When beginning a healthier lifestyle, people often turn to certain foods that are deemed "healthy" but are actually sneaky little diet sabotages. Below are five foods that are secretly wrecking your diet and can even make you pack on extra pounds. Eliminate these bad boys from your diet today to cut hundreds of unwanted calories!
It is super easy to be fooled by a big bag of dried fruit. It's just fruit, which is healthy right? Not exactly! To make the dried fruit taste better, look prettier, and preserve better, companies add chemicals and sugar to this once healthy option. Believe it or not, one cup of fresh cranberries contains four grams of sugar while one cup of dried cranberries contains a whopping 70 grams! These dried little guys also contain more calories. About ¼ cup of raisins can contain four times the calories in a ¼ cup of real grapes. To mass produce dried fruit, companies add chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and acrylamide, which studies have shown can cause stomach pains, asthma attacks, and nerve damage. Ditch the dried stuff and opt for the fresh fruit instead!
Large companies have done a fantastic job tricking us into believing that granola is healthy. The truth is, this innocent-looking snack is just a bad guy in a pretty costume. That bowl of granola you are pouring yourself for breakfast contains more sugar than a cupcake. Yes, most granola does contain nutritious ingredients like fiber, zinc, iron, and vitamin B. However, all of that good stuff gets canceled out when only one cup of store-bought granola has approximately 25 grams of sugar! When it comes to weight-loss, and overall health, sugar is one of the worst things you can put into your body. This little demon can cause insulin resistance, which is believed to be a leading driver of many diseases including metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and type II diabetes. You can get all of the same nutrients with less sugar by opting for a bowl of oatmeal with some berries instead.
Protein bars are super convenient and tasty, and they are often marketed to be a healthy option. When someone tells you that a snack with the words "chocolate chip cookie dough" in it is healthy, I don't blame you for immediately stocking up your desk drawer with these seemingly too-good-to-be-true yummies. I hate to break it to you, but if your goal is weight loss, the protein bar is not your friend. Most protein bars actually have similar nutritional contents as many of our favorite candy bars. Most are packed with artificial ingredients and preservatives that can cause bloating and sugar cravings. Similar to smoothies, all protein bars are not the same. If you are in a pinch and must use a bar as a convenient option, make sure you read the ingredients and nutrition facts. If there is a word in the ingredient list that you cannot pronounce, I would steer clear. (You should try making your own protein bars with ingredients that you know, trust, and can pronounce). Other words to beware of include "evaporated cane juice," "high fructose corn syrup," "hydrogenated vegetable oil,” and "agave syrup." Also, if the bar is not a meal replacement, stick to under 200 calories.
Smoothies and Store-Bought Green Juices
Many of these new, trendy juice shops are turning what should be a nutritious snack into a full on desert packed with hidden sugar and empty calories. Always check the menu ingredients before you order. Would you sit down and eat a banana, a cup of berries, a glass of milk, a cup of sweetened frozen yogurt, and two tablespoons of peanut butter in one meal and expect to lose weight? Of course not! Why are you drinking it? Most smoothie-shop concoctions contain 400 to 500 calories and between 18 and 50 grams of sugar! However, all smoothies are not created equal. You can create your own smoothie for a healthy and delicious after workout snack that won’t hinder your weight loss goals. Try to stick to water as a base instead of milk or frozen yogurt, and add one or two fruits, some veggies, and a scoop of unsweetened protein powder.
Now let’s talk about those bottled green juices that are all the rage right now. Most people think they are being super healthy by adding that cool-looking bottle of green juice into their daily routine. Hate to ruin it for you, but one popular bottled juice has 270 calories, 63 grams of carbs and 53 grams of sugar! That is more sugar than five Krispy Cream doughnuts! If you want to get benefits from juicing, stick to bottled juices that contain vegetables only, or invest in a juicer and make your own. By drinking juice fresh from the juicer or simply eating raw veggies, you’ll reap the benefits of all those healthy enzymes and antioxidants minus the sugar demon.
Many dieters flock to sushi restaurants (such as one of The 35 Best Sushi Bars in America) because of the misconception that a penny-sized portion of protein doused in a creamy mayo based sauce and wrapped in rice is healthy. There are definitely healthy options at your favorite sushi joint, but the maki sushi roll is not one of them. Many don't know this, but most sushi restaurants add sugar to their white rice to give it that sticky consistency. Combine that with the other ingredients they often add like cream cheese, mayo, and crispy anything and you can rack up a good 500 calories in only a few bites. When having sushi, opt for sashimi or a Naruto roll, which is a sushi roll wrapped in cucumber instead of rice.
Jennifer Leah Gottlieb is certified as a personal trainer and weight-loss specialist by The National Academy of Sports Medicine. She built a successful business training a large roster of celebrities and many of Manhattan's elite. Jen has a knack for designing healthy meal plans, and she has helped clients lose hundreds of pounds throughout her career.