You almost always choose the salad over the sandwich at lunch, almonds over a cookie when that 3 pm hunger hits, but you’re still not losing weight, or—even worse—you’ve seen the scale creeping up. It’s time to take a second look at your seemingly healthy eating habits.
Whether you jumped on the healthy eating bandwagon for the rapid weight loss or long-term health benefits, we’re sorry to say, you can have too much of a good thing. No, we’re not talking about changing the menu, we’re talking about portion sizes. Some of these foods are the best nature has to offer, but that doesn’t mean they’re not the reason you’re packing on the pounds. Here are the innocent-looking ingredients wrecking your weight loss efforts:
Avocado is everywhere, and rightfully so. In addition to being nature’s butter, it boasts many superfood properties. Each fruit is packed with 10 grams of fiber and more than twice the potassium of a banana. Avocado has been shown to improve skin health, reduce cancer and diabetes risk and lower cholesterol levels. The drawback: Due to its high-fat content (heart-healthy monounsaturated fat is, unfortunately, still fat) and the heavy praise avocado receives for its health benefits, it’s all too easy to help yourself to too much. “While they’re packed with more than 20 vitamins and minerals, avocados are still calorically dense,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, R.D., author of The Miracle Carb Diet. “Use moderation when adding them to your salads, sandwiches and anything else.” Don’t give up on this power fruit just yet. If you strike the right balance, it’s one of the best foods that can make you skinny.
Hang out at a local bar and you’re sure to come across a variety of nuts (the food, not the people hanging out in the corner)—and guys popping them like they’re diet freebies. It’s the perfect example of good food gone bad. Nuts, like avocados, are loaded with heart-healthy fats. But healthy doesn’t always mean lean. A couple of beers and a few handfuls of nuts and you’ve racked up some serious calories—and diet damage. “A 1-ounce serving of nuts contains 135 calories, and how many nuts you get in a serving will depend on your nut of choice,” Zuckerbrot says. “Think about it: Would you rather have 12 cashews or 22 almonds?”
Protein is good, right? Do you really have to ask? Yes! But not if it comes teamed up with ab-killers fat and sugar. We’ve got your ideal protein-bar approach. Rule No. 1: Save them for when you’re in a jam, like when you’re out on a long hike or traveling, and in those instances eat half the serving size at a time. Rule No. 2: Shop smart. Opt for a ready-to-drink (RTD) alternative when posible, or pick a bar with reduced sugar. RTDs typically contain half the fat and sugar, and 100 fewer calories, compared with bars..
Whole-grain, fiber-rich mixes make great on-the-go snacks—in theory. Problem is, they’re often studded and glazed with ingredients like honey, dried fruit, seeds and chocolate. Plus, proper portion sizes are hard to measure and stick to. “A serving of granola is only one-quarter cup—about 4 tablespoons—which is hardly enough to keep you feeling full until lunch,” Zuckerbrot says. Your plan of attack: Opt for a stripped-down mix sold in a single-serving bag and save it for when you’re in jam.
Take all the nutrients and antioxidants from several servings of fruit and shrink them down into something that’s super easy and convenient to eat. Sounds great, right? Well, this snack is often loaded with added sugar, plus it’s not unusual to plow through an entire bagful. To avoid a blood sugar-spiking snack session, go for fresh instead. “Two tablespoons of dried cranberries or raisins have the same amount of calories as 1 cup of fresh raspberries or 1 ¼ cups of strawberries,” notes Zuckerbrot. If you want a flat belly, just nix the dried fruit altogether. It’s one of the5 “Healthy” Foods Making You Bloat.
High-cocoa chocolate contains polyphenols, compounds which research shows may help lower blood pressure and keep blood vessels dilated. Before adding the sweet treat to your daily routine, be mindful that along with cocoa comes saturated fat and sugar. “You may think it’s good for your heart, which it can be if eaten in moderation. But go overboard and you’ll get lots of calories that can pile on weight, which isn’t heart healthy at all,” Zuckerbrot says. Look for brands with at least 72 percent non-alkalized cocoa and opt for smaller packages so you’re not tempted to overindulge.
Even if you don’t have a wheat allergy, you may be drawn to gluten-free versions of your favorite snacks simply because they sound healthier. Unfortunately, we have some bad news: “Many gluten-free products actually have more calories than similar versions that contain gluten,” warns Zuckerbrot. “Ingredients such as cornstarch and brown rice flour, which are used by manufacturers to mimic the texture and taste of gluten, are more calorically dense than the ingredients they replace.” You are better off sticking to whole foods that are naturally gluten-free, like quinoa.
These tricked-out thirst quenchers might promise magical powers, like reviving you from the worst hangover of your life or helping you stay focused at work on a Friday afternoon, but the boost you feel after downing a vitamin-enhanced beverage comes more from sugar than it does from a slew of B vitamins and electrolytes. Some 20-ounce bottles contain more than 30 grams of the sweet stuff. And just like your body absorbs nutrients more effectively from real food than it does supplements, the same thing applies to the vitamins and minerals that have been used to fortify these rainbow elixirs. “Get your nutrients from food, and stay hydrated calorie-free with pure water,” suggests Zuckerbrot. (Homemadedetox waters are also a good option.)
It’s all too easy to end up with a gut-busting beverage in your hands when you order a blended drink at a juice bar. Thanks to supersized cups—we’ve spotted smoothies as big as 32 and 40 ounces—and dessert-like ingredients like PB, chocolate, real coconut milk and sherbet, slurping down 1,000 calories or more is a cinch. Don’t run the risk of downing one of these sugar-laden diseasters when it’s simple to make a healthy drink at home. “Add ice, a serving and a half of produce, and yogurt for a protein boost and rich, creamy texture,” advises Zuckerbrot.
In its plain form, tuna is a smart pick—not to mention one of the most wallet-friendly ways to eat healthy. One can contains fewer than 200 calories, about 1 gram of fat and an impressive 42 grams of muscle-building protein. But turn your tuna into tuna salad, and that’s where things go downhill. A tablespoon of mayo adds 90 extra calories and—are you ready for this?—10 grams of fat. “Go for low-fat or fat-free mayo instead,” Zuckerbrot says. “And to cut back on calories even more, serve your sandwich open-faced on just one slice of bread. Even better, put that scoop of tuna salad over a green salad.”
A cup of black coffee sets you back a measly 5 calories, but how many of you are downing the stuff straight? If you’re an avid Eat This, Not That! reader, we know you already stay away from fat-laden frappuccinos topped with whipped cream (right?!), but innocent-sounding drinks may be derailing your diet. Blends of espresso and milk can still carry a load of calories if you aren’t careful. That daily 20-ounce latte made with whole milk, for example, weighs in at almost 300 calories and 15 grams of fat—and that’s before adding sugar. “If you want to add lightness to a robust brew, add just a splash of cream instead of the full cup of milk that goes into a latte,” Zuckerbrot says. “If it’s sweet you need, choose non-nutritive sweeteners and sugar-free syrups.”
We get it: Greek yogurt’s got a tart taste, and it’s tempting to reach for a sweetened-up variety, especially when they make flavors like Pumpkin Cheesecake. But a 6-ounce container of blueberry—a popular Greek yogurt pick—packs approximately 16 grams of sugar, half the recommended grams of sugar per day. “Your best bet is to stick to plain fat-free Greek yogurt and add your own berries,” Zuckerbrot says.