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How Whole Foods and Trader Joe's Are Making You Gain Weight

One supermarket trend we really like: It's easier than ever to buy better-tasting food—that's also better for you.

Case in point: the wide selection of all-natural, organic products and high-quality specialty items at Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's, and the Fresh Market. We say kudos to them. And to the patrons who seek them out. But beware: These 21st-century "health food" stores can actually trick you into eating less healthfully. How? By making bad-for-you food even more appealing. Your best defense: knowledge. That's why we uncovered the secret ways these supermarkets supersize your stomach. And speaking of secrets, discover these essential 8 Superfoods You Need to Know Now!


Those delicious in-store product samples that you find in every specialty supermarket? They not only whet your appetite for the product, but also encourage you to buy more food overall, according to a study from Arizona State University. In fact, the research indicates that even the smell of cooking food might contribute to this effect. The stores are well aware of this. In fact, the Fresh Market invites you to "help yourself to a sample of freshly brewed coffee" and brags that "fragrant smells fill the atmosphere."


When you buy a package of cookies the complete nutrition information is listed. But when you buy cookies made at an in-store bakery, you won't find calorie counts. That goes for all the bakery items, from the "gourmet muffins" at the Fresh Market, to the "bakery fresh chocolate chip cookies" at Trader Joe's, to the "gluten-free vanilla cupcakes" at Whole Foods. For perspective, just one of those Whole Foods cupcakes packs 480 calories. (The calorie count is listed online, but not in the store.) Knowing those numbers is critical: University of Mississippi researchers found that unhappy people—who are more likely to overindulge in comfort foods—ate 69 percent fewer calories when they checked the calorie content before digging in. If you're trying to blast fat, skip the sweets and try our new weight-loss plan, The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Diet and Cleanse! Test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in just one week!


Ever notice that more expensive products tend to come in fancier packages? Researchers at the University of Michigan recently found that food purveyors may actually use fancy fonts and labels to help justify higher prices. The scientists theorize that attractive fonts and labels give people the perception that they are getting more value for the higher cost. Think about it: Would you like a piece of cake—or a piece of CAKE!


Do you consider products from specialty supermarkets to be healthier than those from other grocery stores? If the answer is yes, you could be doing your waistline a disservice. When people guess the number of calories in a sandwich coming from a "healthy" restaurant, they estimate that it has, on average, 35 percent fewer calories than they do when it comes from an "unhealthy" restaurant, according to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research. Remember that the next time you reach for that package of Whole Foods' Organic Fruit & Nut Granola. One cup of this "healthy" product contains almost 500 calories. Speaking of breakfast foods, melt fat with each sip by making The Best Weight-Loss Smoothie Ever!


On the Fresh Market Web site, the store claims to have the largest bulk snack selection "in town." But be careful what you buy in this bulk section: It may cause you to look like you fit in there. Why? By filling your own bag with a big scoop, you'll likely underestimate how much you've served yourself. Case in point: A Cornell University study found that nutritionists who were asked to serve themselves ice cream with large bowls and spoons dished out about 57 percent more than those given smaller bowls and spoons. Buy basic staples like spices, grains, and legumes in bulk, but make sure your snacks always come with serving sizes and calorie counts.


If you're watching your weight, don't step near the Whole Foods buffet. Cornell University researchers found heavier diners tend to overindulge in buffet settings. (Surprise!) Our real beef: While Whole Foods lists selections' ingredients on the buffet's ID labels, it doesn't provide nutrition information for any of them. And yes, one of the items is macaroni and cheese—or "pasta and cheese" as the chain calls it. Also, make sure the salmon is wild—and read these eye-opening 8 Reasons You Should Never Order the Salmon!


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Eat This, Not That!
Inspired by The New York Times best-selling book series, Eat This, Not That! is a brand that's comprised of an award-winning team of journalists and board-certified experts, doctors, nutritionists, chefs, personal trainers, and dietitians who work together to bring you accurate, timely, informative, and actionable content on food, nutrition, dieting, weight loss, health, wellness, and more. Read more about Eat This