It seems we can’t resist a diet fad. A recent survey has shown that by the age of 45 the average British woman will have tried 61 diets – that’s two a year from the age of 16! And our obsession for quick fixes means that we’re always looking for a healthy snack or drink that will make us look younger and slimmer without having to put in all that much effort.
So what’s healthy and what’s not? The ELLE beauty team are suckers for a frozen yoghurt or fresh smoothie, and we have new and quirky diet fads landing on our desks nearly every day. We decided it's time to learn the truth about our favourite snacks, asking nutrition expert Amelia Freer and USA Pro Personal Trainer Lucy Wydham-Read to share their insider knowledge and give the thumbs up or down on the latest and most common fads…
Naturally isotonic, it contains potassium, sodium and calcium. Great for rehydration instead of water, and ideal for use pre or post exercise (and when hung-over!).
'Not all of the brands are pure though so read labels and avoid the ones with added fruit, which ups the (natural) sugar content' says Amelia.
Keeping hydrated can help to reduce cravings for foods and is especially beneficial for skins appearance. 'As coconut water is fat free it is fine to drink if trying to lose weight' she adds.
Try Tiana Organic Coconut Water, £1.76, www.ocado.com
'This is a great natural alternative to refined sugars and artificial sweeteners' says Lucy. But, be warned, it is still high in calories, so be careful not to overdose on it.
'A good guide is to only ever have the size of a dice throughout the day, no more than this' advises Lucy. 'The other great thing is that it is relatively low Glycaemic Index so it can help keep your blood sugar energy at a healthy level' she adds.
'The key here is to make it yourself as a lot of shop bought brands can have lots of hidden extra sugar and salt' recommends Lucy.
When making popcorn at home just use the popcorn kernals. 'If you have a sweet tooth add a stick of vanilla into the container once prepared, and for savoury add a little crushed black pepper and spices. You can then have this as a snack twice a day' she adds.
‘I am a huge fan of Omega supplements and will take them daily for the rest of my life’ says Amelia. We need to have good levels of the good fats and it is hard to achieve this purely through our diet (and now with fish contamination and reducing fishing levels its getting even harder).
But many people have actually been taking too much Omega 3 (which helps against heart disease and builds cell membranes in the brain) knocking out the benefits of Omega 6 (which lowers cholesterol and supports skin health). Getting the ration right is essential, Amelia suggests a ratio of 1:4 in favour of Omega 6, but a pre-mixed capsule is probably the easiest option.
Omegas are essential for skin health, for keeping the cell structure firm and supple.Try Boots Pharmaceuticals Omega Oils 3, 6 and 9- 6 Months Supply (180 Capsules), £12.49
There are a lot of rubbish ones out there. Read the list of ingredients first to ensure you aren't drinking one with added sugars/sweeteners and other nasties. Collagen is a very large molecule and can rarely be absorbed in the gut so a lot of them are pointless.
'I use a pre-digested collagen powder so the molecules are small enough to be utilized and with great effect for joint support as well as skin' says Amelia.
Try Pure Gold Collagen £35.99 for a 10-day supply at Boots.com
Bottled juices are shockingly high in sugars. We only need one portion of fruit per meal but juices contain many more and this will raise blood sugar and insulin levels. ‘I avoid drinking fruit juices and prefer to eat fruit in its natural form that way the quantities can be monitored’ says Amelia.
Again, protein (found in the skin and pulp of fruit) is needed to balance out the sugar. So many people drink bottled juices unconsciously, thinking they are a health product without really realising just how much they are consuming.
Yes there can be vitamins and minerals in some (depends on how fresh or how processed they are) but if they are ones that have a long shelf life, it’s best to stick to the real thing instead.
'This can be the devil in disguise as it is often hailed as a healthy option with clever packaging and strong claims, but when it comes down to it lots can be very high in sugar. So always read the labels' says Lucy
It is easy to make your own with oats (great for fibre), a sprinkling of dried fruits (apricots and dates are good choices), a handful of seeds plus a pinch of nuts. This is a perfect breakfast to have and will keep you full and give you energy. Size wise, have a portion the size of a tennis ball.
Yoghurt is one of the foods that is commonly considered a health food but actually most yoghurts have added sugar - a big no-no if you care about your health or are trying to manage weight.
'Even natural, plain frozen yoghurt has its own sugars in the form of lactose, which many of us don't have the enzymes to digest' says Amelia. So it's not the healthy sweet treat you might think it is, especially if you add loads of toppings!