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10 Foods That Might Be Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Goals

There is nothing worse than thinking you're making better food choices, when it turns out you’re really not.

Ugh. All that hard work wasted!

When you set out to eat better, you may be tempted to start by cutting out all the foods you love, dropping your calories crazy low, and veering toward the cleverly marketed "health foods." And it can feel all consuming.

As a nutritionist and weight loss coach, I see it all the time. Clients come to me after making a few healthy changes wondering why they're not seeing results. They've cut out sugar, increased fruits and veggies, and stocked their pantry, fridge and freezer with all sorts of "healthy" foods. Many of them have even added in daily exercise. And while they feel like they've made great improvements, their energy is zapped, they struggle with brain fog and generally feel like crap.

Maybe you can relate. The truth the diet industry has made "healthy" hard. One day fruit is good for you, the next it's bad. Protein is good, but only certain kinds. And don't even get me started on Carbs

That's why I put together this quick list of ten foods that might be sabotaging your weight loss goal.

But hear me when I say this: I am a firm believer that ALL foods fit. If some of the foods on this list happen to be your favorites, then this is a lesson in awareness so you can practice healthier portion sizing.

The goal of this list is to bring awareness as to foods you might think are "healthy" and supporting your goals, when in fact they may be a fun dessert packaged as "healthy" and no better than the cookie, ice cream or candy bar you're trying to avoid.

Ten foods to avoid and why

Ten Foods That Might Be Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Goals:

1) Sushi

Fish, rice, and seaweed sounds healthy, light, and low calorie. And in fact, sushi from exceptional Japanese restaurants is just that. It’s also brutally expensive. What most of us consume is grocery store or “to-go” quality sushi that ends up being super high in simple carbs, low in protein, and scarce on vegetables. All that non-nutrition will spike your blood sugar and leave you feeling hungry and craving more sooner than later.

Think about it. Sushi rice is short-grain white rice dressed with sugar and rice vinegar, high in simple carbs and in sugar. Most “rolls” are 60-75% rice which is equivalent to two slices of bread, which alone might be fine, but the amount of protein it's typically paired with is minimal.

To up the quality of your sushi supper, consider requesting brown rice for a complex carb that contains dietary fiber and protein to keep you feeling fuller longer, look for rolls that provide additional sources of protein and healthy fats such as salmon and avocado, and avoid using too much soy sauce to reduce the amount of sodium and sugar.

2) Trail Mix

I love me some good trail mix! And a handful of trail mix seems like the ultimate power snack, but in some cases there are nearly 700 calories lurking in just one cup, so read those nutrition labels. Yes, it’s lightweight, tasty, and portable, which makes it an easy grab-and-go snack, but if weight loss is your goal, portion sizing those snacks and aiming for mixes of mostly unsalted nuts and dried fruit (no sugar added) is going to be your best bet.

Remember, while nuts can be a great source of healthy fats and protein, but they're also calorically dense, which means a little goes a long way!

Trail Mix

3) Spinach Wraps and Veggie Pastas

We've been conditioned to think "green equals healthy," when in reality, that's not always the case. The allure of green pasta and spinach wraps is undeniable. I mean it's made from spinach and other veggies, right? The truth is not all wraps and pastas are created equal and many use a bunch of other fillers to make their "healthy" food taste good. Which often translates to little to no nutrition.

Many veggie wraps are made from white flour and simply add food coloring to make them look the part. Which is why when you scroll the nutrition label, spinach is will be found way down on the ingredient list. These foods prey on our belief that green = better, when the fact is, green is a color just like any other and it's what's in your green that counts.

veggie wraps

4) Protein Bars

Have you ever been proud of yourself for grabbing a protein bar instead of a bag of chips or cookies for a midday pick me up? Or maybe you've thought to yourself, "Hey this protein bar with my morning coffee is better than nothing, plus it's loaded with Protein."

Sadly in most cases, that protein bar is no better than a candy bar. Most protein bars on the market are calorically dense, yet low on nutrition. Loaded with protein but also added sugar (or sugar alcohol), salt and fat, you'd think they'd offer some satiety, but most people tend to follow up their protein bar with more snacking shortly. Which in many cases can lead to consuming more calories (with less nutrition) than if they'd just enjoyed a real meal. That said, not all protein bars are created equal and it's a practice to get in the habit of looking at those nutrition labels to help you make the best choice for you and your goals.

And I want to be clear here: a protein bar is NOT a meal. When you find one that's nutritionally sound, it may be a decent way to bridge the gap between meals on occasion, but relying on real food is going to best for your body in the long run.

Pass up the store bought versions and check out my tasty recipe for these homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bars instead. You'll save on all the fluff and give yourself a nice balance of protein, complex carbs and fats to keep you going strong.

Protein Bars

5) Couscous

This quick cooking carb from exotic lands may trick you into thinking it’s "hearty," but the truth is that couscous is really a tiny white pasta with nearly zero nutritional value. Made popular in vegetarian and foodie communities, it’s a highly processed grain product made from little balls of durum wheat or semolina flour.

And while it is possible to find whole wheat couscous, often your better bet is to go for quinoa, bulgur, or cracked wheat for a heartier complex grain that delivers dietary fiber, protein and other essential vitamins and minerals too. The key is to pair your hearty grain with protein and vegetables for optimal benefit.

cous cous

6) Commercial Granola

The word “granola” conjures images of healthy outdoorsy folks eating breakfast cereal on a mountain top. But watch out. Most granolas tend to be low in fiber and protein yet high in fat, sugar and salt, which is pretty much the opposite of a healthy breakfast.

One cup of granola can come in at more than 600 calories which is about a third of the average woman’s daily total. Think of it like eating a bowl of oatmeal cookies with milk. If you love granola like I do in your Greek yogurt, just look for a variety lower in added sugar, salt and fat and watch portion sizes. One Tablespoon in a cup of Greek yogurt will go a long way and offers the crunchy flavor that satisfies. And for those who love to bake, try making your granola at home using whole oats, naturally dried fruit, mixed nuts and some zesty spices like cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, bake with a bit of olive oil and you're all set.

Store bought granola

7) Commercial Salad Dressing

We often think of salad as the go-to meal for "health," and those greens paired with veggies and protein likely are. It's the dressing you throw on top that can deliver a boat load of empty calories. Many commercial salad dressings are loaded with added sugar, fat, salt, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. Processed-food companies create a cocktail of flavors meant to entice you into pouring on more and before you know it, you've doused your greens in a sugar bomb.

The simplest way around the dressing dilemma is to read those nutrition labels and look for options that are low in added sugar, salt and fat. The good news there are more and more natural ingredient dressings showing up on the shelf, some even made with Greek yogurt for a protein boost.

But at the end of the day, if your favorite ranch dressing is going to help you eat more vegetables, then I say go for it! After all two Tablespoons of ranch dressing averages 140 calories, it's all about being mindful and practicing healthy portion sizing.

salad dressings

8) Sports Drinks

Most people think of sports drinks as a healthy source of electrolytes and hydration, especially when you're physically active. The sad fact is that most sports drinks contain nearly as much sugar as a traditional soda, along with loads of artificial colors flavors, salt, and even caffeine. None of which are going to help you feel and function your best.

Even some of those "sugar-free" varieties are just using fancy artificial sweeteners and other chemicals that trick your brain into thinking it's getting sugar... which means you'll be craving more of it too.

Try going natural instead. Plain old water with fresh cut lemon, orange and cucumber is not only a tasty way to stay hydrated but it offers additional health benefits too. And for post workout, coconut water makes a much better natural source of electrolytes and water for healthy hydration.

Sports Drinks

9) Yogurt

Yogurt is often marketed as the ultimate "health food," but if you're eating fruit-flavored yogurt cups, you’re likely just eating boat loads of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame and a host of other sweeteners with not much actual fruit.

Most of the fruit in those yogurts come from high-calorie, high-sugar fruit extracts or purees. In fact, an 8 oz. cup of fruit flavored yogurt can contain upwards of 47 grams of sugar - that’s twelve teaspoons of sugar and nearly double the recommended daily limit just in one little cup! You might as well be eating a decadent dessert.

Try plain Greek yogurt instead, which is typically higher in protein and lower in added sugar. You can add fresh fruit, crushed nuts and seeds for added flavor and crunch. And if you're not a fan of plain Greek yogurt, simply look for lower sugar varieties, such as the Two Good brand, which is light on sugar and big on flavor.

flavored yogurt

10) Fat Free Anything

When you’re trying to lose weight, the words "fat-free" are like a siren song thanks to the diet industry of the 80's. Just remember that when a food manufacturer cuts fat, they have to replace it with something. And that something is almost never good for you.

Fat gives food flavor. When manufacturers remove it, they have to find a way to still make it enticing, and it's usually in the form of more sugar, salt, and chemicals. And look, your body needs healthy fats. It recognizes them and knows just what to do with them. But those food additives used to replace fats are completely foreign and often do your body more harm than good, confusing your hormones and making it harder to lose weight.

My advice for sustained weight loss always begins with, “Eat real food.” Not the franken-foods your body won't recognize.

The best way to make sure that the food you’re eating is healthy and not just being called healthy on the label, is to keep it as fresh, simple, and whole as possible. Look for hidden sugars. Watch for added salts and the bad fats. And be mindful of portions.

Fat Free Foods

Ready to make eating better for weight loss feel simple and doable so you can quit yo-yo dieting and lose weight for the last time? Click here to book your free 30-minute weight loss strategy session with me where I'll help you get unstuck using a simple and personalized process.


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