If you’re trying to eat healthier or shed a few pounds, changes have to be made with regard to your diet. You’ll have to swap soda for healthier drinks, ice cream for yogurt, and junk food for nuts in order to cut out sugar and fat. The general principle is to load up on more low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods, but not all healthy foods are as helpful for weight loss as they claim to be! Here are seven foods that aren’t helping you on your quest to lose weight.
Fruit smoothies are a logical drink of choice for health nuts. Some even claim smoothies to be filling and nutrient-dense enough to replace a full meal. The drawback of replacing meals with smoothies is that even if you take in the same amount of calories with a liquid meal instead of a solid meal, a liquid meal passes through your stomach much faster than a solid one. It won’t be long before you’re looking to eat again, which is bad news for your weight loss goals!
Beware of smoothies made with full-fat milk, ice cream, or flavoured yogurt, or those piled with add-ons like marshmallows or wafer biscuits. Stick to smoothies made from fruit and vegetables, plant milk, and no additional sweets. If you can, make your own smoothies at home! This way, you can be sure about the quality of ingredients and portion amounts of your add-ons. And remember—smoothies do not substitute a full, solid meal.
Yoghurt is a healthier alternative to ice cream; it’s delicious, wonderful when served cold, and higher in protein content.
However, avoid opting for flavoured yoghurts. These contain plenty of sugar and not enough protein to balance it out. Even varieties marketed as fat-free might be compensating for the lack of calories from fat with sugar. The brand won’t do you any weight loss flavours if the label says it contains over 18 grams of sugar.
Stick to plain Greek yoghurt, which has less sugar and more protein. Greek yoghurt is thicker and creamier, and has a stronger tang compared to the flavoured varieties. To sweeten Greek yoghurt, mix in small amounts of honey, cinnamon, berries, or nuts.
There’s little harm in having a sprinkling of cheese over your salad every once in a while, but the problem with cheese is that it contains compounds that produce an addictive effect. If you’re not careful, that one sprinkling of cheese may be followed by a second, or even a third sprinkling.
While cheese in moderation can be helpful, constantly eating cheese increases fat and sodium levels in the body, so you retain both adipose tissue and water weight. In the long run, cheese ups your risk for cardiovascular diseases like coronary artery disease and hypertension.
The occasional drink may be a well-deserved treat, but making a habit of indulging in beer several times a week is a different story. There are approximately 155 calories in a single can of beer, and 125 calories in a glass of wine. But as there are no nutrients found in alcohol, all those calories are pretty much empty.
Alcohol is made of simple sugars, and the body draws calories from it instead of breaking down fat stores. The glucose and fat from other things you eat – like the fried and salty food that goes so well with Friday night drinks – end up getting stored as adipose tissue, most notably in your midsection. Hello there, beer belly! If you must go out for drinks, have yours on the rocks, limit yourself to one glass, and avoid the bar food.
Avocados are actually a very good source of nutrients, but if you’re trying to shed those pounds, take note of how many you’re eating. Avocados contain potassium, vitamins B, C, and E, and a substance called lutein that enhances vision. They are low in sugar, but their creamy flavour is enough of a treat that you won’t miss dessert. Avocados are also high in fibre, so you feel more sated, unlikely to go looking for snacks after eating them.
The issue is that avocados are high in monounsaturated fats. In all fairness, monounsaturated fats are generally good for you. Because their fat chains have less stable bonds, monounsaturated fats are easier to break down by the body, and are less likely to hang around and turn into plaque blockages in your blood vessels. Nevertheless, good fats are still fats, and should be eaten in moderation. Eat no more than half of an avocado per serving and pay mind to the preparation – avoid dishes containing avocados that are drenched in oil, sweets, or fatty dressings like mayonnaise.
Popcorn is actually an excellent snack! It’s a whole grain that’s rich in fibre and low in calories so you can enjoy a number of handfuls without overloading yourself. Three cups of popcorn yields only 100 calories.
It’s the microwaveable varieties that are bad for you. These ones come bathed in oil and artificial flavours. The bag is also coated with perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), which may have carcinogenic properties. Steer clear as well of movie popcorn drizzled over with cheese, butter, salt, and toppings.
Go for air-popped, homemade popcorn instead! The kernels are heated with olive oil in pans that aren’t coated with PFCs. To add flair to your popcorn, use natural flavourings like spices, cinnamon, or parmesan cheese in limited amounts.
Like fruit smoothies, trail mix seems like an easy, reasonable snack for someone looking for a replacement for chips and junk food. The problem is that most packaged trail mixes are packaged like junk food too. Preservatives, oils, salt, and sugar now accompany the nuts and dried berries that are supposed to be healthy finger foods.
Trail mix is designed to be a source of fuel in the outdoors – you consume a lot of energy in an environment where it’s hard to forage for food, so as a result, trail mix is calorie-dense. That means it’s not a good option for finger foods in a low energy environment, especially when you’re trying to lose weight. Make your own trail mix instead with fresh nuts and seeds so you can ensure the ingredients are free of preservatives and fat.
White rice is a refined grain, so it loses the bran (which contains fibre) and the germ (which contains nutrients). What’s left in white rice is only the endosperm, which is chock-full of carbohydrates. Eating substantial servings of white rice, especially in countries where rice is a staple, means you’re consuming large amounts of carbohydrates with otherwise empty calories.
The carbs from white rice make your blood sugar levels rise and then drop suddenly once you’ve digested the lot. The energy slump makes you more likely to hanker for a snack in between meals, or an even bigger helping of white rice the next time you eat.
Switch to brown rice instead! It’s a whole grain so it retains all its nutrients and fibre aside from just carbs. Brown rice is a low-calorie but nutrient dense food – you don’t need to eat so much of it to feel full. It’ll be an ultimately better choice on your quest to lose weight.