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15 "Weight Loss" Foods That Don't Work

Don’t be fooled by their reputations. These foods can make you gain weight.

If you're trying to lose weight, you're probably wondering what types of foods will help you meet your goals. With so much conflicting information out there, it can feel overwhelming to know where to start. As a registered dietitian with years of experience, I'm here to clear up the confusion and set you on the path to weight loss success. Here are 15 "weight loss" foods that actually don't work. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these 19 Ways You're Ruining Your Body, Say Health Experts.

Diet Yogurt

Bowl of greek yogurt

Diet yogurt is a popular choice for those who want to cut calories. It sounds good in theory, since diet yogurts are typically lower in calories, fat, and sugar than the regular version. 

However, diet yogurts also tend to be more processed and contain more artificial ingredients. And without the fat present, diet yogurts are not as satisfying.

Fat, when consumed in moderation, is a nutrient that makes us feel more full and can therefore prevent overeating later on. If you're a yogurt fan, don't be afraid to opt for the full-fat version.

Green Tea

green tea being poured into cup

Green tea is often touted as a weight loss miracle. While it has some health benefits, the research shows the amount of weight loss to be expected is likely minimal.

Adding a daily cup of green tea is not harmful, but it is unlikely to lead to a noticeable difference in your waistline.

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Rice Cakes

rice cakes

Rice cakes are a snack food that is very low in calories. However, they are also very low in nutrients. Eating a low-calorie food without any nutritional value is simply not satisfying. 

It will likely take a large amount of rice cakes to feel full, which defeats the purpose of trying to lose weight.

Diet Soda

Brown soda in a clear glass against a white background

If you're a soda junkie, swapping regular for diet soda may sound like a good idea. 

But, some research shows that drinking more artificially-sweetened beverages may actually increase the risk for sugar cravings and weight gain.

Low-Calorie Ice Cream

ice cream scoops on marble counter

There are several seemingly "healthy" ice cream brands out there that are lower in calories or sugar. But, they are really not much better for you. 

If the sugar is reduced, chances are there is more saturated fat. If fat is reduced, chances are there is more sugar added.

Also, when you know you are having a lower-calorie version, it may be easier to justify overeating it. When this happens, you can end up consuming way more calories than you would if you just had a scoop of the real version!

Veggie Chips

Veggie chips

Seeing the word "veggie" in a product makes it sound healthy. But the truth is, veggie chips or veggie straws are really not any healthier than a potato chip. 

Sure, they may be a little lower in fat, but they still pack a ton of sodium. Sodium is a weight loss deterrent, as it can cause your body to hold onto water weight.

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Lean Cuisines


While lean cuisines typically only pack around 250-350 calories per meal, they are loaded with sodium. The amount of sodium often is more than half your entire day's worth! The calorie amount for some is also too low for a meal, which can lead to overeating later on.

While a few studies have shown short-term weight loss from eating frozen meals, in the long-term they don't teach you how to eat or how to sustain that weight loss once you get bored with them.

Skim Milk

drinking milk

Fat-free skim milk has often been purported as the healthier choice compared to whole milk. However, research has actually shown people who have more full-fat dairy products tend to weigh less. This could be because fat is more satiating.

Celery Juice

celery juice

Celery juicing is a widely popular weight loss trend. However, there is no scientific research to prove it works. 

Additionally, many commercial celery juice products also contain other juices to balance the bitter celery flavor, which contain added sugars.

If you're trying to lose weight, opt for the whole celery stalk instead.

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Many popcorn brands such as SkinnyPop are considered lower-calorie snacks. While this is true, they are still not the best snack options for weight loss. 

This is because many still have added sodium. They also are so light that they are way too easy to overeat.

Crunchy whole food snacks are more effective for weight loss, such as celery, carrots, or cucumbers with hummus.

Protein Bars

young woman eating protein bar during run
Shutterstock / Rido

Protein bars are a seemingly healthy and convenient snack option. However, many are actually high in calories, fat, and added sugars, which contributes to weight gain.

If you're going to have a protein bar, choose a bar with less ingredients that are natural, such as the RX Bar. However, it still shouldn't be an everyday thing.

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Diet Shakes

protein shake

Pre-made weight loss shakes such as SlimFast are not all they're cracked up to be. While low in calories, many contain added sugars and preservatives that wreak havoc on your metabolism. Liquid calories are also not as filling as whole foods.

Instead of pre-made shakes, opt to make your own healthy fat-burning shake.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Shot of apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar, or ACV, is one of the hottest weight loss foods right now. Proponents claim it can reduce hunger and aid in weight loss. However, there is little evidence to support these claims. 

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Coconut Oil

Coconut and coconut oil

Coconut oil is often promoted as a fat-burning food. However, there is a lack of consistent evidence on its role in weight loss. It is also very high in saturated fat, which has the potential to raise cholesterol levels.

Artificial Sweeteners

artificial sweetener

If you have a sweet tooth or like your coffee with tons of sugar, you may have tried switching to artificial sweeteners like Equal or Splenda. It's unclear however how much better these sweeteners really are for you.

Artificial sweeteners taste significantly sweeter than regular sugar, and may actually increase cravings for sweet foods. 

With that being the case, you are better off gradually reducing your total sugar intake, rather than adding more artificial sweeteners.

Final Word From the Registered Dietitian

Nutritionist with young woman client talking about meal plan and healthy products during a medical consultation in the office

Rather than these trendy "weight loss" foods, opt for more nutritious, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to help you lose weight, stay satisfied, and keep the weight off. And to get through life at your healthiest, The Most Effective Weight Loss Diets, According to Experts.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is Founding Editor of Body Network Read more about Alek