You can picture it in your mind … You, the perfect pair of jeans, and a lean, toned body to rock them with confidence. The only thing standing between you and your new jean-strutting self is a few extra pounds – and they’re hanging on for dear life! But don’t lose hope. Armed with this handy list of what foods to avoid for fat loss, you’ll be fitting into smaller sizes before you know it!
Of course, “avoid” is a strong word, and we know there will be times when you’ll give into junk-food temptation. It happens to all of us. Just try to keep these moments to a minimum, and you’ll thank us later. So, without further ado, let’s learn some items that should never (or rarely) make it into your grocery cart.
1. FRUIT JUICES
Those packaging designers sure know how to make fruit cartons look good, don’t they? The photography usually features a beautiful “hero” piece of fruit glistening in the sunlight, with orchards and fresh fields nestled in the background. It’s easy to wonder, How could this stuff be bad for me?
It all comes down to sugar content. Most fruit juices are just as high in sugar (and calories) as your favorite sodas, which you probably already know to avoid. While your body can use some of this sugar as energy, anything above and beyond what it needs will get stored as fat. Because many people equate the word “fruit” with “healthy,” they’ll drink more than the recommended serving, thus leading to more sugar and calories consumed. Meanwhile, fruit juice does a double whammy to your diet by being low in fiber. Anyone looking to lose weight or maintain overall health should seek foods and drinks that are higher in fiber, as fiber can help fill you up so you don’t over-snack. If you want a fruity feel without sabotaging your goals, add some fruit slices to your water instead.
This culprit is on our list for two reasons: It’s bad for your waistline and your health. On the weight-loss front, margarine is full of calories. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume every day, so every little bit counts. While you can find lower-calorie margarines options, these products often give people a fall sense of security. You’ll be tempted to slather your baked potato or toast with more than the recommended serving size (typically one tablespoon), because, after all, it’s low-calorie.
Margarine is also high in trans fats, which get stored in your body as fatty tissue. These trans fats (usually about 3 grams per tablespoon) help keep the oil-based ingredients in margarine hard at room temperate, and they’re horrible for your health. Margarine also packs a host of artificial ingredients and synthetic vitamins that do little for your well-being. While butter may be more expensive and once had a bad rap, most health experts agree that it is the better option of the two.
Your favorite candy probably seems so little and harmless. How could something so small have such a big – and negative – impact on your weight-loss efforts? But ask yourself this: Can you really stop at just one or two?
In truth, most candy is either consumed mindlessly (i.e. while watching a movie, when you don’t even realize you’re polishing off the whole bag or bar), or in addition to your regular meals. That means that any candy calories you consume are above and beyond your normal food intake. The reason you likely over-indulge is because candy contains no nutritional value to help keep you full. And of course, it’s high in sugar (about 14 to 18 grams / 3.5 to 4.5 teaspoons of sugar per one ounce of hard candies). Why else would we reach for it when we’re craving something sweet? As already mentioned, added sugar leads to fat storage and increases the chances of weight gain. Where possible, try to portion out smaller candy snacks or choose a healthier option altogether.
4. PROCESSED MEATS
When you think “meat,” you probably think “protein.” And protein is good, right? We’ve all be told to include dietary protein in our routine if we want to build muscle and lose fat. Unfortunately, processed meats aren’t in this esteemed high-quality protein category. (See better options below!). Processed meats – described by the American Institute for Cancer Research as “meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or addition of chemical preservatives” – have been linked to long-term weight gain and a host of health issues.
The meats on this naughty list are things like cold cuts, hot dogs, bacon, and sausage. They are high in fat, low in protein, and are often packed with nitrites and nitrates, which help to preserve food at room temperature. While raw, fresh meat will go bad quickly if you leave it out on your countertop, processed meats won’t immediately spoil. This is all thanks to the added chemicals. Nutritionists have speculated that it’s processed foods like these that make it harder and harder for people today to lose weight. We may be eating the same foods and exercising as often as our grandparents and great-grandparents did but are gaining more weight because of the added chemicals and poor nutritional value. If you want a healthier protein source, stick with things like lean chicken breasts, tuna, or protein shakes instead.
5. SALAD DRESSING
Have you ever given yourself a mental pat on the back for ordering a salad while out for dinner with friends? As everyone else feasted on burgers and fries, you dutifully ate your greens – with an extra serving of salad dressing, of course. As soon as you saw a dry leaf at the bottom of your bowl, you immediately asked your server for more dressing.
While your efforts are commendable, and greens are always a good option, salad dressing is not your friend if you’re trying to lose weight and stay healthy. For one, it’s high in saturated fats and sometimes even trans fats. It also boasts a high amount of sodium, which can leave you feeling bloated and puffy looking. And, like the other items on this list, it’s high in added sugar, such as high-fructose corn syrup.
The role of portion control applies here too. A tablespoon of salad dressing might not be so bad, but how many of us measure what we use? There is also the reward effect. Admit it: How many times have you celebrated your dietary victory of ordering a salad by ordering a dessert immediately afterwards? Yep, we’ve all done it.
So how can you do your body good but still top your salad with flavor? If you’re out at a restaurant, ask your server to put the dressing on the side so you can only use what’s needed. Or, ask for a mix of balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil, which won’t have the high sugar content as regular dressings. If you’re making a salad at home, use this home-made oil blend as well. If you’d still prefer a store-bought version, choose refrigerated salad dressing brands versus shelf-stable brands. While they still may contain the fat, sodium, and sugar mentioned above, they tend to have fewer preservatives.
In summary, eating for weight loss isn’t about a life of restrictions. It’s about knowing what’s good for your body – and what isn’t – so you can make healthy choices for your best results. Proceed with caution with the items listed above, and you’ll be good to go!
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.