You’ve cut back on chocolate, chucked out the biscuits and raided your nearest health food store, so why aren’t you losing those pounds? Unfortunately, even with the best intentions, you could be sabotaging your weight loss with the wrong foods. These foods might look and seem healthy, but that’s not always the case...
1. Juices and smoothies
When totting up our daily intake of calories, many of us forget to take into account those that come in liquid form. However, the drinks you consume throughout the day can vastly contribute to weight gain. While smoothies and juices count towards your daily intake of fruit (and swapping fry-ups for a morning smoothie would certainly do wonders for your waistline!) supplementing meals with these sugary fruit drinks could add hundreds of extra calories on to your daily intake. Smoothies and juices contain more sugar but less fibre than whole fruit, making fresh fruit a much better snacking option.
2. Cereal bars
Many of us believe that cereal bars are the perfect healthy snack and breakfast-on-the-go. However, most breakfast bars are packed with cane sugar and corn syrup, not to mention high levels of fat. In fact, despite their healthy image, cereal bars can contain as much fat, sugar and calories as an average chocolate bar, and can cause crashes in blood sugar levels which will leave you craving more food.
3. Dried fruit
As with smoothies and juices, dried fruit has many beneficial properties and counts towards your daily intake of fruit. However, due to the concentration of sugars that occurs when fruit is dehydrated, it is also very high in calories and sugar when compared to the same amount of fresh fruit, and is much lower in fibre and nutrients. On top of this, many brands add sugar to dried fruit to improve the flavour, which boosts the calorie content even further.
4. Diet drinks
Many of us turn to sugar-free versions of our favourite drinks to help stay trim, yet diet drinks may actually be causing you to pile on the pounds. Research by the Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio found that those who consumed diet drinks daily experienced a 70 per cent greater increase in waist circumference than those who drank none, while a previous study showed that obesity risk increased by 41 per cent for each diet drink consumed. A suggested reason for this is that artificial sweeteners trigger appetite, and they may also inhibit the brain cells that make you feel full.
When eating out or buying food on the go, salads are generally presented as the “healthy option”. However, often this is not the case. While salads contain vegetables and other healthy ingredients, these are often buried under a layer of oily, sugary dressings which can be high in both fat and calories. Many salads do contain good fats that can help with weight loss (such as in the case of avocados and olive oil), yet this is not always so. Avoid those sneaky calories by drizzling your salads with a light dressing such as balsamic vinegar, or skipping the dressing entirely.
While soup can be the perfect weight loss food when prepared correctly, not all soups fall into the diet food category. In fact, many soups can rack up a significant amount of fat and calories, particularly those containing dairy products such as cream or cheese. On top of that, many soups are very high in salt, which can lead to bloating. To help stay trim and cut calories, try purchasing (or better yet, making your own) vegetable-based and cream-free soups.
Hummus is often perceived as the perfect diet-friendly dip. However, while the healthy snack is undoubtedly nutritious, it is also packed with calories and fat from its principle ingredients of oil and tahini. Another dip for dieters to watch out for is guacamole which, while traditionally packed with nutrients and good fats, often contains calorie-laden double cream. While most dips can be eaten in moderation, if you want to splurge guilt-free go for a homemade tomato salsa which is packed with nutritious ingredients and is almost fat-free.
8. Vegetable crisps
Many people view vegetable crisps as the “healthy” alternative to the potato variety. However, while some vegetable crisps contain slightly more fibre and vitamins than potato crisps, this is not always the case and the difference is generally very slight, with most of the vitamins derived from fresh veggies being lost in the process of making them into crisps. On top of this, vegetable crisps are often just as high in fat and calories as potato ones and contain just as much salt.
Air-popped popcorn is a great nutritious, high-fibre and diet-friendly snack. However, when butter is added into the equation, the tasty snack can quickly lose its healthy credentials. Store-bought and cinema popcorn can be extremely high in fat and calories due to its liberal coating of butter and/or sugar, and is often also served in large quantities. Furthermore, as the TV-friendly snack is often eaten in front of a screen, we can easily consume far more than we intend to due to mindless snacking.
It’s marketed as a health food, is sold in health food stores and even looks remarkably healthy, so it must be a diet food, right? In the case of granola, sadly the answer is no. While granola is undoubtedly nutritious and full of fibre, it also contains high quantities of sugar and oil, making it extremely high in fat and calories. To help save your waistline, try eating granola in small portions or, better yet, switch to a lower fat sugar-free muesli which will deliver the same health benefits without the calories.
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