When you’re trying to drop a few pounds, unless the weight is caused by a medical condition, there’s no getting around the need to make changes in your diet. This can be the hardest thing because our brains are hardwired to repeat routines and to crave things that boost serotonin levels, even when those foods have unhealthy results in our bodies.
The first step in the battle to eat better and lose weight is to understand the fight. Following is a list of the foods you ought to avoid in order to slim your waistline and be healthier overall. Some of these items will be no surprise, but be sure to read to the end as you may be shocked by a few of the foods that are sneakily dangerous.
1. French Fries & Potato Chips
Fried potato products are among the most craving-inducing snacks around. Something about that crisp, salty bite feels so good, and grabbing a handful of either is an easy way to fill up fast. But both of these foods are extremely high in calories and are linked to weight gain. In fact, one study even suggests that potato chips contribute more to weight gain, serving for serving, than any other individual food.
Unfortunately, roasted or fried potatoes are also likely to contain acrylamides, carcinogenic chemicals that significantly raise your cancer risk. You can still enjoy the taste of potatoes, though. The safest way to prepare them is boiling. If you must fry, blanch the potatoes first to remove up to half of the sugar, and stop when they reach a light golden brown. The darker the color, the more acrylamide is present.
2. Sugary Drinks
Sweetened beverages like soda and fruit juice contain massive amounts of added sugar and a high caloric load, but the brain does not recognize sugary drinks the same way it does solid foods. Liquid calories don’t have the same ability to make you feel full, so you are unlikely to eat any less food when it is washed down with a Coke, which can more than double the number of calories consumed in a sitting. The risk of excess weight gain from sugary drinks seems to affect people with a genetic predisposition to obesity even more. To lose weight, it’s best to stick to water as a beverage. Try lightly sweetened tea rather than soda when you need a caffeine boost.
3. White Bread
White bread is made from white flour, which is a highly refined product that has little to none of the health benefits found in whole grains. White flour itself it high on the glycemic index, and white bread may also contain a lot of added sugar. The effect of consuming white bread is spiked blood sugar levels which will shortly crash, leave you feeling hungry again, and potentially lead to overeating. One study including over 9,000 people reports that consuming just two slices of white bread per day (such as in one sandwich) can raise your risk of weight gain and obesity by 40%. Luckily, there are a lot of options available for whole grain bread with low added sugar – read the packages at the store to find one that appeals to you.
Shocking, huh? Candy is full of almost nothing but added sugar, unhealthy oils, and refined flour. Even candies that contain nuts or raisins overwhelm the health benefits of those ingredients with fuel for weight gain. Though candy contains a ton of calories, it’s not very filling because it is largely devoid of nutrients, and therefore extremely easy to overeat. Stores understand that the resolve to resist candy can be weakened by impulse, which is why you will find candy at every checkout lane. Much better snack choices are a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts; if you still need a bite of candy, choose dark chocolate, which has less added sugar and some health benefits in the form of antioxidants.
Alcohol can be a calorie heavy beverage that people often do not factor into their daily consumption. For reference, 12 ounces of regular beer contains approximately 150 calories, five ounces of wine comes in at around 120 calories, and a seven-ounce rum and Coke tips the scale at about 155 calories. Multiply those calories by the number of drinks you may have in an evening, and they really add up.
Additionally, the state of inebriation makes you much more likely to overeat or eat mindlessly, unable to read the body’s signals of fullness. And finally, excess alcohol tends to turn into fat in the liver and raises the level of fat in the bloodstream. If you aren’t ready to stop drinking entirely while dieting, stick to one glass a day and reduce your calorie intake somewhere else to compensate.
Pizza is an extremely popular and delicious food, but they way it is produced commercially is very unhealthy. From the refined flour crust to sugar-laden sauce, an overabundance of cheese and greasy, processed meats, your favorite brand is likely doing you no favors. Many large pizza chains are even adding more cheese to pizza crust, or coating crust in oily, salty flavors!
However, there are healthier pizza options to be found. You can actually reduce the fat content of pizza quite a bit simply by blotting the surface grease before eating. That’s not enough if you’re really serious about losing weight, though. Some restaurants offer whole wheat crust, low fat cheese, and low sugar sauce. You can also make a satisfying pizza at home using healthier ingredients – skip the meat (or use turkey-based pepperoni) and load up on your favorite veggies for a pizza meal you can feel good about eating.
7. Diet Foods
Packaged diet foods were introduced in response to growing knowledge about harmful fats. Companies rushed to remove a lot of fat from their products, but they still needed the foods to taste good. The solution? A bunch of added sugar. We now know that sugar is just as, if not more, heavily tied to weight gain and obesity than fat. Marketing for these packaged diet foods is a powerful thing that can hurt people who want to drop pounds and be healthier but are not sure how to prepare better meals from scratch.
Unfortunately, a 2014 study found that many diet products contain more sugar than their full-fat versions. Your best bet is to skip packaged diet foods and focus on eating whole foods. Even if you’re not a chef, you can’t go wrong with a simple piece of fruit, some raw or steamed veggies, nuts in moderation, and lean protein from white meat. Dark chocolate is a great way to treat yourself.
This list of foods to avoid while trying to loose weight is nowhere near exhaustive, but serves to give you an idea of how fat and added sugar can cause the food you eat to pile on excess pounds. Even the foods that are best for us can be compromised by additives that make them very unhealthy. But don’t despair – you can succeed on your weight loss journey by cutting out as many of these sugary and fatty foods as possible, finding healthier alternatives to the ones you can’t live without, and being conscious about compensating for splurges by cutting calories somewhere else. It’s not easy to lose weight, but it is worth the effort in terms of health, longevity, and self esteem. We’ll be rooting for you.