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The 5 Worst 'Empty-Calorie' Foods Making You Gain Weight Faster

These foods will derail your efforts and make weight gain so much easier.

When you're trying to lose weight, there are some foods and beverages you should steer clear of at all costs. They're filled with "empty calories" and will totally derail the progress you've made. We chatted with The Nutrition Twins®, Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, CLT, and Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, CLT, nationally recognized registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs), personal trainers (CFTs), and top experts in living healthily, who break down the five worst empty-calorie foods that are making you gain weight faster.

Keep reading to learn exactly what you should avoid in your diet, and next, don't miss You'll Never Lose Weight if You Still Do These 5 Things, Expert Says.

Soft drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks


Although soft drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks may taste good, they're filled to the brim with sugar and don't offer any nutrients. Therefore, these empty-calorie beverages are major no-nos!

"They spike blood sugar, causing an energy high followed by a crash," The Nutrition Twins explain. "When blood sugar dips, it signals the brain that it needs more energy, so you turn towards sugar for the quickest pick-me-up you can find. Plus, liquids don't signal the brain that you've eaten the way that food does, so you still crave just as much food."

Instead of grabbing one of these sugary beverages, opt for tea, water, or seltzer with lemon or lime instead.

Baked goods

baked goods, chocolate chip cookies wrapped, concept of empty calorie foods

We know the struggle can be real when the enticing aroma of fresh baked goods hits. But alas, mouthwatering treats like cookies, pastries, donuts, and cake are jam-packed with sugar, salt, refined grains, and artery-clogging saturated fat. All of these ingredients can cause inflammation, which makes losing weight a lot more difficult and gaining weight much easier. Choose a healthy serving of fresh fruit instead!

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Meats like ham, sausage, hot dogs, and bacon


Ordering a side of bacon, ham, or sausage to go with your eggs unfortunately isn't doing your weight loss efforts any favors. These meats are full of saturated fat, and usually nitrates.

"Saturated fat not only clogs arteries, but it also creates inflammation in the body, leading to weight loss resistance. Nitrates cause DNA damage that also creates inflammation in the body and makes it harder to lose weight," The Nutrition Twins explain.

Rather than ordering a hot dog or one of these saturated-fat-filled meats, opt for fatty fish like herring or salmon, which have omega-3 fatty acids that lower inflammation and make your weight loss efforts simpler.

Fast-food French fries

frying french fries in oil

Good old-fashioned, greasy fast-food French fries—there's nothing quite like them. But these salty snacks are heavily processed, don't contain any fiber, and wreak havoc on your body once ingested. Plus, according to The Nutrition Twins, "[They're] heated to high temperatures in unstable seed oils that become highly inflammatory—and then they're loaded with salt. The combination of the greasy and salty food often triggers you to want more, making it easy to overeat."

If you're in the mood for something potato-y, consider preparing a small baked potato with the skin on, which has "antioxidant-rich, inflammation-lowering phytonutrients." You won't be wasting your snack time on empty calories and will avoid consuming inflammatory oils that make losing weight extremely challenging.

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beer in glass

Last but not least, alcohol is high in the calorie department, accelerates hunger cravings, and makes you laxer about what you eat, "which is a recipe for disaster your waistline," The Nutrition Twins explain. "This is especially the case in any social situation when drinks and food are freely flowing. Plus, your body has to shut down your metabolism to detoxify the alcohol."

The next time you have people over or head out for a night on the town, consider choosing a non-alcoholic wine or beer. "Most have a quarter of the calories and won't negatively impact your hunger, thirst or decision making when you're around tempting food," The Nutrition Twins say. "If you're set on drinking, at least make sure that every other drink (or every two out of three drinks) is non-alcoholic and calorie-free, like seltzer. You'll consume a lot less alcohol over the course of the night."

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa