All of us know that the basic formula for losing weight is diet and exercise. But, if we go deeper into the diet portion of the weight-loss equation, it gets more complicated. Losing weight is never as easy as that equation makes it sound. Fruit, vegetables, what about whole grains? What about all those healthy fats we keep hearing about?
There is possibly as much misinformation out there as there is the truth. Plus, there is a revolving door of research, first proclaiming something to be unhealthy, only to turn around and declare it the next best thing for weight loss. Healthy fat is a perfect example of the shift in diet thought.
How is anyone but a nutritionist supposed to figure out which foods are beneficial for losing weight? Even more difficult to determine are the trickier foods that halt weight loss altogether. While we can easily put pizza, pasta, and cupcakes on the do-not-touch list, other seemingly healthier options are still foods bad for losing weight.
To help everyone weed through the non-obvious, but still problem foods for weight loss, we’ve compiled a list of seven of the worst ones. Some people would consider them obvious choices, but several came as a surprise even to us.
1. Coffee Additives
Although demonized in the past, a cup of coffee a day is quite good for you. In fact, it’s one of the main sources of antioxidants in the North American diet. Americans average three cups of coffee a day, which is fine until you see what is dumped into it. Black coffee is good for you in small quantities, and black is the only way it is good for you.
As soon as you add cream, sugar, whip cream or who knows what else, there suddenly are problems with your little cup of coffee. An easy example is a nonfat cafe mocha with whip cream from your favorite green-and-white coffee franchise. Despite containing no-fat milk, it hides nine grams of fat and 260 calories.
2. Dried Fruit
Often portrayed as a delicious, healthy snack, dried fruit has a dirty, sugary secret. It’s packed full of so much sugar it should rarely be considered a fruit at all. In a balanced and healthy diet, we should consume only about 30 calories a day from fresh fruit. That is equal to approximately one apple, one banana or a cup of berries. But, which type of berries?
The caloric intake of a cup of fresh berries and a cup of dried berries is not the same. For example, a cup of fresh cranberries contains only 4 grams of sugar, but a cup of dried ones has more than 70 grams. We need to be a bit more wary about just how many raisins we throw into our oatmeal every morning.
3. Microwave Popcorn
Another tricky snack food on our list is microwave popcorn. Popcorn is often suggested as the diet-friendly alternative to chips, a perfect way to end the savory cravings that just won’t leave you alone. But, there is something downright dangerous about microwave popcorn, including a lengthy list of hazardous chemical additives that the Environmental Protection Agency has labeled as “likely carcinogen.”
If you can’t stop the popcorn craving, stick with organic popcorn, dry-popped on the stove top. Toss with a little healthy oil, and you’ve got yourself a perfectly wholesome snack. Just skip the microwavable kind.
4. Protein Bars
Protein and energy bars are something we’ve covered before, and they remain high on our list of foods that interfere with weight loss. Yes, some healthy versions are out there, but the vast majority of protein bars on the market contain high levels of fat, sugars, and salts, all in a bid to make them more delicious for the average consumer. Even fitness guru Jillian Michaels believes some energy bars “might as well be a Snickers,” based on their sugar content. Do your healthy-eating plan a favor and ditch the protein bars.
Only a few years ago, butter was demonized as a dangerous food for dieters. But times have changed again, and now margarine is out of favor. The truth of the matter is that both are high-fat foods and should be consumed in moderation, if at all. The fats from butter, on the other hand, are much healthier in the long run than the hydrogenated fats found in most margarine spreads. Those fats lead to heart disease and high blood pressure.
6. White Rice
White rice is the go-to starchy base for many healthy meals such as stir-fries, salad bowls, and sushi. Unfortunately, plain white rice is controversial when it comes to dieting because as a refined grain it’s considered empty carbs. According to a study in the journal “Food and Nutrition Research,” refined grains such as white rice are responsible for significant weight gain.
Alcohol is sometimes one of the most difficult habits to kick, but it also is one of the worst foods for weight loss. Again, just like white rice, alcohol is full of empty calories. A beer or a mixed drink has no nutritional value whatsoever. Plus, excessive alcohol consumption is linked to a host of health problems such as liver disease and diabetes, and it deteriorates the stomach lining over time. If you are someone who drinks on a regular basis, you should read about what drinking alcohol regularly does to your body.
Above all else, the basis of all weight-loss programs is diet and exercise, but it’s easy to get lost in the clutter of this and that advice on which foods benefit weight loss and which don’t.
If you find yourself eating a protein bar for the sheer convenience of it, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Guilt only serves to develop unhealthy relationships with food. Take on your next meal as a challenge, striving to eat better with each bite. Whole fruits, vegetables, and grains are always your safest bets if you are ever conflicted while standing in the grocery store.