article by Yasmine Probst and Vivienne Guan
Many people wonder why they’re not losing weight when they follow a strict diet and exercise routine.
One possible reason is that what look like healthy options aren’t what they seem. Many foods and drinks contain hidden fats, sugars or salt, each of which will curb your weight loss efforts. In addition to the calories, these flavorsome foods leave you wanting more.
Losing weight is largely about tipping the balance of calories in and out. If you’re trying to lose weight or simply seeking a healthier lifestyle, here are five common traps that might be hindering you.
Vegetables are good for you, absolutely. But salads often include other ingredients, which will hike up your calorie count.
A Caesar salad looks green and leafy but is filled with hidden fats from the bacon (8g fat), parmesan cheese (6g fat) and creamy salad dressing lathered over the top (20g). Even the croutons are fried for added crunch. So a Caesar salad gives you 70% of your total daily fat intake for an average adult in one meal.
On par with this is a creamy pasta salad, often seen at family barbecues. A side serve of this comes in at almost 220 calories.
Fats provide the highest calories from food (followed closely by alcohol, but more on that later). So be wary of dressings, sauces, gravies and high fat foods that may be adding calories to your meal.
The average person consumes more than 30% of their calories from discretionary or “junk” foods, such as biscuits, chips and chocolate. None of these are providing us with any vital nutrients. These are the calories we need to shift to lose weight.
But many people make the mistake of swapping junk food for seemingly “healthy snacks”, such as muesli bars and protein balls. While these can claim to be healthy and organic, they’re often processed and high in calories.
Muesli bars do contain healthy ingredients such as oats, nuts and seeds. But sticking all the parts together to form a bar is usually achieved with a form of sugar. A yoghurt, fruit and nut bar can contain up to 4.6 teaspoons of sugar.
Next time you feel like a snack, why not substitute your muesli bar with a handful of nuts and seeds. This will provide you with useful vitamins and minerals – minus the sugar sticking them together.
There’s recently been a shift towards more natural forms of added sugar, but they contain no additional nutrients and no fewer calories. Adding honey or agave syrup to your dish does not differ nutritionally from adding sugar to the same dish. It may taste different, but you’re still adding sugar.
Next time you feel like something sweet, try adding some fruit instead. It has a natural sweetness and will give you extra vitamins and minerals.
If you find your downfall is adding sugar to coffee, try using soy milk instead of cow’s milk. It has a sweeter taste (but one that may need some getting used to in the first instance).
Or try reducing the amount of sugar you add by half a teaspoon each week. You’ll find you barely notice the difference after a while.
Think of the humble banana, mashed up into banana bread. This is not a bread at all, but a cake. If you’ve ever made banana bread you’ll realize just how much butter and extra sugar gets added to something nature has already made to be sweet and in its own convenient package.
Meanwhile, fruit drinks generally contain only 25% fruit juice and are very high in sugar. But even when drinking 100% fruit juice, you’re missing out on the important fiber that comes naturally from fruit and helps your body recognize it feels full. So whole fruit is best.
Fruit smoothies, although slightly better than fruit juices, are another one you can easily be caught out on. Smoothies are generally prepared in large servings and may have syrups or ice creams added to them, reducing their nutritional value by comparison.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll know sugary soft drinks are a no-go. But some of the easiest mistakes to make are those in liquid form.
Many people aren’t aware how many calories are in alcoholic drinks. An average restaurant serving of red wine is equivalent to 1.5 standard drinks and contains 115 calories or so.
So after two glasses of wine, not only have you exceeded the recommended two standard drinks, but you’ve also consumed the equivalent calories to eating two full cups of corn chips. The same applies for beer, where just one schooner equates to 1.6 standard drinks which is the same as 150 calories.
Of course, many of us don’t stop at one.
Probably the most common food mistake when trying to lose weight is eating too much. We need to choose the right foods but the amount is also important.
We need to listen to the signals our bodies send when when we’re getting full to stop eating. The best way to do this is to eat slowly, chewing carefully. By slowing our eating we are more likely to be sent the sign of fullness before feeling it at our waistband.
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