TIME Diet/Nutrition

These Are the Worst Pizzas in America

And 8 healthier indulgences to eat instead

Melted cheese recently melted the Internet, when Pizza Hut introduced their latest artery-clogging frankenfood, the 15″ Hot Dog Bites pie—a large, one-topping pizza with pigs-in-a-blanket backed into the crust. “I tried it and survived,” wrote one taste-tester online. This, about a food our Italian ancestors imagined would be a low-cal appetizer.

Unfortunately, Pizza Hut isn’t alone in offering pies that better resemble manhole covers than Neapolitan delicacies. At most popular restaurants and in frozen food aisles, thin, healthy crusts have gotten thicker, more bloated with cheap carb calories. Toppings have gotten gimmicky, so healthy mozzarella and tomato sauces are sometimes replaced with things like burger meat, ziti or chicken fingers. And serving sizes—especially for “individual” pizzas—have taken these pies to a new level of caloric callousness.

How bad is it? The editors of Eat This, Not That! magazine researched every pie in America and determined the absolute worst for your health and waistline. Indulge once in a while with our relatively healthier choices.

  • 1. Worst Pizza Slice

    Sbarro Stuffed Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza (1 slice)
    810 calories, 40 g fat (15 g saturated fat), 2,180 mg sodium, 73 g carbohydrate, 36 g protein
    That’s the Fat Equivalent of: 10 slices of pan-fried bacon!

    The architecture of this thing makes it less like a slice of pizza and more like a pizza inspired Chipotle Burrito. It relies on an oversize shell of oily bread to hold together a gooey wad of cheese, sausage and pepperoni. The net result is a pizza pocket with two-thirds of your day’s fat and more than a day’s worth of sodium. And the traditional pizza slices aren’t much better; few fall below 600 calories. If you want to do well at Sbarro, think thin crust with nothing but produce on top.

    Eat This Instead!
    Sbarro New York Style Fresh Tomato Pizza (1 slice)
    410 calories, 14 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 790 mg sodium, 53 g carbohydrates, 16 g protein

  • 2. Worst New Pizza

    Pizza Hut Hot Dog Bites Pizza
    Estimated per slice: 460 calories, 30 g fat, 9.9 g saturated fat, 32.7 g carbohydrates
    That’s the Fat Equivalent of: 7.5 Taco Bell Soft Fresco Steak Tacos!

    We’ve seen Pizza Hut do some kooky things in the past to try to woo new fans—remember the Crazy Cheesy Crust Pizza, with 16 crust pockets of five totally different cheeses? Their latest monster mashup is Hot Dog Bites Pizza—a cheesy, pepperoni pizza surrounded by pigs in a blanket instead of the standard crust. Combining two fattening, calorie-dense, all-American foods is a lose-lose situation (though you won’t lose weight)—there’s a whopping 3,680 calories in a typical, 8-slice pie, to be exact. Oh, and it’s served with French’s mustard—for dipping all those hot dogs, of course. Yum?

    Eat This Instead!
    Pizza Hut Skinny Beach Pizza, 1 slice, 14” large skinny slice
    400 calories, 12 g fat (6 g saturated), 880 mg sodium, 56 g carbohydrates.

  • 3. Worst Frozen Pizza

    Red Baron Thin & Crispy Pepperoni Pizza (½ pie)
    400 calories, 19 g fat (9 g saturated), 1,020 mg sodium, 41 g carbohydrates
    That’s the Saturated Fat Equivalent of: 16 Burger King Chicken Tenders!

    “Thin & crispy” sounds healthy, but the Baron’s pie gives Burger King Chicken Tenders a run for their money in saturated fat content. If you’re in the frozen aisle, choose Newman’s Own Thin & Crispy Uncured Pepperoni, Kashi Stone-Fired Thin Crust Pizza Mushroom Trio & Spinach instead, or—if you absolutely must-have a nostalgic guilty pleasure: Bagel Bites. They’re not the perfect snack, but still decent for a non-diet pizza product.

    Eat This Instead!
    Bagel Bites (4 pieces)
    200 calories, 6 g fat (2.5 saturated), 340 mg sodium, 28 g carbohydrates

  • 4. Worst Pizza Wannabe

    Romano’s Macaroni Grill Smashed Meatball Fatbread
    1,420 calories, 59 g fat, 28 g saturated fat, 2,970 sodium, 149 g carbohydrates
    That’s the Calorie Equivalent of: Almost 17 Eggo Confetti Waffles!

    That is not a typo: Romano’s loudly advertises their “fatbread”—baked dough smothered with cheese and toppings—as being “fat on crust, fat on toppings and fat on flavor” but they should have added “fat on you.” Consuming more than half of your daily calories in one sitting is just asking for a 3 P.M. desktop snooze and a fatter tummy. Skip them and choose a simpler pasta instead. (But beware: Ravioli alla Vodka and the Penne Arrabbiata are 2 of only 4 lunchtime pastas with fewer than 1,000 calories.)

    Eat This Instead!
    Ravioli alla Vodka
    660 calories, 37 g fat, 20 g saturated fat, 1,440 sodium, 50 g carbohydrates.

  • 5. Worst Pizza for Kids

    CiCi’s Pizza Buffet Mac & Cheese (two 12” Buffet Pizza Slices)
    380 calories, 9 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 880 mg sodium, 60 g carbohydrates
    That’s the Carb Equivalent of: Shotgunning more than 4 slices of Wonder bread!

    Macaroni and cheese pizza? While it might seem like the best idea ever to kids the world over, this cute concept is potentially disastrous for your health—and your children’s. Why top an already carbohydrate-heavy dish with more carbs, not to mention fat? While the calorie count doesn’t register as high as most problematic pies on this list, that’s only because the slices are tiny; believe us, in CiCi’s all-you-can-eat environment, the damage can add up quickly. But if you bring one of their pizzas home, celebrate their smaller slices as built-in portion control—and go with flatbread. The kids will love the crunch.

    Eat This Instead!
    Cheese Flatbread (2 slices)
    200 calories, 9 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 380 mg sodium, 24 g carbohydrates

  • 6. Worst Seafood Pizza

    Red Lobster Lobster Pizza
    680 calories, 31 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 1,740 mg sodium, 66 g carbohydrates
    That’s the Fat Equivalent of: 442 large shrimp!

    Fare from the sea is typically a healthy way to go, but sprinkle it over a bed of starchy dough and fatty cheese and you have a different story altogether. Billed as a starter, this Lobster Pizza is the only pizza on Red Lobster’s menu—luckily it shares space with one of the world’s greatest appetizers: shrimp cocktail.

    Eat This Instead!
    Chilled Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail
    120 calories, 1 g fat, 590 mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrates

  • 7. Worst Mashup Pizza

    Papa John’s Fritos Chili Pizza (2 slices)
    720 calories, 30 g fat (12 g saturated), 1,400 mg sodium
    That’s the Sodium Equivalent of: Dumping 5 salt packets into your mouth!

    Papa John’s seasonal concoction of pizza, beef chili and yes, Fritos is an insult to almost every cuisine known to man. By our estimates, a whole pie would come salted up with nearly 6,000 mg of sodium! A better defense is a good offense, so start your meal off here with a few pieces of belly-filling protein in the form of wings or chicken strips. Consider it insurance against scarfing too many slices later on.

    Eat This Instead!
    The Works Original Crust Pizza (1 slice, large pie) and Chickenstrips (3) with Cheese Dipping Sauce
    400 calories, 26 g fat (8.5 saturated fat), 1,060 sodium

  • 8. Worst Pizza in America

    Uno Chicago Grill Chicago Classic Deep Dish Individual Pizza
    2,300 calories, 164 g fat (53 g saturated, 1 g trans fat), 4,910 mg sodium, 119 g carbohydrates
    That’s the Sodium Equivalent of: 27 small bags of Lays Potato Chips!

    The problem with deep dish pizza (which Uno’s knows a thing or two about since they invented it back in 1943) is not just the extra empty calories and carbs from the crust, it’s that the thick doughy base provides the structural integrity to house extra heaps of cheese, sauce, and greasy toppings. The result is an individual pizza with more calories than you should eat in a day. Oh, did we mention it has nearly 3 days’ worth of saturated fat, too? The key to (relative) success at Uno’s lies in their flatbread pies—and share them!

    Eat This Instead!
    Cheese and Tomato Flatbread Pizza (1⁄2 pizza)
    490 calories, 23.5 g fat (11 g saturated), 1,290 mg sodium, 48 g carbohydrates

    This article originally appeared on Eat This, Not That!

    More from Eat This, Not That!

TIME China

New Study Blames Chinese Grandparents For Obese Kids

Weight-Loss Summer Camp For Students In Shenyang
ChinaFotoPress—Getty Images Overweight students attend military training during a weight-loss summer camp on July 30, 2009 in Shenyang of Liaoning Province, China.

China is already the second fattest country in the world

Chinese children raised by their grandparents are twice as likely to be overweight or obese, according to a study published this month in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

China is already the second fattest country in the world, with more than a quarter of its adults overweight, or obese, in 2014.

The new study’s researchers set out to determine the factors leading to China’s high obesity rate, and they discovered that grandparents often work at cross-purposes with parents and schoolteachers when it comes to child nutrition.

Chinese grandparents, the study found, tend to overfeed the kids under their care: “Fat means wealthy,” some grandparents in the study told the researchers, believing that obesity indicates that children are well cared for. For many grandparents in China, who came of age during a famine that killed as many as 45 million people, high-calorie foods are viewed as healthier.

According to the study, children who live with their grandparents eat two more servings of junk food each week.

The widespread obesity among Chinese youth — with 23% of boys and 14% of girls considered overweight or obese, according to NPR — is creating problems for the rising country. Those figures have already surpassed other wealthy countries like Japan and South Korea. It’s posing problems for the Chinese military, since some soldiers are too fat to fit into their tanks. Last year, the People’s Liberation Army relaxed its weight standards slightly to allow “more portly young men” to join the ranks. Meanwhile, the prevalence of diabetes across China increased by 56% over the past two decades.

So don’t blame McDonald’s for China’s rapidly growing waistlines. Blame the grandparents.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Restaurant Food May Be Less Healthy Than Fast Food

burger
James Ransom

A new study finds that people eat more salt and cholesterol at restaurants than fast-food joints

If you eschew fast food but relish restaurants, you might think you’re doing your body a favor. But recent research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that in a lot of ways, eating out is even worse than driving-thru.

“People mainly focus on fast food and want to beat this animal to death,” study author Ruopeng An, assistant professor in the department of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign told TIME. As a result, the nutritional details of non-chain restaurants haven’t been as big of a research area.

So An used dietary recall data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003-2010 to analyze what people were eating and where. In the dataset, almost 19,000 adults provided self-reports of everything they ate for two days.

This study—and many others before it—found that eating at fast-food restaurants and full-service restaurants is worse for you than eating at home. Both types of establishments were associated with a daily increase in calories, fat, saturated fat and sodium. Eating at fast-food restaurants was associated with an extra 190 calories a day, while eating at full-service restaurants was linked to an extra 187 calories per day. Fat was packed on at about the same daily rate: an extra 10 or so grams.

But in an interesting twist, eating at full-service restaurants added even more sodium and cholesterol than fast food did. Restaurants were linked to an extra 58 mg of cholesterol each day, while eating fast food only added an extra 10 mg. And while fast food added 297 mg sodium to a person’s daily intake, restaurants shoveled on an additional 412 mg.

The study also found that takeout might be better for you than dining in. When An compared the practice of eating restaurant food at home—as in takeout or delivery—to eating restaurant food on site, he found a rise in calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium for dining in. People ate an additional 200 daily calories when they ate in a restaurant, but that increase was only 121 calories when they ate restaurant food at home. (Nutritionally, it didn’t make a difference where fast food was eaten.)

Read more What Should I Order at Fast-Food Chains?

Why? When people eat out at restaurants, “they have more time, it’s more relaxing, it’s more like a social event, so they’re less cautious about overeating,” An explained.

But An also found some good news for restaurant-philes: eating at restaurants, compared to eating fast food, was associated with an increase in omega-3s, vitamin B6, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium and zinc, plus a reduction in sugar. “From that perspective, consumption in full-service restaurants isn’t all bad,” he said.

An said he hopes the results will encourage more people to cook, but he’s realistic—we’re not going to stop going to restaurants. “You’re not obligated to eat the whole portion served to you,” he reminded restaurant-goers. “You can always bring some of the food home for tomorrow.”

Read next: There’s A New Seaweed That Tastes Like Bacon And Is Better for Than Kale

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should I Eat Burgers?

3/5 experts say no.

Cue the sound of a thousand grills shedding a summer-hot tear: burgers, as we know them, are not a health food, most of our experts agree.

But there might be some wiggle room there, depending on what’s in your patty. “Fatty beef from dubiously fed cattle, slathered in sugary ketchup and placed between two haves of a refined flour bun? No thanks,” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. Same for any beef burger not made with 90-97% lean ground beef, says Julia Zumpano, a registered dietitian in preventive cardiology at Cleveland Clinic.

However, Kristi King, senior clinical dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital, gives a thumbs up to burgers in moderation and in proper portion sizes; burgers are high in protein, vitamin B12 and iron, she says. Plus, says Zumpano, if you make the burgers yourself, you can control the ingredients and maximize the better-for-you elements while cutting down on the more harmful ones.

Moderation, of course, is the key word. Eating beef burgers regularly isn’t a good idea for a few reasons, says Erica Frank, MD, professor and Canada research chair in preventive medicine and population health at the University of British Columbia. Beef burgers are loaded with saturated fat, she points out; an ungarnished fast-food cheeseburger has 29% of your daily FDA-recommended limit.

Then, of course, every burger comes with a large side of environmental issues. Beef isn’t the most sustainable meat to produce. “Raising a cow takes a huge amount of water,” she says—between 4,000-18,000 gallons for a hamburger, according to the U.S. Geographical Survey. Livestock production is a large contributor to climate change, she says, and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations says the livestock sector is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

“The reality is that global demand for meat is increasing nearly 2 percent a year,” says Rebecca Shaw, PhD, associate vice president and senior lead scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. “As incomes rise, so does demand for meat protein.” Plant-based proteins can help ease that load, but “the bottom line is that we need to make beef, pork and poultry as sustainable as possible,” she says. One way to make burgers better for the earth is to change the way we raise a primary source of cow feed: U.S. corn, nearly 40 percent of which goes towards animal chow, Shaw says. “The low-hanging fruit is to grow this corn more sustainably by reducing excess fertilizer used to grow the corn,” she says. “This will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve water quality.”

Choosing grass-fed—instead of corn-fed—meat is one way to earn burgers a slightly higher rating in Katz’s opinion; you have his permission to plate grass-fed beef bison on a whole-grain bun with slices of tomato, onion, avocado and lettuce. He gives a “definite yes,” though, to his wife’s special: a mix of lean, free-range ground turkey and lentils, patted atop a homemade whole-wheat bun with vegetables and salsa.

Burgers
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

Read Next: Should I Eat French Fries?

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s How To Cut Down On Food Waste

Expiration dates are confusing and lead to lots of food waste

Americans waste $640 of food each year, according to a new survey released by the American Chemistry Council. That uneaten or unused food may end up in the garbage in part because consumers are really confused by expiration dates; one British study suggests that misinterpreting expiration dates is responsible for 20% of food waste.

While many people think “best by” or “sell by” dates are indicators for food safety, the reality isn’t as clear cut.

Expiration dates and food labeling emerged during the 20th century as Americans increasingly stopped making their own food but still wanted to know how fresh it was. According to a 2013 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), many Americans think their food is unsafe if the date they see on the label has already passed. However, these dates are not indicators that the food will make you sick; they only indicate when they are considered still fresh. Eating refrigerated food slightly past its prime may not taste as good as eating it fresh, but in most cases, it’s not going to harm you, according to the report. (And you might be surprised how long foods do last in the fridge.)

Here’s what those labels really mean:

“Sell by”: This date only indicates when the manufacturer suggests grocery stores should stop selling the product. It’s a way for companies to make sure their food is being sold when they determine it’s at the best quality.

“Best by” or “Best if used by” or “Use by”: Similar to “sell by”, this label marks the maker’s estimate of when the food will no longer be at its freshest, highest quality. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get sick if you eat it after the date, nor is it a guarantee that the food has even gone bad. Consumers may not notice a difference in quality.

None of these labels is actually an indicator of food safety; often, the date on the packaging and when the food may actually be no longer safe to eat don’t match up. For instance, raw shell eggs can last in the refrigerator for up to five weeks, according to FoodSafety.gov—which may be longer than the date stamped on the carton.

To keep your food safe, it’s important to make sure that refrigerated food doesn’t spend too much time in warmer temperatures, which make it more susceptible to bacteria growth. Certain foods like “ready to eat” dishes, infant formula and baby food should be consumed promptly.

Public health experts, like those at the NRDC and FLPC, argue better labeling that more accurately reflects spoiling dates would not only mean safer food consumption, but could also cut down on food waste. If labels could differentiate between safety and quality, it would be a much more useful system to consumers, the groups say.

To look up the shelf life and refrigerator life of your foods, try the Foodkeeper storage guide, a collaboration between the Food Marketing Institute at Cornell University and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Read Next: Americans Throw Away $640 Worth of Food Each Year

TIME Diet/Nutrition

11 ‘Healthy’ Foods Diet Experts Avoid

fruit-smoothie-cookies
Getty Images

Smoothies can contain as many calories as a burger

You do your best to do right by your body by making healthy food choices every day. Unfortunately, a number of “health” foods you may go out of your way to eat don’t deserve their stripes. What’s worse, thanks to talented and tricky food marketers, unless you’re a trained professional, it’s really hard to tell when you’re being duped. All of those “sweetened with agave” and “added fiber” labels can confuse even the smartest shoppers. That’s why we’ve turned to some of the nation’s top diet experts and asked them to reveal which “healthy” foods they wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. What they had to say was pretty surprising. Scroll through to get in the know.

1. Agave Nectar

“Although agave is gaining popularity in health-minded circles, it’s not at all better than sugar and should be used sparingly like any other sweetener. Yes, it comes from a plant, but it has little to no nutritional value.” — Marisa Moore, MBA,RDN, LD, an Atlanta based registered dietitian nutritionist and national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

2. Fiber-Added Foods

“Recently many food manufacturers have cut fat from products like yogurt and snack foods and replaced it with fiber to increase the health factor. Although eating fiber-added foods is often a great way to cut calories from fat and boost satiety between meals, when you eat too many foods with fiber, inulin, or chicory root (common fiber additives) it can cause gas, bloating, nausea, flatulence, stomach cramps and even diarrhea. Stick with whole foods that are naturally good sources of fiber like fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.” — Libby Mills, MS, RDN, LDN, Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

3. Veggie Chips

“Although veggie chips have more fiber than a standard bag of crisps, many varieties are fried—not just simply dehydrated. If your go-to bag has oils and added sugars, you’d be better off snacking on fresh produce instead. Those ingredients transform the vegetables from nutritional superstars to full-on indulgences.” — Marisa Moore

4. Protein Bars

“Most high protein bars get their protein from unnatural sources like soy protein isolate, or SPI. The process of chemically engineering soybeans to isolate their protein strips out all of their other healthy nutrients and leaves behind potentially dangerous substances like hexane and aluminum. These bars also tend to have belly-bloating sugar alcohols and other unhealthy additives to cover up their terrible taste. If you’re looking for a bar, look for ones with less than 10 ingredients that you can recognize.” — Stephanie Middleberg, RD, founder of Middleberg Nutrition

5. Peanut Butter

“The only type of peanut butter I’ll eat is the natural variety. Non-natural nut butters usually contain partially hydrogenated oils, which is a type of trans-fat! Choose a natural or organic nut butter instead. The ingredient list should just be the nuts and maybe a little salt.” — Anne Mauney, MPH, RD, a Washington D.C. area Registered Dietitian

6. Gluten-Free Products

“Just because something is gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s calorie- or fat-free. In fact, many gluten-free products are higher in sugar and fat than their traditional counterparts. If you have to eat gluten-free for medical reasons, that’s one thing, but buying gluten-free products in an attempt to lose weight will not be effective.” — Ilyse Schapiro, MS, RD, a registered dietitian with private practices in New York and Connecticut

7. Processed Snack Bars

“The first few ingredients in many snack bars include brown rice syrup and corn syrup, which are both added sugars. Then food manufacturers add in low-quality chocolate—not the antioxidant-rich dark variety. Often times these bars contain less than one gram of fiber, so they won’t do as good a job keeping you satiated either. You’re better off grabbing a bar with whole food ingredients you can see, like nuts and dried fruit with minimal added sugar.”— Michelle Dudash, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families

8. Smoothies

“People love smoothies because they can jam in a ton of ingredients and drink it all down in one sitting. The problem is, fruit, yogurt, milk, flaxseed and whatever else you put into your cup adds up! Before you know it, what you thought was a nutrient packed meal or snack, now has as many calories as a burger. Your best bet is to just eat a piece of fruit if you’re craving something sweet. You will feel fuller and it won’t break the calorie bank.” — Ilyse Schapiro

9. Reduced-Fat Mayonnaise

“Not only do low-fat foods not taste very good, they’re also filled with unhealthy and harmful ingredients like added sugars, vegetable oils and artificial preservatives. These ingredients have little nutritional value and decrease the body’s ability to absorb fat soluble vitamins. Regularly eating things like low-fat mayo can lead to inflammation, GI issues, heart disease and increased cravings that lead to weight gain.” — Stephanie Middleberg

10. Fat-Free Dressing

“Fat-free dressings often have added sugars or fillers, so even though you’re getting less fat, you’re not always saving calories. Plus, having a little fat with your salad can actually help you absorb more of the antioxidant-rich compounds from the vegetables. Carrots, tomatoes and dark, leafy greens are nutritious on their own, but a little fat actually helps you get more from them.” — Marisa Moore

11. Yogurt

“Many flavored yogurts pack a ton of sugar and carbohydrates. When possible, I go for plain Greek yogurt and add some fruit or all natural jelly to flavor it.” — Ilyse Schapiro

This article originally appeared on Eat This, Not That!

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

If You Want to Lose Weight, Don’t Pick Your Own Diet

healthiest foods, health food, diet, nutrition, time.com stock, kamut, grains
Danny Kim for TIME

The freedom to choose how to diet may mean less impressive weight loss results, a new study finds

The best diet is the one you’ll stick to, but a new study suggests that might not be the one you’d pick for yourself.

In the experiment published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a group of 207 veterans, mostly men, followed a diet for 48 weeks. About half were given a choice between two diets—low-carb or low-fat—while others were randomly assigned to one diet or the other.

Of those who got to choose, 58% picked the low-carb diet, and 42% chose the low-fat diet. Everyone in the study got group and phone counseling over the course of the study, and the researchers measured weight loss, adherence, attendance and weight-related quality of life.

“We figured that if people chose the diet on their own or with assistance that they would be more invested in the diet,” says lead author Dr. William Yancy, a research scientist at the Durham VA Medical Center. “We also thought that if they chose the diet based on what foods they preferred that that would help them stick to the diet better, but that’s not what we found.” Contrary to what the researchers expected to find, choosing a diet didn’t improve weight loss or make people any more likely to stick to their diet. In fact, people in this group actually lost less weight (an average of 12.5 pounds) than those assigned a diet (an average of 14.7 pounds). Statistically, however, there was no difference between the groups in any of the measures.

That might be because people are more likely to overeat when following a diet that emphasizes the foods they like—which would likely be the diet they’d select, Yancy says. The weight loss disparity could also be due to something the researchers call a “personal trainer” effect: you adhere to a workout program better if you’re told which exercises to do. “We all know we can go and exercise on our own,” Yancy explains. “But a lot of people still prefer to have a trainer or go to a setting when someone is overseeing what they’re doing.”

Future research is needed, he says, but especially in the little-explored areas of prescribing diets for individuals. There may be promise in future weight loss interventions that focus on pairing a person with a diet through personality questionnaires, metabolic profiles like cholesterol tests or insulin tests, or even a person’s genetic profile, Yancy says.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

9 Health Foods That Aren’t Worth the Money

mixed-berries
Getty Images

Check whether these health food costs are equal to their nutritional benefits

After handing over what feels like your whole paycheck at Whole Foods, it’s not uncommon to wonder whether the health foods you picked up are worth the dough you dropped.

Amid the constant reports about the most superior of superfoods, it can be tough to keep track of not only the healthiest newcomers, but also which previous darlings are still worth your grocery dollar. Eat This, Not That! has rounded up some of the most publicized health foods and analyzed whether their place in your budget is equal to their nutritional benefits.

1. Steel-Cut Oats

Ah, steel-cut oats: One of the most vaunted of health foods, they connote a bearded artisan prepping your breakfast by hand with a blade. But the romance doesn’t match the reality. A can generally runs you upwards of $8, and each bowl requires about 20 minutes of cooking time. That’s not an ideal investment of your money or time, as their nutritional profile is almost identical to rolled oats. Although steel-cut oats have a slightly lower glycemic index, you can feel fine about reaching for a $4 canister of two-minute Quaker Oats: A half-cup serving has only 150 calories plus 4 grams of belly-filling fiber.

2. Low-Carb Bread

At prices topping out at $7 to $8 a loaf, low-carb bread is an inexplicable commodity. Your first-line healthy option is to pick up whole-grain bread instead. While it’s not as ideal a whole grain as quinoa or oats, whole grains of any stripe increase satiety and have heart-protective effects. (Just make sure your bread is whole grain, not multigrain, which has more sugar and less fiber).

3. Fresh Berries

Nutritionally, fresh berries are a totally worthy addition to your grocery bill. But you can still get their benefits while stretching your dollar. Berries possess polyphenols—which prevent fat from forming—and frozen berries have the exact same nutritional value as fresh. Plus they can cost about half as much, and you can get them year-round.

4. Turkey Burgers

Long held to be the far superior alternative to beef, turkey burgers can actually have as much fat and a bit less protein than their more traditional cousin. Plus, store-bought ground turkey can contain dark meat, which boosts the fat content up to 20%. If you want to feel virtuous, go for grass-fed beef, which has belly-blasting omega-3 acids that turkey doesn’t.

5. Pomegranate Juice

Remember this craze? Pomegranate juice is still ringing up tens of millions in sales annually. Don’t contribute. A two-serving bottle can cost you $5, and while you could just eat the fruit—which will give you the same amount of antioxidants plus more fiber and less sugar—it’s far better to eat a cup of blueberries or cranberries instead. They’ll give you almost three times the antioxidants, along with demonstrated fat-burning benefits at a fraction of the cost. Looking for a natural way to supercharge your sex drive? Go ahead and buy; that’s something this drink truly is good at—just be sure to add water before you down a glass.

6. Superfood Powders

Chlorella, camu camu, $30 tubs of green powder with words like “Wonder” and “Vibrance” on the label: they claim to be packed with nutrients, but we can only take their word for it. The nutritional supplement industry is unregulated, and there’s a big question mark about the benefits these supplements provide, particularly in the wake of recent studies that show that multivitamin pills may have little or no benefit. Stick with the tried and true—legit research shows that spinach, chard and Chinese cabbage, among others, burn belly fat.

7. Almond Milk

For those of us simply averse to cow’s milk rather than actually lactose-intolerant, the almond version can be a tasty alternative for cereal and coffee. Just be realistic about what you’re getting: A hydration entity, not a health food. At around $4.50 a carton, almond milk contains very little protein (around one gram) and sweetened versions can have up to 13 grams of sugar. Instead, opt for full-fat or 2% milk, and a pick up a package of almonds for a fat-burning snack. If you’re lactose intolerant, stick with almond milk, but also pick up the package of almonds to get the protein and fat-burning benefits of the nuts that the milk just can’t provide.

8. Whey Protein

It may be the go-to supplement for muscle-builders, but whey protein’s benefits are offset by its tendency to cause belly bloat. And the price makes it a doubly bad deal: A canister can run near $30 for a few dozen servings, which provide—at most—about 25 grams of protein. You can get the same amount of protein from four eggs or a medium-sized chicken breast, which are packed with stuff you want (fat-burning nutrients such as choline, in the case of eggs) and lack the things you don’t (artificial sweeteners and flavors).

9. “Light” Olive Oil

With its heart-protective and weight-loss benefits, olive oil is a health food that needs no substitute. The “light” version doesn’t mean what you think it does. Light olive oil is a highly processed mixture of different oils, and it contains about the same amount of fat as extra-virgin olive oil. It’s just lighter in color. EVOO has higher levels of oleic acid, which researchers say can spot-reduce abdominal fat.

This article originally appeared on Eat This, Not That!

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