To Lose Weight, Avoid These Foods–Even “Healthy” Ones

While trying to lose weight, many people know to avoid excess sugar and salt. But many foods can sneak sugar into your diet, secretly making you pack on the pounds. White bread, flavored yogurt, and even certain types of oatmeal can make people gain weight. Although people think that some of these foods are healthy, you should avoid them while trying to lose weight.

To Shed Pounds, Ditch White Bread

If you are trying to lose weight, choose your bread wisely. White bread is a refined grain, and the refining process strips the bread of its fiber and nutrients. Essentially, white bread only gives you sugar.

White bread slices lie next to a load and on top of a white cloth.
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In 2014, a Spanish study determined that white bread raises your risk of obesity by 40%. Although white bread is not the cause of obesity, there is a strong association. To lose weight, swap white bread with whole grains. Wheat bread has more fiber, more nutrients, and less sugar. That should help you drop pounds.

Juice Is Not As Healthy As Fruit

Some people believe that juice is healthy because it contains fruit, but this is not true. Juice can be so high in sugar that it’s just as bad as soda. In 2017, researchers compared fruit consumption to fruit juice. When adults ate whole fruit, they lost weight; but when they drank 100% fruit juice, they gained weight.

A woman holds out a glass of orange juice.

Fruit juice tends to be high in sugar, and the blending process removes some of the fruit’s nutrients and fiber. On the bright side, children can drink juice and remain healthy. A four-year-long cohort study confirmed that juice barely changes weight in children.

Fatty Red Meat Results In More Fat

Red meat’s effect on weight gain has been widely debated. According to the China Health and Nutrition Survey, which tracked over 16,000 participants, weight gain depends on the percentage of fat in meat. Meat with 70% fat caused participants to gain weight, but lean meat with 30% fat did not.

An employee arranges red meats in a display at a market.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Red meat’s health consequences also depend on frequency. In 2019, a study in The BMJ followed participants who ate half a serving of red meat daily. These participants were 10% more likely to experience an early death. If you eat red meat, limit it to a few times per week.

Some Oatmeal Can Lower Weight, But Flavored Oatmeal Increases It

Several studies have linked oatmeal to greater satiety and weight loss. But in 2010, research in Physiology & Behavior reported a different result; participants who ate oatmeal gained weight. Study author Brian Wansink found that these participants loaded their oatmeal with sugar and ate larger portions.

A photo looks closely at a packet of apple cinnamon flavored instant oatmeal.
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Some instant oatmeal packets come with a high amount of sugar and processed flavors. If you need this much sweetness to eat oatmeal, you might as well skip it, Wansink says. Otherwise, you buy non-sweetened oatmeal and flavor it with dried and fresh fruits, honey, jam, or even cocoa powder.

How Low-Fat Milk Makes People Gain Weight

It seems obvious: drinking low-fat milk leads to less fat. But research has reported the opposite. In 2020, research in Advances in Nutrition examined several studies on milk. In most of the studies, participants gained more weight from low-fat milk than whole milk.

A man grabs cartons of milk from a truck.
Patrik Stollarz/Getty Images
Patrik Stollarz/Getty Images

According to the Iran University of Medical Sciences, nutritionists used to recommend skim milk to avoid saturated fat. But now, scientists have determined that sugar (which replaces fat) is more dangerous than saturated fat. Switching from low-fat milk to a fattier milk might advance your weight loss journey.

French Fries Are The Worst Snack For Weight Gain

With their high salt and fat content, French fries are one of the worst foods for weight loss. In The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers reported the results of a 13-year-long study. Participants were tracked to see which foods caused the most weight gain. French fries were number one on the list.

A close-up picture shows French fries.
Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

According to the study, French fries can make people gain three pounds over four years if you eat them daily. Potatoes already contain salt, and French fries have even more salt, on top of fat, grease, and fried oils.

Beware Of Fruit-Filled Yogurts

Although yogurt can improve weight loss, you need to choose the right one. Yogurts with added fruit and flavors tend to sneak in more sugar. “Increased added sugars in your diet can add up over time leading to unwanted weight gain,” says registered dietitian Jackie Hermanson.

Fruit and granola poke out of a yogurt container.
Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Women’s Health National Workout Buddy Day
Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Women’s Health National Workout Buddy Day

Low-fat yogurt can also have hidden sugars. According to research from Tufts University, people who eat low-fat dairy tend to gain more weight than full-fat dairy. That is because manufacturers replace healthy fats with sugar. For weight loss, choose a non-sweetened, full-fat yogurt and flavor it with fresh fruits and honey.

Over Time, Sweetened Coffee Drinks Add Up

In 2017, research in Public Health determined that coffee drinkers might not be as healthy as they think. According to the survey, 70% of Americans pour cream, sugar, or other sweeteners into their coffee. Of those people, 16% had coffee drinks contribute to their daily caloric intake.

Three customers of a coffee shop hold up their drinks.
Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash
Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

If you’re a person who dumps sugar and cream into their coffee, you might want to rethink your daily cup. Replace sugar with artificial sweeteners, or choose black coffee. Plain coffee has anti-obesity properties, according to a study from Anglia Ruskin University. Use that to your advantage.

Fast Food Is Worse Than Some People Think

While most people understand that fast food leads to weight gain, some underestimate how much it matters. During the 3,000-person CARDIA study, young adults who ate fast food tended to weigh 13 pounds more than those who rarely did. They also had double the amount of triglycerides, which put them at risk of metabolic syndrome.

A burger and fries from McDonald's lie on the table.
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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In 2014, American and Irish researchers found that every fast food meal increases a person’s BMI by 0.03. Because these meals are salty, fat-filled, and highly processed, they only lead to weight gain.

Why You Should Avoid Processed Meat

Processed meats are meats that have been smoked, dried, cured, salted, or canned. They come with a long list of health consequences. In 2019, research from the National Institutes of Health concluded that processed foods cause the most weight gain, mainly because of their sugar, salt, and fat levels.

Strips of bacon fry on an electric grittle.
MyLoupe/UIG Via Getty Images
MyLoupe/UIG Via Getty Images

People who eat processed meats also tend to be unhealthier. In 2005, scientists found that meat-eating participants tended to consume fewer vegetables. Processed meats also heighten your risk of heart disease and early mortality, so avoid them if you can.

Soybean Oil: The Worst Cooking Oil For Weight

Although most vegetable oils help weight loss, soybean oil does not. In 2015, scientists from the University of California, Riverside, concluded that soybean oil leads to obesity. Mice on a diet of soybean oil gained much more weight than those on coconut oil. Even when mice ate fructose, they did not gain as much weight as the soybean oil group.

Bottles of soybean oil sit on shelves in a wholesale market.
Kevin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Kevin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Soybean oil contains more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s. The International Society for Study of Fats & Lipids reports that too many omega-6s can make people gain fat. Replace soybean oil with canola, olive, or avocado oils.

Don’t Waste Your Money On Fat-Free Salad Dressings

Yes, salads will help you lose weight; but fat-free salad dressings might hinder weight loss. According to Harvard Health Publishing, fat-free dressings replace saturated fats with sugar. Plus, these fats are healthy and can even promote weight loss.

A student pours salad dressing on a to-go salad.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In 2012, scientists from Purdue University compared fat-free dressings to regular ones. Full-fat salad dressings helped the body to absorb more of the vegetables’ nutrients. Specifically, they absorbed more carotenoids, which can promote weight loss, according to the scientific journal Nutrients. For the best results, make your own salad dressing with vinegar and olive oil.

Soda Is Just Empty Calories

Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda, are disastrous for dieters. In 2017, researchers released the results of a ten-year study in QJM. When participants drank soda daily, they gained four times more weight than people who did not.

A man drinks from a Sprite can.
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Dietitians call soda “empty calories.” In other words, you’re drinking calories and sugar with no nutritional benefits. On top of that, the Harvard School of Public Health links soda to type two diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome. If you are trying to lose weight, replace soda with sparkling water.

Even Diet Soda Will Not Help

Although many people know that soda causes weight gain, diet soda does as well. Diet soda replaces sugar with artificial sweeteners, which also have a negative effect on weight. In 2015, the American Geriatrics Society conducted research on diet soda. Adults who drank it regularly had a higher likelihood of becoming obese.

Cans of diet Coke are on display at the supermarket.
Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images
Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images

That said, it is possible that diet soda might not be a direct cause. In Advances in Nutrition, researchers suggested that weight gain could stem from peoples’ existing diet habits. Those who drink diet soda are more likely to have an unhealthy diet overall.

Potato Chips Can Be Worse Than French Fries

Although many people demonize French fries as the worst potato product, a 2011 study found that potato chips are a worse culprit of weight gain. After analyzing participants for 20 years, doctors concluded that chips pack on pounds more than any other food. Eating one ounce per day resulted in 1.69 pounds gained over four years.

A bowl of Lays potato chips sits next to dip, olives, and soda.
Olga Kozachenko/Unsplash
Olga Kozachenko/Unsplash

Potato chips can also become addictive. In the journal Appetite, researchers noted that people tend to eat chips simply for the “crunch” sound. Try replacing potato chips with popcorn, nuts, rice patties, or kale chips.

Fresh Soup Helps, But Canned Soup Does Not

Although soup can aid weight loss, canned soup does not. Canned soup is notoriously high in sodium. Registered dietitian and nutritionist Jana Mowrer explains, “Even if you stick to the serving size of 1/2 cup, you’re getting 890 mg of salt.”

A volunteer stacks shelves with canned soup.
Amber Bracken/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Amber Bracken/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Even a tiny bit of added salt can make you gain weight. In 2015, British and Chinese scientists found that eating an extra gram of salt every day increases the risk of obesity by 26%. In children, it increases by 28%. Instead of eating canned soup, make your own.

Don’t Choose The Wrong Granola Bars

Granola bars can support weight loss depending on the type you get. While some fill you up and provide fiber, others do not. “Traditional granola bars are often made of just sugar and hydrogenated oils and are void of protein,” says registered dietitian Lisa Hayim. Because they lack protein, they make you eat more calories.

A man eats a granola energy bar.
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

While looking for healthy granola, choose one with less than 13 grams of sugar, says registered dietitian and nutritionist Hillary Cecere. For protein bars, look for three grams of fiber and eight grams of protein minimum. These will keep you full and help you shed pounds.

The More You Drink, The More You Gain

If you’re a drinker, make sure that your daily glass is not interfering with weight loss. Alcohol adds calories and slows down a person’s metabolism. According to a 2015 study in Current Obesity Reports, these factors can put people at risk of weight gain.

Empty wine and whisky glasses sit on a table.
Sunyu Kim/Unsplash
Sunyu Kim/Unsplash

But it depends on how much you drink. After an eight-year study, Harvard researchers concluded that moderate to light drinking does not make people gain weight. If you are monitoring your weight, do not consume more than one or two drinks per day.

No, Chocolate Does Not Promote Weight Loss

Chocolate is truly a once-in-a-while treat. In the journal PLoS ONE, a study tracked participants who ate chocolate frequently. Even when they ate chocolate once a week, they gained weight. But what about dark chocolate, which supposedly aids weight loss?

Melted chocolate bars are stacked on top of each other.
Nathana Rebouças/Unsplash
Nathana Rebouças/Unsplash

The study that coined “weight-loss chocolate,” which was published in the International Archives of Medicine, is a hoax. Creator John Bohannon admitted it in several interviews. While a high cocoa content offers health benefits, eating chocolate will not help you lose weight. The occasional bit of dark chocolate should cut cravings, though.

Eating Sugary Cereals Will Make You More Hungry

While some breakfast cereals are healthy, others are loaded with sugar and refined grains. These will make you crash and feel hungry later in the day. In the European Journal of Nutrition, researchers compared a breakfast of cereal to eggs. When participants ate cereal, they ended up consuming 438 more calories.

Boxes of sugary breakfast cereals line grocery store shelves.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

So how do you choose a weight loss cereal? Registered dietitian Chelsey Amer recommends following the five-five rule. Search for a cereal with at least five grams of fiber and less than five grams of sugar.