Gain weight from zero-calorie foods? Yes, that is exactly what you read. Eating and drinking zero-calorie foods (always made with fat substitutes and artificial sweeteners) has been undeniably linked to weight gain. Researchers say these (not normal) foods interfere with our body’s ability to regulate what we eat, and the science of it all may surprise you.

We need to consume a certain amount of calories each day to keep our basal metabolic rate going. For women, this is anywhere between 1200-1500 kcal. For men, it is closer to 2000 kcal. If your daily caloric intake is below this, your body will start to turn on itself and eat lean muscle mass to function., which a highly undesirable mechanic. Lean muscle mass is exactly what fires up our metabolism to burn more calories, keeps us strong, toned and prevents injury.

It would certainly make dieting easier if we could munch on calorie-free foods all day. But other than water and diet beverages, there is unfortunately no such thing as a zero-calorie or negative-calorie food, according to Kimberly Lummus, MS, RD, Texas Dietetic Association media representative and public relations coordinator for the Austin Dietetic Association in Austin, Texas.

Whenever you consume a ‘zero/low calorie’ food substitute, the sweet taste from the preservatives and artificial sweeteners makes your body anticipate the arrival of calories. And when the calories don’t show up, your body gets confused, and triggers your hunger response, sending you looking high and low for those missing calories—and often finding them in a snack bowl. Here’s a run-down of some popular zero-calorie foods you might want to think twice about, and one that might actually help you lose weight.

Butter Sprays
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray claims to have zero calories. The ingredient list shows that it’s a mixture of soybean oil and water with thickeners, and artificial flavor enhancers. It also contains EDTA, which has been shown to interfere with nutrient absorption. But the real kicker is that this spray is only zero calories if you use 1 spray—Use 25 sprays and you’ve eaten 20 calories and 2 grams of fat. That means the whole bottle contains 904 calories and 90.4 grams of fat!

Zero Noodles
Now here’s something a little different: Zero Noodles. These noodles are made from glucomannan fibre, which is made from a Japanese root plant called the Konjac plant. The claim is that these noodles are a replacement for rice and pastas that provides bulk and satiation without the calories. And there have been quite a few studies showing that glucomannan fibre might actually aid in weight loss and reduce LDL cholesterol. Apparently they are a little rubbery, so they might take some getting used to. But go ahead, and give them a try. We have only gotten good results from whenever we have incorporated a little japanese into our diets!

Diet Soda
Regular soda is definitely not good for you, but you’re not doing your body any favors by choosing diet cola. One recent study from Johns Hopkins researchers found that people who drink diet beverages end up consuming more calories from food than people who drink regular soda or other sugary beverages.


In a nutshell, then, if you are trying to lose weight, start by adding vegetables to your main dishes, snacking on fruit, piling your sandwiches with fresh vegetables, and having fruit instead of dessert after your meals. This doesn’t “trick” your body into a calorie deficit, but it can help you feel full and satisfied while still eating fewer calories and getting lots of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.

One true zero beverage to make sure you are getting enough of is water. Not only is it healthy to drink enough water, but substituting water for sugar-sweetened beverages can save you hundreds of calories. Aim for six to eight eight-ounce glasses of water each day.

Dr. Annie

Physician, mom and wife

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