One of the toughest aspects of losing weight is learning how to instantly tell the difference between a good food and a bad food. Calorie counting is simple in theory, but it doesn’t really take into account busy schedules and meals that you eat on the run. Besides, to maintain a healthy weight into the future you need to find a diet that you can live with, and you can’t count every calorie that you eat for the rest of your life. That’s why the secret to sustainable weight loss lies in instinctively avoiding bad choices, especially when the nutritional information is not readily available. Some foods that appear perfectly healthy and harmless can jeopardize your weight loss and keep you coming back for more. Replacing the sneaky diet-busters below with healthy, tasty alternatives can help you satisfy cravings without compromising your weight loss.
1. French Fries
If you are a potato lover, giving up French fries won’t be easy, but the payoff is well worth the price. On average, a small to medium order of French fries contains a whopping 300 to 600 calories, and chances are that you are not eating it as a standalone meal. The good news is that you don’t have to give up on potatoes altogether.
Baked potatoes are a great alternative as long as you don’t load them up with fatty toppings like bacon bits and butter. If you are really craving French fries and nothing else will do, make a healthy batch at home with olive oil, sea salt and cracked pepper.
2. Dangerous Drinks
Fruit-flavored smoothies, sports drinks and coffee sound diet-friendly enough, but some of them can pack as many calories as a medium-sized meal. Trendy coffee drinks are among the most dangerous diet offenders, closely followed by fat-laden milkshakes and calorie-rich energy drinks. That doesn’t mean you need to give up your relaxing trips to the local coffee house, but you do need to be smart about your order.
Try unsweetened or lightly sweetened coffee, and use skim, non-fat or soy milk instead of whole milk or cream. Remember that fruit-flavored drinks in coffee houses are often made with thick, sugary syrup, so grab some whole fruit if you are craving something sweet. To avoid hidden calories in smoothies, make your own at home. If you are feeling run down or tired at work, try green tea instead of a pre-bottled energy drink. Green tea’s powerful anti-oxidant compound knows as EGCG is a natural fighter against fat, disease and aging.
Full of saturated fats, sodium and mystery ingredients, pre-packaged sausages can sidetrack your diet in one bite. Processed meats in general are a bad idea because they are full of sodium and other ingredients that are toxic to your health. Instead of eating sausages for breakfast or lunch, reach for healthy lean meats that will satisfy your cravings for sausages or hot dogs.
Try replacing pork with chicken. Chicken and vegetables rolls are delicious and easy to make. Turkey is another great alternative. You can combine ground turkey with spices like paprika, cayenne and cumin for a delicious and healthy homemade sausage stuffing. Pack it into natural casings, cook for 15 minutes or so, and you’ll have delicious sausages that are good for both your taste buds and your waist line.
4. Canned Soups
While they might be low in calories, canned soups are extremely high in sodium. Eating too much salt is not just bad for your overall well-being, but it can also stall your weight loss by forcing your body to hold on to excess water weight. You can try low sodium brands, or better yet, make your own soup at home.
Try making a traditional chicken noodle soup by using chunks of organic chicken meat and whole grain pasta. Split pea soup is another great option. Just one cup of split peas contains over 16 grams of healthy protein that will keep you feeling full and energized throughout the day.
5. Foods that Contain a Lot of High-Fructose Corn Syrup
High-fructose corn syrup, or corn sugar, is one of the most popular additives in the food industry. Unfortunately, it also happens to be one of the worst ingredients you can consume if you want to lose weight and improve your health. High-fructose corn syrup and other sugar additives are associated with weight gain, poor nutrition, cavities and high triglyceride levels. According to the guidelines from the American Heart Association, you should consume no more than 100 calories of any sugar additive a day. The easiest way to avoid foods that are high in corn sugar and other additives is to stop buying pre-packaged processed foods and drinks like chips, soda and sugary cereals. Read labels to make sure that the foods you are buying contain natural ingredients.
Substitute sugary cereals with whole grains and oatmeal. Oatmeal doesn’t have to be boring or bland. In the winter, add brown sugar, apples and golden raisins for a delicious bowl of warm, seasonal oatmeal that won’t pack on the pounds. In the summer, try adding blueberries and cut-up strawberries to a bowl of plain non-fat or low-fat Greek-style yogurt. Greek yogurt is higher in protein and creamier than traditional yogurt, so it will keep you satisfied longer. Just one six ounce serving of Greek yogurt can contain as much protein as two or three ounces of lean meat.
6. Frozen Meals
Your supermarket’s frozen food aisle might look like a dieter’s heaven, but think twice before you load up your cart with tasty pre-packaged diet meals. Many are loaded with salt, strange ingredients and artificial preservatives. Not to mention that they are often too low in calories to make up a whole meal, which explains why dieters who eat frozen meals often have trouble saying no to unhealthy snacks and deserts.
Instead of buying frozen food, keep your fridge stocked with healthy pre-prepared snacks and meals. Assorted vegetables with a low-fat dressing dip or hummus, nuts, low-sodium cold cuts and whole wheat crackers are all great options for satisfying your cravings in between bigger meals. If you need to eat lunch or dinner quickly, try mixing low-fat mayo with tuna and chopped up celery. Or, keep pre-cooked chicken breasts in your fridge for quick salads and sandwiches. Always having access to healthy foods will help you avoid junk food and high-calorie snacks.