19 Things You Shouldn’t Eat If You’re Trying to Lose Weight
You know that French fries, doughnuts, and piles of pasta are off-limits, but what about your morning smoothie or low-cal frozen dinner? These are the “healthy” foods that shouldn’t be on your slimdown menu.
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A half-cup of granola has anywhere between 200 and 300 calories, 12 to 16 grams of sugar, 3 to 15 grams of fat (depending on low-fat options), and nearly 40 grams of carbs, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Plus, granola is usually mixed with something, like yogurt or fruit, which only increases its caloric value. “Although you may think starting your day with a bowl of granola is the healthy thing to do, the calories can easily add up to over 600 calories, just at breakfast,” says Toby Amidor, RD, nutrition expert and author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen.
Frozen meals are super-convenient. They’re cheap, easy to throw in your bag as you’re running out the door, and take just three minutes to cook. While your 300-calorie Lean Cuisine may seem like a waist-friendly option, it’s not. Most frozen meals are loaded with sodium—as much as you should eat over a full day, not just in one meal—and lots of other synthetic additives. Sodium packs on water weight, as the body needs to maintain a balance in the body, and when you’re thirsty, you could reach for a sugary beverage, which adds hundreds of more calories. Salt also makes food taste better, prompting you to shovel more of it in your mouth. Another problem with frozen meals is they frequently lack sufficient fiber to keep you full, so you’re likely to find yourself sneaking back into the kitchen shortly after you’ve eaten. If you must eat a frozen meal, consider adding a serving or two of frozen vegetables to boost the fiber and fullness quotient and dilute the sodium.
Without alcohol, they’re less fattening, right? Yes and no. It’s true that alcohol adds calories, but so do the ingredients you’re swapping in. Virgin margaritas, pina coladas, and daiquiris are made with fruit juices and sometimes syrups, which have loads of calories and sugars. Instead, Amidor recommends sticking with alcohol—in 5 ounces of wine or a 12-ounce light beer. Here are the weight-loss motivation techniques 22 real people used to lose weight.
Making a smoothie and ordering a smoothie at a shop are two very different things. When you make a smoothie yourself, you can measure the exact amount of fruit, swap water or almond milk for juice, and avoid any additional sweeteners. But many pre-made smoothies contain between 600 to 1,000 calories, on average, and are loaded with sugar. “An average height woman who is trying to lose weight is probably on a 1,200 to 1,400 calorie diet,” Amidor says. “So consuming one smoothie with 1,000 calories can easily sabotage any weight loss efforts.”
Store-bought bran muffins
Bran muffins sound like a healthy breakfast option—with all that cholesterol-lowering oat bran, right? But the prepackaged ones found at the supermarket aren’t nearly as fresh or healthy as they claim, warns Amidor, and they’re almost always oversized, packing in some 300 calories—about the same as a cream-filled doughnut! Many are also loaded with saturated fats butter and oil and contain upwards of 600 grams of sodium. Homemade is key when you’re trying to lose weight, so why not try making your own? While baking definitely does take more time than going to the store, you’ll reap the benefits of all your hard work spent in the kitchen.
If food contains the word “veggie,” it’s not automatically healthy. Don’t let marketing gimmicks fool you: The majority of foods are mislabeled and not as healthy as they claim to be, veggie chips included, says Amidor. You’re a lot better off eating fresh vegetables than synthetic and processed versions. You can always try making your own veggie chips by slicing veggies like kale, carrots, zucchini, and squash, really thin, misting them with olive oil, and then baking them in the oven. Here are 25 more weight-loss myths you need to stop believing.
Blue corn chips
Similarly, just because snacks like blue chips don’t look like the greasy potato chips you know to avoid, don’t assume they’re a healthier option. “Yes, blue corn contains the antioxidant anthocyanin,” explains certified culinary nutritionist Trudy Stone. “However, much of the good stuff gets baked away during the process of creating the chips that very little nutritional value is left—leaving them not much healthier than your typical tortilla chip.”
“Most protein bars on the market are sugar bombs not much healthier than a Snickers bar,” says Stone. “They can also contain a lot of carbohydrates as well which can send your blood sugar soaring. Some also contain artificial additives such as trans fat and high-fructose corn syrup, both that have been linked with inflammation and obesity.”
Acai had a major health food moment, thanks to the incredibly delicious acai bowl, which is basically a super thick acai berry smoothie mixed with nuts, oatmeal, and fresh fruit. But not only does acai cost a lot more than other berries, it doesn’t quite live up to all of its hype. “Acai has been touted for many benefits, including aiding in weight loss, but there is no evidence that this berry will have you shedding pounds,” says Amidor. Find out exactly what food to buy at the supermarket to lose weight.
Aloe juice aka aloe water has been touted as the new coconut water. The bulk of aloe juice is made with aloe vera gel, water, or tea, and then sweeteners and natural flavors may be added. While aloe vera juice supposedly has health benefits, like weight loss and anti-aging properties, none of these claims have ever been scientifically proven. “Although aloe vera does contain high amounts of antioxidants, it has a slightly bitter, citrus-like flavor which is very difficult to drink on its own,” says Amidor. “It also has diuretic properties, which if taken in large amounts, can lead to loss of potassium from your body, which is potentially dangerous.”
Fruit juices in general
You can get a lot of valuable vitamins and nutrients from fruit. However, when you just drink the fruit juice, you lose out on the fiber from the actual fruit that fills you up. So while it’s easy to gulp down a delicious juice, you’re not going to fully reap its benefits. If you’re serious about losing weight, here are 10 weight-loss products that are worth your money.
Popcorn is a whole grain, so it’s not unreasonable to include it on your green-light food list. However, even “natural” and “light” microwave popcorn is loaded with artificial ingredients, plus sodium and butter—and a ton of calories. This doesn’t mean you have to give up all popcorn though, as air-popped popcorn is a much better alternative. It only contains 30 calories per cup and you can customize it to your liking.
Salads are the go-to diet food, you’re probably thinking. How could they possibly keep me from losing weight? The problem is with what you put on the salad. “Salad items like nuts, fruits, some dressings and extras like croutons and cran-raisins, can actually add an extra 300-400 calories to the meal,” says Angela Godwin, FNP-BC MSN, clinical instructor at the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. “Instead, greens and proteins can make a salad more filling with less fat.” Also, steer clear of “lite” salad dressings that secretly have high sugar content. Look out for these other weight-loss mistakes nearly everyone makes.
Artificially sweetened drinks
It’s wise to want to eliminate sugary drinks from your diet, but replacing them with “diet” versions or drinks with artificial sweeteners is not the solution. One study conducted by researchers from Marquette University and the Medical College of Wisconsin showed that artificial sweeteners could actually contribute to weight gain in a way that does not happen with natural sugars. Other studies have shown that drinking artificial sweeteners was highly correlated to an occurrence of dementia and stroke.
Nontraditional pasta, like those made from beans, rice, and soy products, have become increasingly popular as a healthier option for pasta fans. However, that doesn’t mean you can load up on veggie noodles with no consequences. “We would be wise to remember that these pastas, while more nutrient-dense than traditional white pasta, still have calories and carbohydrates,” says Monica Auslander Moreno, RD, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition. “Portions are still set at a measly 1/2 cup cooked; most of us do 2-3 cups of cooked pasta at a time. Try going ‘half and half’ with pasta alternatives and a vegetable pasta substitute.” Check out these weight-loss breakthroughs doctors wish you knew.
If you have Celiac disease, of course you can and should eat gluten-free foods. But for those who choose gluten-free options because they think it’s healthier, think again. “As alternative grains are more bitter than their wheat-, barley-, and rye- gluten-containing counterparts, the most common means to mask bitterness is…wait for it…by adding high levels of sugar,” says Alvin Berger, MS, PhD, nutritionist, lipid biochemist and co-founder of Life Sense Products. “The sugar is added in its plethora of alternative forms and names, to provide cover. The bottom line is that many gluten-free foods are higher in total sugars and high glycemic-carbs than their gluten-containing counterparts.”
“While kombucha is wonderful due to its containment of various probiotic strains, many commercial kombuchas are loaded with sugar,” says Auslander Moreno. “Moreover, consumers don’t read serving sizes close enough and what’s depicted on the label can be 2-3 servings within the whole bottle, and sugar content all of a sudden is tripled.” These are the 50 things doctors wish you knew about losing weight.
When you have the option to choose between dried fruit and fresh fruit, always opt for the fresh variety. “Dried fruits have a lot of calories and added sugar for very little volume,” says Summer Yule, MS, RDN. “For instance, one cup of raisins (not packed) contains 434 calories and 86 grams of added sugar. By comparison, a cup of grapes contains only 62 calories and 15 grams of sugar. This means that you could eat 7 cups of grapes for the same amount of calories as 1 cup of unpacked raisins.”
Instant oatmeal may be a lot quicker to make than traditional oats, but what you gain in convenience you lose in nutritional value. Many of the oatmeal’s healthy properties are stripped away in processing, explains Stephanie Lincoln, an eating psychology specialist and the founder and CEO of Fire Team Whiskey Military Health and Fitness. Plus, sugar is added during manufacturing. These two factors turn instant oatmeal into a high glycemic index food, making you feel hungry even after you’ve just eaten. Next, don’t miss these 42 easy tricks for losing weight fast.
- United States Department of Agriculture: “USDA Branded Food Products Database”
- Toby Amidor, RD, nutrition expert and author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen.
- Trudy Stone, culinary nutritionist
- Angela Godwin, FNP-BC MSN, clinical instructor at the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.
- Experimental Biology: “The Influence of Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners on Vascular Health.”
- Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition.
- Alvin Berger, MS, PhD, nutritionist, lipid biochemist and co-founder of Life Sense Products.
- Summer Yule, MS, RDN.
- Stephanie Lincoln, an eating psychology specialist and the founder and CEO of Fire Team Whiskey Military Health and Fitness.