To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. So, is a calorie just a calorie? No! Calories have very different effects once they hit your digestive system depending on what you eat.
Certain foods help with weight loss but other foods, especially processed and refined products, can make you gain weight so it’s best to avoid foods that have little nutritional value and choose nutrient dense foods.
There are endless lists out there of foods to avoid when trying to lose weight so I’ve organized this into the top 10 foods to avoid for weight loss.
Foods with Added Sugar
Sugar is the most important ingredient you should not eat when trying to lose weight. These foods provide a ton of empty calories and don’t keep us feeling full, tempting us to keep eating more. Added sugar is obvious in certain foods but also in certain food items that aren’t considered sweet such as salad dressing, sauces, cereal and yogurt.
What to eat: Make sure to read labels, especially when selecting “low-fat” or “fat-free” foods as manufacturers often add sugar to make up for the flavor that’s lost when the fat is removed.
Refined grains, such as white bread, white rice, crackers and many baked goods, have been processed in a way that removes fiber and important nutrients. Without the fiber, you won’t feel as full which may lead to overeating and the grains are digested quicker which can lead to a spike in your blood sugar. The sugar rush leads to your body producing extra insulin so you end up with lower blood sugar and hunger pangs leading you right back to the carbs you ate in the first place.
What to eat instead: Try healthier alternatives such as whole-grain wheat bread or brown rice. Choose snacks that contain a combination of carbs, healthy fats, and protein since they are not stripped of their fiber and key nutrients. Check labels carefully though because multi-grain does not necessarily mean whole grain.
Artificially Sweetened Drinks
Say goodbye to diet soda and those drinks that mysteriously contain zero calories. Sugary drinks are at the top of the list for what foods to avoid for weight loss. They are highly associated with weight gain and other health related issues.
What to drink instead: Water! If you’re not satisfied with plain water, trying sparkling water. It’s calorie-free but the carbonation will make your stomach feel full so you end up eating less overall. You can also drink unsweetened tea or coffee.
When you drink juice, you consume all the calories without the natural fruit fibers that fill you up. So even though it claims to be 100 percent fruit juice, you are drinking empty calories that will lead to another blood sugar spike. Don’t worry, the intake of naturally occurring fructose from unprocessed fruit is healthy, but think twice about that bottle of orange juice.
What to do instead: Put down the glass of juice in exchange for water or grab a piece of fresh fruit that contains fiber and nutrients.
Highly processed foods such as processed meats, packaged snacks and canned foods in syrup are low in nutrients with added sugar, salt, fat and artificial additives that can promote weight gain. You can usually tell when you read the ingredients on a label because chances are you won’t have a clue what some of them are or how to pronounce them. That’s because they are artificial chemicals. Limiting these foods is often a challenge because they appeal to our taste buds and make it hard to eat just one serving.
What to eat instead: Stick to real food instead of processed foods. Look for single or simple imgredient food items with no added chemicals. It’s as simple as that!
Moderate alcohol intake doesn’t appear to be linked to weight gain so you can still enjoy that glass of wine or celebratory drink, but alcohol each night will certainly make it harder to lose weight. With the extra calories and possible lower inhibitions after a few drinks, you may lose the drive to choose healthy snacks and end up eating unhealthy choices, and eat more than you intended. Also, it’s important to note that until your body gets rid of the alcohol from your system, you won’t burn any fat!
What to drink instead: There is no replacement for alcohol, so it’s just important to drink in moderation and keep in mind that the type of alcohol matters.
Greasy and Fried Foods
I think we all know by now that greasy and fried foods such as burgers, French fries, pizza and fried chicken are unhealthy and fattening. These foods are not only linked to heart disease and diabetes, but effects your skin, throws your gut bacteria out of whack and strains your digestive system. Need I say more?
What to eat instead: Try whole, boiled potatoes as a healthy option to help fill you up or eating a lean hamburger without the bun. While it’s highly suggested to avoid greasy food, healthy fat is essential to keeping a balanced diet which is certainly not found in fried foods.
Manufacturers often load frozen meals with a sodium, a natural preservative, to make fresh ingredients last extra long in your freezer. The sodium makes you retain water and feel bloated and often times the small portions found in frozen box meals are unsatisfying, yet contain more calories than you should be consuming per meal.
What to eat instead: Rather than purchasing frozen meals at the store, try making your own. Next time you cook, double up on the ingredients so you have leftovers, then cool and toss them in a microwave safe container and store it in your freezer for up to 6 months depending on what you cooked. You can also stock up on frozen vegetables and protein that are easy to take out and cook when needed.
High Fiber Snacks
Yes, fiber is healthy and essential for a balanced diet, but the problem with high fiber snacks is that they deliver it in big doses. It’s important that your fiber intake is consistent throughout the day to fight off hunger and improve digestive health.
What to eat: Fruits and veggies are naturally rich in fiber so make produce a part of every snack and meal throughout the day. This will ensure you eat your daily dose of filling fiber.
This brings us back to sugar. Candy bars, ice cream, pastries, cookies and cakes are extremely unhealthy because they are packed with added sugar, oils and refined flour. They may also contain trans fats which are linked to many diseases and while satisfying for your taste buds, they won’t satisfy your stomach leading you to likely become hungry very quickly after consuming these high-calorie, low-nutrient foods.
What to eat instead: If you are craving something sweet, try eating a piece of fruit instead. If you have chocolate on the brain, reach for the dark chocolate but make sure to limit yourself to a square a day.
Don’t Forbid Yourself from Eating Certain Foods
Remember, even though this post is dedicated to which foods to avoid for weight loss, don’t eliminate entire food groups 100 percent. Completely restricting certain foods can increase temptation and leave you feeling deprived, ultimately leading to binge eating and eventual weight gain. Focus on healthy habits that are realistic and you will likely be more successful with your weight loss in the long haul.