Are your weight loss efforts falling flat?
If so, you’re probably eating one of these seven foods. A little bit of this or that could make all the difference between a weight-loss promoting diet and a diet that keeps you fat.
If you cut one or two foods out, you should see a small difference. But get ready for a wardrobe makeover when you stop eating all seven. You’ll have a whole new body to love when you stop eating these foods.
The top 7 foods to cut to lose weight — and belly fat — quickly are:
1. Sugary drinks
It’s easy to forget about calories when you drink them. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Sugary drinks like soda add calories to your diet without filling you up. They don’t provide much nutrition either.
Drinking your calories in the form of a liquid can hold you back from losing weight. In fact, if you let it go rampant it can actually make you gain weight.
Even if you do realize that your drinks contain calories, you may not realize how many calories they actually contain.
Check out the chart. See just how many calories you’re drinking.
|12-oz. can of Coca-Cola||140|
|11.5-oz. bottle orange juice||160|
|20-oz. Arizona Green Tea||175|
|16-oz. can of Monster||200|
|Tall Vanilla Latte from Starbucks||200|
|32-oz bottle Gatorade||213|
“That’s not right,” you may be thinking. “The can/bottle says less.”
Yes. Most nutrition tables say less. But the fact is that most drinks contain more than one serving. Most people don’t realize this. They drink the whole thing in one shot.
The best replacement for sugary drinks is water. Most of us are walking around dehydrated.
Dehydrated is the norm. If you want to lose weight, you can’t be the norm.
Need something with taste? Add sliced fruit. It’s hydrating and gives you a healthy snack when you’re done.
Coffee tends to be the breakfast of a lot of Americans. It’s been my mom’s breakfast for years. Stop “skipping” breakfast for coffee. The creamer you add probably isn’t calorie free anyways.
If you want a breakfast you can drink, try a fruit smoothie.
I know what I said earlier about drinking your calories. But fruit smoothies are different. They contain nutrients and fiber. They aren’t immediately digested in the stomach into sugar. They slowly release the sugar into your blood stream and keep you satisfied until lunch.
Fruit smoothies are great. On the other hand, fruit juice can be just as bad as soda.
>> Tip: The best smoothies are made at home. Starbuck’s and McDonald’s smoothies have loads of added sugar.
If you need something warm, try tea. Black, green and herbal teas all have virtually zero calories. They come in a bunch of flavors and can give you a kick of caffeine if you need it.
You may be thinking coconut oil and olive oil are healthy. Stop right there. They’re not.
Oil is pure fat without many nutrients. Oils add significant amounts of calories to your diet without providing much taste or satiety. It doesn’t matter if it’s vegetable oil, olive oil or coconut oil.
Oils can turn perfectly healthy foods into unhealthy nightmares.
For example, you start out with a healthy salad. A few cups of lettuce, diced tomato, grated carrot and sliced cucumber. That adds up to less than 200 calories. But when you add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, you change the whole macronutrient composition of the salad.
Before, the salad used to be primarily healthy carbohydrates. After the oil, most of the calories come from fat. Oil is 9 calories per gram. Most oils tend to have around 120 calories per tablespoon. With 2 tablespoons of oil on a salad, you add around 240 calories from fat alone, and your salad becomes some veggies with oil.
You don’t need oil for crispiness or caramelization. You can make delicious, low fat caramelized onions and potato wedges without oil.
Sans-oil caramelization is simple:
- Heat a nonstick fry pan to high heat.
- When the pan is hot, toss your sliced onion into the pan.
- Move the onions around frequently. The heat contrast between the hot pan and cold onions creates the caramelization you love.
- Deglaze with a liquid to unstick the yummy flavor from the pan.
Baking crispy potato wedges without oil is a piece of cake, too:
- Peel potatoes
- Chop into fries/wedges
- Bake for 30 minutes at 400° F (205° C)
My trick for getting them super crispy is to stand the potato wedges up on their curved side. This also removes the need to turn the wedges over during the middle of baking.
Oil isn’t the only easy option for salad dressings. Another simple salad dressing is lemon juice and vinegar.
Vinegars come in a wide variety of flavors. You’re likely to find one that you like.
Common varieties include:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Red wine vinegar
- White wine vinegar
- Balsamic vinegar
Or, try making your own fruit vinegar with water, scraps of fruit and a little sugar. That’s what I’ve done and it’s fantastic. And free.
>>The recipe for homemade fruit vinegar is in my book, Everyday Fruit. <<
The salt you shake on your food only contributes around 5% of the salt you eat.
Unknowingly, the other 95% comes from the processed food and restaurant meals.
Salt in itself isn’t so concerning. What’s concerning is the negative health associations with salt. High salt meals tend to be loaded with added sugar, refined grains, cholesterol and fat. These are aspects associated with a higher BMI and decreased health.
Another problem with salt is that it makes you retain fluids. So if you want to get rid of that water weight, try reducing your sodium to 1,000 mg (around 1/2 teaspoon) or less per day.
A third problem with salt is that it makes you eat more. Salt is a stimulant. When humans had to scrounge for food, saltiness marked food that was high in vitamins and minerals. It told us to eat more because it was nutritious.
This is no longer the case. Foods high in salt are junk foods with little to no nutritional value. Foods high in salt tend to make you gain weight. The opposite of what you want.
Healthy replacement: herbs and spices
Instead of adding flavor with just salt, use a broad range of herbs and spices.
When you ditch the salt, you’ll first find that your food tastes bland. That’s normal. Your taste buds are trained to look for salt. But once your taste buds adapt, you’ll actually enjoy your food more.
I keep a cabinet full of herbs and spices. If it were possible, I’d have too many spices to count! If you’re just learning to season food with herbs and spices, start out with my top 10:
- Black pepper
- Chili Powder
4. Refined sugars
14.5% of the average American’s calories come from added refined sugars.
The number is even higher for children: 17%. That’s a whole lot of sugar!
Refined sugar is empty calories. Some think that sweeteners that are “natural” are healthier alternatives because they contain more nutrients. Molasses does contain more nutrition than white sugar. But in the grand spectrum of things, it doesn’t matter.
There’s a huge problem with your diet if added sugar add significant amounts of nutrition to your diet.
Better sources of nutrition are whole foods. Get nutrients from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Not refined sugars. Not even molasses.
Fruit acts as a great whole food replacement for added sugar. Instead of adding white sugar, brown sugar or honey to your cake, add pureed dates.
White sugar has 28 grams of sugar per ounce. Dates have 18 grams. The decreased amount of sugar gives you fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Not a bad trade-off for something infinitely healthier.
Low/zero calories sweetener
Some people turn up their noses up at artificial sweeteners. Something about the word “artificial” rubs them the wrong way.
I like to use Splenda if I don’t have dates on hand or puréed fruit just doesn’t fit the occasion. Coffee and tea with blended dates just doesn’t go over well. The chunks are unappealing.
The combination that Splenda uses (dextrose, maltodextrin and sucralose) is safe. Erythritol and stevia are also recognized as safe. Aspartame has been associated with headaches, mood disorders and seizures. Saccharin can have a laxative effect if the dose is large enough.
Most artificial sweeteners are fairly harmless. They give you sweetness without the added calories. What’s not to love?
5. Energy bars
Energy bars are the candy bar of people trying to be healthy. Notice the word trying.
In reality, energy bars are barely better than a Snicker’s bar. They’re full of calories. And they leave you hungry.
Energy bars are a condensed form of calories that don’t have enough bulk to truly fill you up. Though they have plenty of calories, they lack satiety.
Sometimes, you may end up eating 3-4 energy bars in order to feel full. Which then gives you too many calories. Which leads to weight gain.
Or, you eat may just eat 1 energy bar. It doesn’t fill you up, but it ties you over until your next meal. Then when your next meal comes, you’re ravenous. You eat just as many — if not more — calories at that meal than you regularly would. So the energy bar simply becomes excess calories that causes weight gain.
If you’re too busy to sit down for a real meal, then you’re too busy. Do you not have time to enjoy life either?
Your body should be a top priority.
Energy bars are a quick fix that cause long-term problems. Like excess weight. Excess weight isn’t healthy or sexy. Invest in yourself by sitting down and eating a real meal.
Restaurant food doesn’t count as real food either.
Take the time to make yourself a healthy dinner. If you’re in a pinch, blend bananas and water into a smoothie. Or throw together a potato salad. I have lots of free healthy recipes that don’t take tons of time or effort to make.
Dried fruit plus water
Another option is dried fruit and water. This option is less preferable over a sit-down meal. But sometimes it’s the best option. Like, when you’re on a plane.
Look for dried fruit that isn’t coated, baked or fried in oil or sugar. They add excess calories and no nutrition.
Do make sure to drink plenty of water. This will decrease the amount of fruit you need to eat in order to feel full. Water re-adds bulk to the dried fruit. Which makes you more satisfied. Drinking water with your dried fruit will mimic fresh fruit fullness.
If you really need to eat on the move, prepare a healthy meal when you have time. One of my favorite meals to eat on the go is a sourdough roll.
Roll up some rice, dates, and spices in (sourdough) dough. Bake at 350° F (180° C) for 15-25 minutes. I’ve eaten this on trains, buses and in hotels. Cheap and easy. And healthy.
Make it even healthier by stuffing the dough with vegetables and/or beans.
6. Refined grains
Refined grains, like white bread, are basically junk food.
They contain minimal to no fiber and no natural nutrition. They cause long-term health problems such as obesity and diabetes.
Fiber is essential for weight loss. Fiber is form of starch that’s undigested by the body. It helps keep you full without providing calories. In general, fiber is important for good health management. Studies show that people who eat diets high in fiber both lose more weight and have lower BMI’s than those that don’t.
Fiber is also important to keep your blood sugar regulated. When you eat white bread, the starches are converted into sugars quickly. The sugar rushes into your blood stream, causing a blood sugar spike. This blood sugar spike can lead to diabetes, weight gain and more hunger.
Healthy replacement: whole grains and pseudo-grains
Stop eating white wheat bread and white rice.
Make sure to buy whole grain. Buy 100% wholegrain bread. Purchase brown rice instead of white. Get whole wheat pasta instead of white.
The two main things you need to look for when purchasing wholegrain foods are:
- Whole. The word ‘whole’ should describe the grain. Exceptions to this rule include rice and oats. Wholegrain rice bread will be made with brown rice (not white). Oats are generally always wholegrain. A stone ground product such as corn or wheat will also be a wholegrain.
- Enriched. If you see the word enriched, the words ‘wheat flour’ (or another grain) will most likely follow. Usually only refined grains are enriched. Avoid the word enriched and you’ll almost certainly be eating whole grains.
The best whole grains to eat are those that are minimally processed. Choose whole corn and colored rice over flours. And don’t be afraid to try new grains. Why not try pseudo-grains like quinoa, buckwheat or amaranth?
7. Animal products
This is because vegans tend to eat fewer calories, less fat, less protein and more fiber. All of this translates into eating lots of low fat whole foods such as grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. Animal products tend to be high in fat, calories and protein. And no animal product contains fiber.
>> Switching from an omnivorous diet to a plant-based diet helped me lose over 70 pounds. <<
Healthy replacement: plant foods
If you want to lose weight, the science clearly shows that reducing your meat, cheese, milk and eggs will result in weight loss. And eliminating them all together will result in even more weight loss.
If you’re looking for plant foods high in protein, turn to legumes. Beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas are the highest sources of whole food plant-based protein. Lentils have nearly 30% of calories from protein. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that humans only need 5% of calories to come from protein.
So legumes provide plenty of protein.
If you’re looking for fat, eat nuts, seeds and avocados. They have nutrients and fiber along with the fat. Try a handful of nuts, a tablespoon of seeds or half an avocado.
Legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables are great sources of carbohydrates. Make sure to eat lots of good carbohydrates. Don’t eat refined grains or refined sugar.
Need help transitioning your diet? Take a look at my Beauty Body Plan.