You know how it is. You’re following a strict diet, exercising regularly, but you just can’t seem to shift the weight.
What is going on?
One possible reason is what you think are healthy food options aren’t really what they seem. Many foods and drinks contain hidden fats, sugars or salt, and they all work together to get in the way of your weight loss. In addition to hidden calories, these foods may also be leaving you hungrier.
Losing weight is largely about tipping the balance of calories in and out. If things just don’t seem to be working for you, it could be down to these five common traps.
ALL SALADS ARE GOOD FOR 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; 86cal), parmesan cheese (6g fat; 81cal) and creamy salad dressing lathered over the top (20g fat; 184cal). Even the croutons are fried for added crunch. So a caesar salad gives you 70 per cent 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 which are adding extra calories to your meal.
SWAPPING BAD SNACKS FOR ‘HEALTHY’ ONES
Australians consume more than 30 per cent 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 kilojoules 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.
NATURAL SWEETENERS ARE BETTER THAN SUGAR
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.
ANYTHING FRUIT-BASED MUST BE HEALTHY
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 realise just how much butter and extra sugar gets added to something nature has already made to be sweet.
Meanwhile, fruit drinks generally contain only 25 per cent fruit juice and are very high in sugar. Even when drinking 100 per cent fruit juice, you’re missing out on the important fibre that comes naturally from fruit and helps your body recognise 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.
DRINKS DON’T HAVE TOO MANY CALORIES
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 kilojoules are in alcoholic drinks. An average restaurant serving of red wine is equivalent to 1.5 standard drinks and contains 115 calories.
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 — and 147 calories.
Plus, of course, many of us don’t stop at one.
A FINAL WORD
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.
It’s important to listen to the signals our bodies send 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.
Yasmine Probst is a senior lecturer at the School of Medicine, University of Wollongong. Vivienne Guan is a PhD candidate at the University of Wollongong
This article originally appeared on The Conversation and was reproduced with permission