You’ve made it your goal to lose weight and a big part of that involves cleaning up your diet. But sustainable weight loss is not about overhauling everything you eat and jumping on the diet train, quitting carbs, fat and sugar all at once. It’s about paying attention to the food you’re eating, and learning about the few that you can probably stand to live without. Here’s our shortlist!
1. ‘Diet’ products
Diet products such as diet chocolate, yoghurt and ice-cream are not worth the trouble. Often loaded with synthetic ingredients, they will leave you craving the real deal, likely resulting in you eating more than you would have if you’d had the real thing in the first place. My advice – if you feel like chocolate, eat the chocolate. Look at the calories (plain, dark chocolate is the way to go), pick out your portion and enjoy mindfully.
2. Fat/sugar free products
Similar to diet products, these often miss the mark on filling you up. Fat and sugar don’t need to be avoided. They are an essential part of a balanced diet and they provide nourishment for the body and the soul.
3. Diet soft drinks
These deserve a place all on their own! Diet soft drinks may be calorie free but they are not a free pass when you’re looking to lose weight. The chemicals and sweeteners they contain can contribute to poor dental and gut health (and we know that our gut health is crucial to weight loss efforts). So it’s important that you’re being mindful of the greater impact these drinks are having and make water your go-to.
With at least 100 calories per standard drink, more if you’re looking at cocktails, cut the booze right down if you’re trying to lose weight. It’s probably the most likely source of your extra calories, so you’d be amazed at what giving it up for a few months can do!
Also read: Is Alcohol REALLY That Bad For You?
5. Protein bars and shakes
These are an option if you’re trying to build muscle but if your goal is weight loss, stick with a variety of minimally processed whole foods – no need to overload on protein. Not only can protein bars and shakes be loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients (essentially making them a protein-based candy bar or milkshake), they come at a pretty steep price. So save the cash and look to natural protein sources such as lean meat, legumes and dairy as part of a balanced diet.
Nuts are super nutritious and not something you should completely avoid when trying to lose weight! However, nuts are full of healthy fats, making them very satiating but also calorie heavy – 1 cup of peanuts contains 700 calories. This is why portion control is the key – ¼ cup or a small handful is the way to go.
These are fantastic paired with chopped veggie sticks BUT they can be a calorie trap, often containing a high percentage of oils and fats. Bypass the gourmet dips and stick to the basics – hummus or homemade tzatziki are my picks.
8. Muesli bars
Muesli bars are very convenient and really do seem healthy – but not all are created equal. Clever marketing will have you believe they are healthy by using descriptive words such as “natural” or highlighting that they’re “gluten-free” or “only contain 9g of sugar”. In reality, most are highly processed and not that filling. Look for muesli bars that contain mostly whole ingredients and keep them as a back-up snack option, opting for unprocessed snacks instead. Or, try and make your own! I like this recipe. The clean, highly-satiable ingredients are sure to keep you fuller for longer – just be sure to watch your portion sizes!
9. Breakfast cereals
Sugary, salty and light – it’s all too easy to eat through half a box of cereal in a sitting and feel like you’ve eaten nothing at all. Instead, reach for traditional oats, un-toasted muesli or home-made granola.
10. Muffins/cakes/banana bread
While super delicious and just what you need occasionally, these types of sweets can have up to 600 calories per muffin/slice. Take these out of your regular rotation at your local café and add them to the ‘only sometimes’ list if weight loss is the goal.
It’s not the caffeine that is the offender here, it’s the milk and sugar/syrups that accompany it. If lattes and cappuccinos are your thing (they are definitely mine!), stick with ordering a small and aim to enjoy just one a day.