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6 Sneaky Ingredients in Your Food That Lead to Weight Gain, Say Dietitians

Learn the tricks to reading the nutrition label.

No matter how hard we try, it's still difficult to find confidence when it comes to reading the nutrition label on certain foods. It's not our fault, however, because many manufacturing companies intentionally use misleading words or labeling tactics as a marketing technique.

If you're trying to lose weight or make changes to your health, these misleading food labels can feel discouraging. Especially because some of your favorite grocery items might contain sneaky ingredients that may ultimately contribute to weight gain if consumed on a regular basis.

To learn more about these sneaky ingredients, we talked with a few expert dietitians. Continue reading to learn more, and for more healthy eating tips check out 26 Worst Habits Slowing Your Metabolism.

Rice syrup

rice syrup

A common ingredient used as a sweetener is rice syrup, which many people may not know to look for in their food.

"While this does not sound like an ingredient of concern, it is essentially just sugar. Too much added sugar in the diet may contribute to weight gain, as it is a source of calories that don't help you to feel full or add anything to the diet," says Jinan Banna, PhD, RD and professor of nutrition.



Lard, which is animal fat, can be found in many surprising foods, like refried beans or many popular packaged baked goods.

"This is a source of saturated fat. Not only is this high in calories, as fat is naturally high in calories, but the saturated fat in lard may be harmful if consumed in excess. Too much of this might lead you to consume calories in excess and also increase risk of some diet-related chronic conditions," says Banna.

Different types of sugar

corn syrup

Sugar can come in many forms and is oftentimes not just called "sugar" on the nutrition label. This means it's important to know what you're looking for next time you're in the grocery store.

"Sugar is in everything! There are so many different names for sugar seen on ingredient labels like high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, and many others. These are all quickly digested, which may promote a spike in your blood sugar. When foods containing these sugars are consumed frequently, they can lead to insulin resistance and obesity," says Kimberly Duffy, RDN, LD, CPT.

Refined flour

Bleached white flour

Refined flours can be a sneak ingredient because they can be labeled with different names. If you know what to look for, you can better control which types of flour you consume!

"There are multiple names for refined flours like white flour, enriched flour, and wheat flour. The fiber is removed from these grains, which makes them quick and easy to digest. Just like sugars, they promote blood sugar spikes. Once those blood sugars drop, you are looking for the next pick me up in the form of food or drink. These foods don't provide satiety like full-fiber whole foods, and they tend to be more calorically dense, promoting weight gain," says Duffy.

Hydrogenated oils and trans fats

Margarine stick

Hydrogenated oils can be difficult to spot on the nutrition label. To find them, you can check to see how much trans fats have been used, and you can look for hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list as well.

"Hydrogenated oils or trans fats are hidden in many foods even in small amounts. Some standard peanut butters contain extra hydrogenated oils to keep them from separating. These trans fats have been found to be more inflammatory in the body than saturated fats. It is important to read the ingredient labels and limit foods containing hydrogenated oils," says Duffy.

Processed seed oils

canola oil

At first glance, processed seed oils may not sound too bad. But they can contribute to certain health complications if consumed on a regular basis.

"This is another common ingredient in highly processed food. Processed seed oils like canola, sunflower, safflower, corn, and soybean oil can contribute to chronic inflammation if consumed on a regular basis. This is because of the way they are made and because they are high in omega 6 fatty acids, skewing our omega 6 to omega 3 ratio. Chronic inflammation can impact our hormones, leading to weight gain and chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease," says Noelle Schleder, MS, RDN with Mochi Health.

Samantha Boesch
Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha