Losing weight can be tough. You want to slim down, but unless you have the stamina to dedicate the next few months to your body, you’ll also want to maintain a social life, which means cocktails after work and an occasional slice of pizza late at night. Most of us wake up, look at ourselves in the mirror, and decide that it’s time to make a change to lose weight. That change typically means better eating and more regular workouts, but it isn’t foolproof. There will be days when things don’t go as planned and a cupcake is consumed or a run is skipped.
You may try different diets, calorie counting, or increasing your workouts, but sometimes the lack of weight loss could be due to something you’re not even aware of. As it turns out, the healthy foods you’re relying on to slim down may be to blame.
1. Diet soda
Dieters may be apt to slurp down diet soda, and why not? It has zero calories and the carbonation-lovers argue that the carbonation can make you feel full. Some studies report that the more diet sodas a person drinks, the more weight they’ll gain. Why? The Denver Post explains the artificial sweeteners that keep diet soda calorie-free actually confuse your body since the sweetener is unknown. When your body doesn’t know how many calories you’ve consumed, it will respond by craving more high-calorie foods.
2. Carb-only snacks
When you eat meals or snacks composed of only carbohydrates, your body quickly converts the carbs into simple sugars, then sends them straight to your blood stream. Cosmopolitan says the sugar rush hits and is over quickly, leaving you with low blood sugar and a gnawing hunger pain. Avoid starch-heavy meals and snacks like pasta, crackers, dry cereal, and breads. Instead, pair healthy carbohydrates with protein or unsaturated fats like avocado or peanut butter to keep you full longer.
Touted as one of the best natural sweeteners around, health professionals have revered agave for years, but it seems like its reign over the health world has come to an end. According to Dr. Oz, agave is a syrupy sweetener that was thought to be the perfect sugar substitute for dieters because of its low-glycemic index. It’s true, agave does not have the same amount of glucose that your traditional white sugar does, but it contains more fructose than any other sweetener. This type of sugar can inhibit your body’s natural ability to produce as much insulin as it needs.
Experts in the field also believe that those who consume a lot of fructose are at risk for weight gain in the belly area, as fructose is more rapidly converted into fat than glucose. If you’re looking for a healthier sweetener, choose honey instead, and leave the agave to the health food aisles of your grocery store.
4. Low-fat foods
It may seem appealing but skip the low-fat yogurt, cheese, ice cream, and milk. Low-fat foods are often manufactured so that the natural fat elements are removed and replaced with fillers and sweeteners, MSN says. And Shape says people who eat low-fat products often gain weight because the low-fat food is not satisfying, and they end up binging on carbohydrates later in the day. Stick to natural, non-modified foods to get the full benefit of what you eat and to avoid feeling hungry hours later.
Granola seems like it’d be excellent for any diet — tons of whole grains, fruit, and nuts make up the bulk of this diet food, so what’s the harm? Livestrong explains granola is typically made from oats that are coated with water, oil, and sweeteners like honey and brown sugar to allow them to stick together to form those delicious oat clusters. Then, you can add in your dried fruit, which typically has a lot of sugar, and nuts, which have a lot of fat. Granola typically has about 11 grams of fiber per cup, but that one cup may also run you upwards of 500 calories. Yikes!
If you’re looking to eat granola and lose weight, then make sure to measure out your serving. It’s easy to underestimate how much you’re eating and turn your light breakfast into a calorie and sugar bomb. Also, try making your own in order to control the sugar and fat content.
6. Frozen meals
The boxes in the frozen food section of your grocery store may scream healthy, low-carb, low-fat, and low-calorie, but most frozen meals are just another tricky obstacle in your weight-loss journey. FitDay says these chilly meals contain heavy doses of sodium and preservatives to keep them fresh. In addition, the nutritional value in these meals is lacking compared to what you would make at home. A benefit to frozen meals is that they have a typically healthy portion size, but be wary of eating these too often or relying on them for your dose of daily nutrients.
7. 100-calorie snacks
These seemingly harmless 100-calorie snacks are all over the shelves at your grocery store, touting promises of weight loss. The problem, Rebooted Body points out, is these little snack packs are processed foods that contain lots of sugar (or artificial sugar). When you eat this tiny snack, your blood sugar skyrockets before dropping, leaving you hungry yet again. Eating something that doesn’t provide any nutritional value is not only bad for you, but bad for your diet because all you’ll want to do is eat again in another hour. Skip the low-calorie promises and eat real food.
What could be better than a bunch of fresh fruits and veggies all blended up into one delicious, nutritious beverage? If you’re trying to lose weight, the humble smoothie can really put a damper on your weight loss without you even realizing it. When you’re making a smoothie that’s primarily fruit-based, you’ll feel hungry fairly quickly because there’s no protein or fat to keep you satisfied. And, with four or five fruits going into one drink, that’s a lot of calories and sugar you’ll be taking in at once — not good if you’re trying to lose weight.
Nutritionist Marisa Moore tells New York Magazine’s The Cut your smoothie should have a source of protein (Greek yogurt or nut butter works well) as well as veggies to balance out the fruit. Avocado is also a great addition for a creamy texture and healthy fats.
9. Sweetened yogurt
Greek yogurt is a nutrient-dense food that offers tons of great benefits, but not all yogurts are created equal. If you’re going for those individual fruit-on-the-bottom cups that you can find at your local grocery store, you could gain weight in a flash. SFGate explains many yogurts are loaded with calories and sugar, and the low-fat or fat-free varieties are only bound to make you hungry again very quickly. The story says an 8-ounce serving of your average fruit yogurt is going to run you about 225 calories and more than 40 grams of sugar. Add granola to the mix for a complete breakfast, and you’re looking at more sugar than you should eat in an entire day.
We’re not saying you should leave yogurt out entirely, but you should be mindful of what kind of yogurt you’re eating. Buying plain Greek yogurt and jazzing it up with a tablespoon of honey, fresh fruit, and nuts is a better alternative.
10. Packaged vegetable chips
We all know potato chips are a diet don’t, but turning beets, kale, and other nutrient-dense veggies into a crispy snack seems like it would be a vast improvement. Sadly, this isn’t the case. All it takes is a quick look at the nutrition label to prove it. Like their spud-based counterparts, vegetable chips pack a lot of calories into a small portion. One serving of Rhythm’s Original Kale Chips, for example, has 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 200 milligrams of sodium. Standard Ruffles? They have 160 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 160 milligrams of sodium per serving.
While some of these snack options will provide you with more vitamins and other nutrients than traditional potato chips, you’ll be doing your body a much bigger favor if you opt for sautéed, roasted, or steamed vegetables instead. Turning healthy food into junk food doesn’t change much. It’s still junk food.