested between 50 and 150 calories, which you need to budget in your daily calorie allowance.

From the point of view of calories, here's what candy brings in:
  • a sizable amount of saturated fats, usually more than 6 grams per serving (and often in excess of 10 gram for products with creamy filling)
  • a high amount of sugars, usually more than 20 grams per serving, which translates into a high glycemic index and predisposes to weight gain
  • a total calorie amount of about 200 per serving (if the recommended serving size is respected)
  • some antioxidants if consuming chocolate candy (the only good thing so far, which is however largely offset however by all the negatives above). To benefit from this antioxidant effect (which is believed to be provide cardiovascular protection), you should limit your selection to dark chocolate, which due to the absence of milk, has a lower amount of saturated fats.

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Reduced-sugar products are available, and may be of some benefit. However, when it comes to chocolate, remember that regardless of sugar content, anything else than dark chocolate still brings in all the damaging saturated fats.

If you absolutely cannot give up this habit, here are 3 tips to minimize the damage:
  • Choose hard candy (without filling) over other types. This way, you at least limit intake of saturated fats. Of course, high sugar intake remains a problem, so try to limit portion size to less than 200 calories per day. Sugar-free hard candy is available, and if you find the taste agreeable, it's a sure winner: It usually brings in about 10-15 calories per piece, and lets you indulge while sparing both sugars and fats.
  • Alternatively, you may consume dark chocolate for the equivalent of 200 calories per day. (Dark chocolate means no added milk or cream fillings.) And if at all possible, choose sugar-free dark chocolate.
  • Chewing gum is another clever way to quench your candy appetite: It brings in a trivial calorie amount, usually up to 10-15 calories per piece. Additionally, it may have a calming effect and curb hunger.

Nuts:

Nuts are a healthy but fairly caloric snack. This refers to nuts of all types, including walnuts, peanuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, macadamia, etc. Therefore, when it comes to nuts it's important to respect the recommended serving sizes (about 1 oz, or 2-3 tablespoons of whole nuts). Also, remember that products containing added sugars (e.g., honey roasted peanuts, sugar covered nuts or chocolate covered nuts) will bring in more calories than regular products.

The interesting part about nuts is that some of them (in particular walnuts), if consumed in adequate portions, may in fact be helpful in a weight loss program. See more information about nuts here


Popcorn:

Popcorn can be an acceptable item in a weight control diet, provided you stay away from products containing added butter. You will find many popcorn products labeled "94% Fat-Free", and these are the ones to go for. They contain low-calorie butter substitutes, and bring in about 15-30 calories per cup (popped). One of my favorites is Orville Redenbacher's 100 calorie mini-bags: It's fat- and sugar-free, has a decent taste, and allows easy portion control. And, in my opinion, the portion size is quite satisfying.
Caution: Make sure to avoid pre-popped products containing added sugars (such as caramel-coated popcorn, chocolate popcorn, etc).

Note: All calorie counts are approximate.


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