Losing weight requires a mix of eating nutritious foods, cutting calories, and being physically active, but if your kitchen is stacked with diet-sabotaging junk foods, it makes it that much harder for you to shrink your waistline. Although the foods on this list seem innocuous, many of them have empty calories and slow down your metabolism, making it harder for you to lose weight. Check out our round-up of the worst foods for weight loss and be inspired to make better choices with this list of The 43 Best Foods for Fiber!
Regular & Diet Soda
Read: Low-calorie doesn’t necessarily mean low sugar. Many sodas and diet sodas are laced with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and artificial sweeteners that give your body the same reaction to refined sugar. According to researchers at Princeton University, HFCS can cause as much weight gain as regular table sugar. In an animal study, 100 percent of the rats who consumed HFCS became obese, a result not seen in other diet experiments. The study also found that rats who consumed other forms of sugar gained less weight than those who were fed HFCS, even when their overall caloric intake was the same. Swap diet soda for water, smoothies, tea, or coffee. For some hydration inspiration, check out the 50 Best Detox Waters for Fat Burning and Weight Loss!
Fruit juices are naturally high in sugar because they’re made with 100 percent fruit and don’t have any fiber. Eating whole fruit is a better choice because you get the benefit of blood-sugar-stabilizing fiber. According to a study led by Harvard School of Public Health researchers, eating more whole fruits, particularly blueberries, grapes, and apples, can help lower type 2 diabetes risk. On the other hand, greater fruit juice consumption increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. So if you want to eat clean and lose weight, ditch the straw and pick up an apple instead.
Bottled Salad Dressings
Salad dressings, even the low-fat varieties, are notorious for having fair amounts of sugar and additives. For example, one two-tablespoon serving of Wishbone’s Thousand Island Dressing contains four grams of sugar. For a healthier alternative, prepare your own at home with apple cider vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and minced garlic.
If your pantry is lined with white bread, white pasta, and white rice, your waistline doesn’t stand a chance. When it comes to grains, whole grains are the way to go. Unlike the refined stuff, whole grains pack satiating fiber and nutrients and won’t negatively impact your blood sugar or weight. In fact, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which is stripped of valuable nutrients in the refining process and takes little time for your body to digest, whole grains are packed with satiating, heart-healthy fiber that your body needs to work to break down, meaning they won’t negatively affect your blood sugar or weight the way their whiter counterparts do. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that substituting whole grains for refined grains increases calorie loss by retaining calories during digestion and speeding up metabolism. So if you’re on a quest to shed a few pounds, ditch the white stuff and stock up on whole grains such as buckwheat, brown rice, and quinoa.
While Greek yogurt boasts plenty of satiating protein and gut-healthy probiotics, the traditional stuff is usually loaded with sugar. A study in the journal Appetite compared the satiety effects of high-, moderate- and low-protein yogurts on 24 to 28-year-old women and found that Greek yogurt had the greatest effect. Simply put, those who ate Greek yogurt felt less hungry throughout the day and were healthier for it. If you’re want to add some flavor, fiber, and texture to your Greek yogurt, toss in some fiber-rich fruit, chia or hemp seeds, and nuts.
Whether you’re craving a burger or a steak, make sure to go for at least antibiotic-free meat, but even better is grass-fed. Grass-fed beef is the most nutritious meat option because many feeds for farm-raised cows have hormones and antibiotics that can be harmful to your health. In fact, a 2013 study in the journal Frontiers in Public Health found that antibiotics in beef can have a harmful effect on good gut bacteria. The imbalance of good and bad bacteria correlates to weight gain because it alters the way you process food.
Foods With Trans Fats
Many restaurant and street foods use partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated vegetable oils, and they’re no friend to your waistline. “Trans fats cause inflammation in the body leading to insulin resistance and impairing the body’s ability to use glucose properly. This results in excess fat storage around the belly,” says Tina Marinaccio, MS, RD, CPT.
Many granola bars have just as much, if not more, sugar and fat content as a candy bar. To find a healthier bar, stick to those with no more than five grams of saturated fat and 15 grams of sugar (ideally, you want to stick to 10 grams), has at least 20 grams of carbs, 10-15 grams of protein, and five to 10 grams of fiber.
Sweet squares and fruity puffs do nothing to keep you healthy or shrink your waist, but if you want to stick to cold cereal, choose one with more than five grams of fiber per serving. Overnight oats are also another excellent breakfast alternative to cereal because they’re high in fiber and protein. According to a study in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, having oatmeal for breakfast results in greater fullness, less hunger, and fewer calories eaten at lunch compared to a serving of corn flakes, even though the calories for the two breakfasts are the same.
Those packets of Equal or Sweet ‘N Low might be small, but they can lead to big weight gain and even more sweet cravings. A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that large amounts of artificial sweetener consumption are linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Traditional potato or corn-based chips offer just about nothing in the way of nutrition (we’re talking little protein and fiber). In fact, in a study of 120,000 healthy, non-obese women and men taking part in long-term studies of diet and health, Harvard researchers found participants gained an average of 3.3 pounds every four years over a 13-year period. When they tallied up the foods that contributed the most to weight gain, potatoes and potato chips were at the top of the list. Other culprits included sugar-sweetened beverages, red meat, and processed meats. For a healthy potato chip alternative, try lentil or bean-based chips that have a comparable taste and texture coupled with fiber and protein.
Speaking of processed meats, deli meats are on the “don’t eat” because they’re loaded with sodium and chemicals that have been linked to obesity and chronic diseases. “While the link between meat and chronic disease is fairly tenuous, the connection between processed meats and chronic disease risk is strong and consistent,” says David L. Katz, MD, MPH, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center and president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. “If you eat meat, it should be pure — like you want your own muscles to be. If you eat the highly processed, adulterated meats, they may pay it forward to the meat on your own bones,” Dr. Katz says. If that’s not enough to convince you to drop the Oscar Mayer, consider this review in the journal Nutrition and Cancer that established a link between processed meat and colorectal cancer.
Relax, we’re not telling you can’t enjoy the occasional glass of wine or beer, but it’s no secret that overdoing it on the booze can dampen your weight-loss goals and pose risks to your health. Consuming alcohol has actually been shown to trick your body into eating more, too. In fact, the University of Liverpool found that as few as two drinks can significantly increase the amount of food we consume because it alters our perception of food and enhances how delicious they seem. So if you want to imbibe, be sure to take sips of water in between alcoholic drinks and try to avoid sugary cocktails.
Coffee can help boost your metabolism, but diluting your cup of joe with coffee creams doesn’t. These popular java companions pack empty calories and have artificial sweeteners and flavors. Even if you put just a tablespoon of coffee creamer into your morning pick-me-up each day, the sugar and calories add up. In fact, a Korean study in the journal Nutrients found that people who use sugar and creamer with their coffee have a significantly higher risk of being overweight or obese than people who take their coffee black.
Packaged Baked Goods
Packaged baked goods like Twinkies and Ding Dongs are loaded with sugar, unhealthy oils and fats, and calories. Satisfy your sweet tooth with whole fruit, or bake up a batch of healthy blueberry muffins. Be sure to keep these healthy baking ingredient swaps in mind.
Though many believe chewing gum keeps you from mindlessly eating, many gums contain sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners like sorbitol and xylitol, which can make your sugar cravings worse. Artificial sweeteners have also been shown to cause bloating and affect hunger. If you have to have something to chomp on, go for an organic variety like Glee gum or Simply gum instead. They’re low-cal and have zero artificial sweeteners.
These trendy beverages are, in reality, overpriced chemical cocktails with more caffeine than coffee. They’re also often loaded with sugar and other harmful additives. Give your energy levels a boost naturally by drinking black coffee, tea, or a homemade smoothie.
Oreos don’t come with a warning, but maybe they should! Many packaged cookie snacks, like Oreos and Chips Ahoy!, are chockfull of high-fructose corn syrup and palm oil, which promotes inflammation, and can destabilize your blood sugar.
Extra-virgin olive and coconut oils are healthy options for cooking, but soybean oil is downright bad for you. The popular vegetable oil blend is a nutritional nightmare that’s been shown to contribute to significant weight gain. Researchers have hypothesized that soybean oil is harmful because of its high omega-6 fatty acid content. While our bodies need some omega-6s for optimal health, too much can increase appetite and slow down the way your body burns fat.