So you’re on a diet but the pounds aren’t shedding like you had hoped, even though you’re following all the rules. What gives?
Everything in your pantry and fridge is healthy – there’s no arguing that – but according to experts, you may be eating foods that are healthy but are also hindering your ability to lose weight.
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That’s right, not every healthy food out there will help you lose that fat, but can in fact make it harder (or near impossible) to get rid of your excess weight, or even gain more.
“This is obviously less likely because those types of foods are very filling and satiating, but [it] is still possible,” registered dietitian Andy De Santis says. “The reason being is that portion control is an extraordinarily important consideration when it comes to weight management.”
So what are some of those healthy foods that can be impeding on your weight loss?
1. Oil/olive oil
Olive oil is great for cardiovascular health, De Santis points out. It contains heart-healthy fats, but does not contain any fibre or protein, which means it does not really make you feel full.
“It’s also very easy to over-use,” he says. He finds that his clients tend to use too much olive oil in food preparation. Yet Canada’s Food Guide recommends no more than two or three tablespoons per day. Once clients follow that, and limit the use of olive oil in food prep to one tablespoon per meal, they tend to experience great results, De Santis says.
Nuts and seeds are among the healthiest and most important foods for people to include in their diet, De Santis says. They contain heart-healthy fats and fibre, as well as important nutrients that many need more of, such as magnesium.
“People who eat nuts tend to live longer, and we know that nuts are a great food to help manage blood cholesterol,” he says. “But there is a catch. A quarter cup of almonds, which is considered a single serving, is about 200 calories. A full cup is 800 calories, and that’s assuming they are not roasted (roasting uses oil which adds more calories).”
So if you’re not paying attention, that difference can be enough to determine whether you stay at the same weight or lose weight, he says.
This also applies to nut butters, like almond and peanut butter.
“Granola is a food that we have been led to believe is quite good for us but could be a real problem food for those trying to manage their weight,” De Santis says. “Granola is, in most cases, simply oatmeal that has significant amounts of oil and sugar added to it such that it tastes amazing, but will cost you far more calories.”
De Santis recommends those trying to lose weight swap out granola for steel cut oatmeal. It does take longer to cook, but has a much nuttier taste.
Smoothies and juices are marketed as healthy or even beneficial for weight loss, De Santis says. But they provide calories without the same feeling of fullness one gets from whole fruits or veggies.
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“You could theoretically blend an apple, banana and an orange and drink that down in 30 seconds,” he says. “To eat those foods whole, would take much longer and leave you feeling much more satisfied to the point you would probably stop before finishing all three.
“The most important thing to be aware of with hummus is that there is a significant difference in the caloric value between home-made and store bought varieties, which will often have additional oil added to them,” De Santis warns.
Hummus, however, is a great plant-based protein option that offers us a protein source that doesn’t come from animals, meaning it’s free from cholesterol and saturated fat.
Avocado falls into a similar category as nuts and seeds, De Santis says.
It is a healthful food that is a solid source of potassium, fibre and magnesium. However, a single avocado also contains about 300 calories, so if you’re going to eat them, limit yourself to one a day.
“If you are tightly managing your caloric intake, you can use it as an alternate choice to nuts/seeds as they have a similar nutritional profile,” he says. “I would also argue that avocado is a superior choice to oil as a salad topper.
Yes, cheese is an incredibly rich source of calcium, De Santis says, but it also tends to be high in fat and calories.
If you’re going to eat cheese, however, make sure to keep it to no more than 50 grams a day. Also think about switching to skim varieties if possible.