I remember long ago, before I knew a single solitary thing about nutrition, always eating fat free items and whole heartedly believing that I was making healthy choices. My favorite thing was low fat ice cream with fat free Hershey’s syrup. Now, I can’t say this method destroyed my physique. I was working as a professional dancer and model at the time and certainly didn’t have any problem booking gigs. But my full time job isn’t dancing five hours a day anymore. And my metabolism isn’t what it used to be. So the mistakes I made in my former years with nutrition and exercise, simply aren’t so easily forgiven by my body.
And it’s unfortunate that many of us, just like me back then, truly believe we are making the right choices.
Yet, we can’t understand why those last ten pounds won’t seem to budge. I’m here to give you the rundown on ten food choices that are hindering your progress.
Who doesn’t love a good smoothie? And it has fruit and sometimes veggies, so how can that not be good? Well unfortunately, regular trips to Jamba Juice might be making you jamba. I rarely go. I’m talking once in a blue moon. Even though you can order their drinks “light,” I have a hard time trusting their nutritional information. Ultimately there are different employees all across the country making those recipes. And I never see anyone with a measuring cup or tablespoon. Regardless, many of them (and I don’t mean to single out Jamba Juice, this applies to everywhere) use yogurt and/or some form of ice cream as the filler, which is a whole lot of sugar. A medium aloha pineapple smoothie has 90 grams of sugar. And 410 calories! Depending on your size, it could be a third of your caloric intake for the day.
Alternatively, what you can do is make them at home. I use Greek yogurt, almond milk or plain ole water. Throw in a cup of fruit and some protein powder and you are good to go. It will be just as tasty and 100% guilt free.
Salads are one of my favorite things in the world. I love all kinds! Thankfully, I’ve learned that I’m not doing myself any favors by ordering a cobb salad, which typically comes with hard boiled eggs, cheese, bacon bits, corn and nice big side of ranch. A quarter cup of ranch, which is typically the amount served on the side, has 29 grams of fat and 274 calories. Get your mind around that, 24 grams of fat!
There is not a significant calorie difference in some of these types of salads and other items that you wouldn’t dare order, like a burger.
That might sound shocking, but it’s true! We need to quit defaulting to the thought, “I ordered a salad, so I was good, “ because it’s simply not true. First, creamy dressings are just not an option, with ranch and blue cheese being the absolute worst. Always ask for your dressing on the side and go for something oily, like Italian, balsamic, or olive oil and vinegar, which almost all restaurants have. Look for salads that come with some protein or give you the option of adding some on; fried chicken tenders don’t count. If there are three fatty items in the salad, keep one and ask for the others to be left out. Crunchy things, which usually come in the form of nuts or tortilla chips, can be okay, but it depends on the size of the salad. This is America, and our portion sizes are out of control.
When you’re making them for yourself at home, load them up with veggies. One of my favorite things to make is romaine, chicken, onions, green peppers, garbanzo beans and some light Italian.
Ritz. Clubhouse. Wheat Thins. What’s not to love? Crackers, while not bad when sticking with the serving size, have a lot of calories that can add up fast. The problem is that we take a box of crackers and sit in front of the television or computer. Or maybe you just grab a handful. A handful is probably still twice the serving size. If you can count them out, put them on a plate and stick to that amount without going back for seconds (or thirds and fourths), then great! But I genuinely don’t know anyone who does that. Ten saltines are basically the equivalent of a carb meal. And I can assure you that a bowl of oatmeal will fill you up much more efficiently.
Fruit in unlimited amounts
Yes, fruit is good for you. It is a food grown from the earth and contains nutrients and antioxidants. However, it also contains lots of sugar. Eating excess sugar, no matter the source, will cause your body to store fat. Ben Greenfield at Pacific Elite Fitness, wrote a great article on sugar consumption and how it causes your body to store fat. Is a banana better than a serving of M&M’s? Absolutely! But are a banana, and a bowl of grapes and strawberries before bed okay because it’s fruit and it’s nutritious? Not so much.
Fruit is a great snack, but don’t overdo it.
Bars, while super convenient and sometimes the best available choice, are generally super processed foods laden with chemicals and ingredients you can’t pronounce. Not only are those processed bits super hard for your body digest, therefore slowing down your metabolism, they are usually fairly high in calories and sugar. Many of these bars are specifically made for endurance athletes and refueling. Your two-hour trip to Bebe doesn’t count. Your body doesn’t need all that extra energy. So while these make sense for some purposes, like the middle of a 50-mile bike ride, they aren’t designed for daily meal replacement. Sometimes, a bar is simply the best you can do.
I keep a box of Quest bars in my cabinet for major sweet cravings, and times when I cannot prep food or I’m not in an environment conducive to eating out of a plastic container.
All bars are definitely not created equal. Read the label. Pay attention to the ingredients.
Granola is another great snack food that unfortunately should only be consumed on that twelve-hour hike to Half Dome. Some brands are really great, packed with nutrients and not much sugar.
But it is still a carbohydrate dense food that, if eaten in large portions, turns out to be a huge amount of calories.
Kind brand granola has a cinnamon oat flavor. It’s delicious and I have no problem with the ingredients. It’s not even super high in sugar. But at 22 carbs per serving and 130 calories, you have to be aware of your portion size and stick to the 1/3-cup serving. If you have the discipline to do that, eat away. But grabbing a box and sitting down with it is not an option.
Baby carrots are yummy, especially when you slap on tons of hummus! The problem with baby carrots is that they are higher in carbs and sugars than most vegetables. Green veggies are always going to be your best option, and while I hesitate to say you can eat any food as much as you want, if there is a food you can do that with, it’s green vegetables. And carrots aren’t bad. But they aren’t a free food like many people use them. In other words, people snack on them throughout the day in addition to all their other meals, thinking they are vegetables and they therefore don’t count. But they do. If you calculate your carrots into your caloric and carbohydrate requirements, then that is fine. But if you aren’t keeping up with those numbers and often snacking on carrots, you could be adding a lot of extra calories to your daily intake.
Hopefully, the myth that fruit juice is good for you has mostly been abolished. But in case it hasn’t, let me lead you to the truth. One very small glass of orange juice (8 oz.) has 26 carbohydrates! It’s pure sugar. Also, I found some interesting information about orange juice, which is that flavor packets are added to give it the orange taste. It’s not 100% pure orange juice, as advertised. Ocean Spray makes a no sugar added cranberry juice, and it has a whopping 36 sugars per 8 ounces! There is absolutely zero reason to drink the stuff.
Condiments make my world a better place. I love ketchup so much that it’s hard to see the food for all the red sometimes. But I choose the low sugar version, which has dramatically less sugars and calories. Most mustards and hot sauces are going to be okay as well. But beyond that, you need to look the nutritional info and pay attention to serving size, before dousing your meal. Many serving sizes are only one tablespoon (or less), and condiments are usually used in much greater quantities than that. If it says five grams of fat per serving, but the serving is only two teaspoons, you might want to re-think that option.
I’ve seen many articles lately stating that popcorn is one of the worst foods for you. This website has some convincing information on it’s harmful ingredients and the toxic bag in which it’s packaged. Say it isn’t so! This is completely contradictory to many other articles I’ve read which suggest popcorn as a light and healthy snack. Livestrong.com states that it’s a low-calorie, wholesome food that’s high in fiber and good in moderation. What’s the truth? Well, they are both correct. Popcorn IS low calorie, if you choose the non-buttered, but it does have those chemicals in it. I think moderation is key, as with most things. The reality of it is that eating three cups of popcorn every now and again, regardless of the chemicals, probably isn’t going to do much harm. From a caloric standpoint, the problem with popcorn, as with many of the items on this list, is the amount that you are eating. My parents love sitting down with a bag of popcorn at night and a glass of wine. I also hear their complaints about their weight loss or lack thereof.
Popcorn and wine on a nightly basis just isn’t going to cut it.
I know there are a lot of delicious items on this list that can be hard to avoid. But there’s nothing worse than trying really hard to do something, and making no forward progress because of lack of knowledge. Trying is exhausting when there is never the reward of reaching the goal. Focus on making the right choices in the right portion sizes and be consistent and your efforts will be rewarded.