Slimmers are always on the lookout for quick fixes to help them in their desperate quest to lose weight. A popular subject is the use of ‘negative-energy foods’ or so-called ‘free foods’.
As the latter name implies, these are foods with such a low energy content that you can eat large quantities of them without risking weight gain. Sounds like magic, but when you see the list of foods, you'll realise that you can't survive on these foods alone.
Diabetics and other people who have to control their food intake carefully will be acquainted with so-called ‘free foods'. According to Krause's Food, Nutrition, & Diet Therapy (Mahan & Escott-Stump), a ‘free food’ is defined as “any food or drink that contains less than 20 calories [84 kJ] or less than 5g of carbohydrate per serving”.
Vegetables (serving = 1 cup)
Fruit (serving = 1 cup)
Rhubarb cooked with artificial sweetener
(All raw or cooked and sweetened with artificial sweetener)
Very-low-energy foods (use as desired)
Fat-free foods (3 servings spread out over the day)
Cottage cheese, fat-free: 1 Tablespoon
Mayonnaise, fat-free: 1 Tablespoon
Non-stick cooking spray
Salad dressing, fat-free: 1 Tablespoon
Salsa: 1/4 cup
Sugar-free or low-sugar foods
Boiled sweets: one sweet
Chewing gum, sugar-free
Jam, low-sugar or lite: 2 Tablespoons
Need for other foods
Clearly, no person can exist and do a day’s work if he or she only eats the foods listed above.
For example, to obtain just 4200kJ or 1000cal from eating strawberries only, you would have to eat 3.3kg of these berries.
Even when you're slimming, it's important to eat a varied, balanced diet and to obtain enough energy from your diet to sustain your basic energy needs. This will prevent your body from going into starvation mode and will also make it possible for you to do some physical exercise to stimulate weight loss.
How to use free foods
These negative-energy foods can be used to give variety to your diet, to increase nutrient intake (most of the fruits and vegetables listed above are rich sources of vitamins and antioxidants) and to fill out meals.
Free foods are also excellent for preventing cravings, so use them as low-energy snacks whenever you feel peckish.
Dr Ingrid van Heerden is a registered dietician and holds a doctoral degree in Nutrition and Biochemistry. She believes that "we are what we eat" and offers free nutrition and weight loss advice via her DietDoc service on Health24.com. Read more of her articles.