Foods That Can Sabotage Your Diet

by Misha Biden, Registered Dietitian

What to avoid when trying to slim down

The formula to lose weight, on its surface, seems simple: eat fewer calories and exercise more. Unfortunately, foods and activities that we believe will help us lose weight may not always provide the benefits we anticipate. In some cases, if we’re not careful, they may actually be working against us.

Coffee calories

Let’s start with coffee — or rather what we put into coffee. Black is not a problem, but when we add sugar and cream, the calorie count increases. The sugar is the worst part, because it’s high on the glycemic index. In other words, our bodies process it rapidly, leading to an energy spike that quickly dissipates. That crash could lead to new cravings. Better options would be to use low fat milk or soy milk and a sugar substitute like Stevia.

Beware of packaged foods

Prepackaged foods can also be a problem for dieters, even if the packages are small. A 100 calorie snack is fine, as long as you resist the urge to open a second package. Calorie-dense energy bars can also derail efforts to lose weight. Be sure to check the nutritional information before breaking one open. Also, factor in the serving size. When choosing a bar, look for one with less than 200 calories, at least 10 grams of protein and less than 4 grams of saturated fat.

Reading the label is a good practice for all packaged foods. Sugar free may seem enticing, but sometimes, most of the calories come from fat. On the other hand, fat-free or low-fat foods may contain a lot of sugar and salt. This often applies to jarred spaghetti sauce. If sugar or another word for sugar (like sucrose or high fructose corn syrup) is one of the first three ingredients, look for another product.

Steer clear of sodas and juices

Fruit juices — even the 100 percent pure kind —are loaded with sugar. Even though it is natural sugar as opposed to added sugar, it can still pack on the pounds. It would take about five oranges to make one cup of orange juice. By drinking your fruit instead of eating it whole, you are missing out on the fiber from the fruit, which will keep you full longer.

Regular sodas have loads of sugar and zero nutrients. Even diet sodas may be trouble for some people. New research suggests that people who indulge in diet drinks tend to eat more. This isn’t necessarily a cause and effect relationship. Still, it is wise to make your main beverage water.

Eat sausage sparingly

Chicken or turkey sausage could sabotage a diet as well. While we assume those products are lower in fat than their pork or beef counterparts, that’s not always true. Like all sausage, they are likely high in sodium and made with the cheapest parts of the chicken or turkey, which are usually loaded with fat. Eat poultry sausage as a treat, not as part of your daily breakfast.

Avoid fast food

Even if you are trying to eat healthy at a fast food place, the sodium can be outrageous and the portions can be very large. Ultimately, the best way to control your calorie intake is to prepare your own meals. That way, you know exactly what’s going into them and you can add the nutrients you need from lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

This health and wellness tip was provided by Misha Biden, a registered dietitian specializing in diabetes and endocrinology at Scripps Clinic Center for Weight Management.