This can be a tricky category. The main point is to avoid all fat and sugar. Unfortunately, many low-sugar foods are loaded with fat, while many low-fat foods are loaded with sugar. Food manufacturers are very sneaky about trying to make so-called "dieting foods" more appealing. You will need to carefully check all labels to ensure there's no extra fat or sugar. Fat and sugar are hidden everywhere!
Salt, pepper, vinegar, soy sauce, mustard, sweet basil, garlic, parsley, thyme, marjoram, and most other herbs and spices. All of these seasonings and condiments are sugar-free, fat-free, and contain virtually no calories. In fact, we encourage the liberal use of spices to help make your meals more satisfying, reduce cravings, and increase water intake.
There may be other low-carb (no sugar), low-fat toppings you can find, but check the labels carefully. Ketchup and mayonnaise are both off limits. You'll also want to avoid commercial dressings unless you have carefully checked the label. Lemon juice, salsa, and pico de gallo are acceptable, as long as you can find a brand without added sugar. You can also use broth and bouillon to make soup.
Salt actually provides an important nutrient that your body needs while dieting: sodium. The average adult needs 1.5 grams of sodium per day. However, for people who exercise and people who drink a lot of water, that's not enough for proper electrolyte balance (water to sodium ratio). If you follow our recommendations for how much water to drink, you will be drinking a lot of water and need to make sure you get enough sodium.
One teaspoon of salt provides 2.3 grams of sodium, which is enough for most people. In general, if you liberally salt your food, you should get plenty of sodium. Just don't overdo it -- watch for sodium-heavy foods like beef jerky, cheese, and canned vegetables and take their sodium content into account. If you're concerned about how much salt you're getting, measure out a teaspoon of salt into an empty salt shaker so you can keep track of how much you are using. We recommend using a "light" salt (like Morton Light Salt) for it's higher potassium ratio (1/2 sodium, 1/2 potassium).
Sugar is not allowed in any form. The best choice of sweetener is stevia, a natural sugarless sweetener. Some commercial sweeteners claim to be stevia, and have clever, attractive names, but in fact contain some additional sweeteners that are not allowed. For example, so-called Stevia-in-the-Raw is marketed as stevia but also contains dextrose and/or maltodextrin, two forms of sugar. Truvia is also marketed as stevia, but also contains erythritol, a type of sugar called a "sugar alcohol." Don't use either of these deceptive products.
Sugar alcohols are advertised as containing zero calories, but the fact is that they are eventually converted to actual sugar (glucose) at some point in the body and should be considered carbohydrates. Sugar alcohols are cleverly hidden behind their scientific names, but you can recognize them by the ending "-itol" as in "erythritol" and "xylitol." Avoid all sugar alcohols.
Artificial, chemical sweeteners can work for some people, but others have problems with them. Examples of artificial sweeteners are aspartame, acesulfame, sucralose, and saccharin, or the brand names Nutrisweet and Splenda. In general, we allow these sweeteners in drinks, but they should be taken with caution. Check all labels carefully for additional sugars. If your weight stalls or you continue to have cravings, artificial sweeteners may be to blame. See the Troubleshooting section for more information.