Losing weight is hard work, especially in our world of processed foods. Even foods that are advertised as healthy may not actually be good for you. Most people who are serious about weight loss turn to low carb diets or low-fat foods, viewing these habits as a temporary fix. But to see real progress, you need to make permanent lifestyle changes to your diet.
If you really want to lose weight and keep it off, stop thinking in terms of a diet. Examine your everyday habits and think about what could be causing you to gain weight. Skipping meals isn’t the answer either; you should educate yourself about healthy eating and nutrition to set yourself up for a long and healthy life.
There are a lot of common diet mistakes that could be negating your weight loss efforts. Many people who are on a diet are actually eating a lot more calories per day than they think. Try keeping a food journal or a fitness app to track your daily meals and calorie intake. There’s no need to be too strict with yourself, but being aware of what you’re putting in your body every day can make a big difference in your weight loss success. You might not realize that an extra tablespoon of salad dressing could be adding up to 100 calories, or your snack size bag of chips at lunch is actually almost 200 calories. Become mindful of your diet mistakes and they will add up to real results.
Altering your lifestyle and eating habits is challenging for everyone, but we have a few helpful tips that will help. Start by learning how to read a nutrition label to help you pick the healthiest options while grocery shopping or grabbing a snack on the go. Most packaged foods contain hidden calories, even low-fat or low-sugar foods that are supposedly healthy. You should always follow the recommended portion size and be wary of low-fat foods. Most low-fat foods have added sugars to help them keep their flavor and low-sugar foods often contain sugar alternatives which can be more harmful to the body than plain sugar.
The best way to see long-lasting weight loss is to stick to a diet made up of whole, unprocessed foods. This includes fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It’s hard to know what foods to eat and what foods to avoid, so eliminate any questions you have by avoiding these 10 foods:
- Sugary Drinks
Hidden sugars can ruin a healthy diet, and added sugars are one of the worst culprits. Sugary drinks drastically increase daily calorie intake because they are drinking instead of eating food so many people don’t count them as calories. The brain doesn’t count liquid sugar calories either because sugary drinks don’t help make you full which means the body doesn’t compensate for added liquid calories by making you eat less of other foods later in the day. Large amounts of sugar spike insulin levels, causing chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease, driving fat gain and obesity. Skip the sugary drinks (including fruit juices) and opt for water instead. If you really need some added flavor, stick to soda water, coffee, tea, or add fruits and vegetables to plain or soda water for taste.
- White Grains
White grains like white bread and white rice are made from refined wheat which has been processed, stripping them of their essential nutrients to create empty calories that lead to spikes in blood sugar. Wheat can be harmful to people who have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, but they are also unhealthy for people whose bodies do tolerate gluten. For healthier wheat options, stick to whole grain bread, Ezekiel bread, and brown rice. White potatoes aren’t a processed food, but they aren’t the healthiest option either. You shouldn’t be eating processed foods made from them either, including French fries and potato chips. Avoid white potatoes and opt for sweet potatoes for a healthier choice.
- Cookies, Cakes, Ice Cream, Candy Bars, Etc.
All of these sweet treats are made with refined sugars, flour, and added fats that make them extremely unhealthy. These foods might be tasty, but they are some of the worst foods you can put into your body. With no essential nutrients, tons of calories, and unhealthy added sugars and fats, you should avoid these foods if you want to lose weight.
- Gluten-Free Junk Food
Many people are choosing to eliminate gluten from their diets as the result of new health trends and research showing the harmful effects of gluten. This leaves people on a gluten-free diet turning to gluten-free junk foods like cookies and crackers that they think are healthier because they don’t contain gluten, but the truth is that these foods are still unhealthy processed junk foods just like their gluten-containing versions. Gluten-free junk foods are often still high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and refined grains that are low in nutrients and cause blood sugar spikes. Remember that gluten-free junk food is still junk food and you should stick to healthy whole foods for snacks instead.
- Low-Fat Dairy Products
Some dairy products can be extremely healthy, especially yogurt which contains beneficial probiotics for the gut. But most dairy products found in grocery stores aren’t good for you. In lieu of fat, low-fat dairy products contain high amounts of sugar to help them retain their taste. Eliminating fat from dairy products removes their healthy and natural fat and replaces it with unhealthy alternatives. Dairy contains necessary Vitamin D and healthy fat for the body so skip the low-fat products and choose regular full-fat milk and cheese, and full-fat yogurt that contains live or active probiotic cultures. Dairy products from grass-fed cows are always better alternatives and remember to eat dairy in moderation.
Some alcoholic drinks may have fewer calories than others, but no alcohol will help you lose weight. The average wine drinker consumes about 2,000 extra calories per month. Alcohol is full of empty calories that don’t provide any nutrients or satiety. A night of boozing will leave you without the resolve to stick to your diet, promoting overeating and impaired judgment when it comes to late night snacking. Alcohol also prevents fat burning because it causes the liver to go into detox mode, stopping the liver from burning fat as efficiently. Alcohol is the first thing the body will burn so there won’t be any fat burning until all of the alcohol you consumed is out of your system.
- High-Fiber Bars
High-fiber snack bars might seem like a good idea for keeping you full until dinner when that mid-afternoon hunger sets in, but it turns out that a big dose of fiber isn’t beneficial. Fiber must be consumed steadily throughout the day to help stave off hunger and improve digestive health. If it is consumed in large doses it can often result in stomach upset. If your snack bar is the only real fiber you’re getting in a day, ditch them and incorporate fiber throughout the day in the form of fiber-rich fruits or vegetables at every meal and snack. Beware of high sugar content in any processed snack or protein bars too.
- Tropical Fruit
Natural sugars from fruits are better than the sugars found in processed foods, but if you’re trying to lose weight it’s best to avoid fruits that are higher in sugar like mangoes and pineapple. The best fruits to eat for weight loss are low sugar berries, especially raspberries which are high in fiber. Berries can be added to smoothies, salads, or used as a topping on yogurt and oatmeal.
- High-Fat Salad Dressing
Salads are a great choice for lunch and dinner when you’re on a diet, but high-fat dressing can single-handedly destroy all of your weight loss efforts. It defeats the purpose of eating a nutritious salad if you smother it in a high-fat dressing first. Skip the high-fat mayonnaise based dressings like ranch, and stick to healthier and lighter options like extra virgin and olive oil with vinegar for healthy fat and flavor. Remember the detriments caused by low-fat and low-sugar products as well when it comes to salad dressing, and opt for less processed options. Even plain lemon juice can make a tasty and healthy fat burning salad dressing.
- High-Sodium Foods
Even some healthy foods (like canned beans) can be loaded with high amounts of sodium. The average American consumes twice the recommended daily amount of sodium, set at 1,500 mg currently. Sodium raises blood pressure, increases the risk of stroke and heart attack, and causes bloating and water retention. Avoid processed snacks and frozen meals that are high in sodium even if advertised as healthy, and rinse any canned fruits or vegetables you eat that usually contain high amounts of sodium for preservative measures.
There are a lot of foods that you should be avoiding if you are trying to lose weight, but don’t feel like everything is off limits. There a lot of resources available for finding healthy clean eating recipes so experiment in your own kitchen to find healthy foods that you love. Don’t let healthy eating be boring or annoying; there are a wide variety of healthy foods to help you make cooking fun and enjoy delicious meals at home. If you are trying to adopt a new lifestyle with a nutrient-rich diet that is conducive to weight loss, remember to drink plenty of water and try building your meals around these 5 essential food groups:
You should be eating at least three servings of lean protein every day for weight loss and muscle growth. Stick to lean options of fish, chicken, turkey, and beef. Grass-fed options are always best if your budget allows it. High protein meals promote satiety to keep you feeling full, especially after breakfast. Animal protein isn’t the only option for a high protein diet. If you are sticking to a plant-based diet, then opt for high protein foods like beans and legumes.
Fruit may be a high-sugar food, but the natural sugars are healthy and many fruits help promote weight loss and provide low-calorie snack options. If you are worried about the sugars found in fruits, then stick to low-sugar berries. However, all fruits are healthy in moderation. A banana, apple, or orange all make great snack options. Combine your fruits with a healthy fat like a tablespoon or peanut or almond butter, or enjoy a handful of grapes with a cube of cheddar cheese for a perfect 100 calorie snack. Fruits also make a great topping on salads, oatmeal, and yogurt.
Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables are the best options for weight loss. Make salads or sides out of kale, spinach, collards, and Swiss chard, or even add these nutritious leafy greens to your morning smoothie. All of these leafy greens are low in calories and carbohydrates and loaded with fiber for adding volume to meals without calories. Cruciferous vegetables in your diet should include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. All of these vegetables are high in fiber to help keep you full while also containing a good amount of protein compared to other vegetables.
- Whole Grains
Whole grains are gaining a bad reputation, but they can be eaten in moderation in a healthy diet, especially if you exercise regularly. Whole grains help you stay fuller longer and provide you with necessary carbohydrates for energy during workouts. Stick to whole grain bread, sweet potatoes, brown rice, oats, and quinoa for the healthiest options.
- Healthy Fats
Healthy fats should include omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts, avocado, and fatty fish like salmon. Oils are also a good source of healthy fat but stick to extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil for the best weight loss options. These fats are all good for your heart and help you stay fuller longer after eating which promotes a lower calorie diet and prevents unnecessary snacking later in the day.