Recently I was standing in line at my favorite coffee place with a friend who had earlier complained that despite her best efforts, she couldn’t lose weight. As I grabbed my hot green tea, I did a double-take as I heard her order a low-fat apple cinnamon muffin and a “lite” soy latte.
I didn’t want to embarrass her, but I also wanted to point out that her fat-loss roadblocks were literally under her nose.
“But didn’t you read that article about soy’s benefits?” she responded, mentioning a favorite women’s magazine. “And ‘lite’ means less fat, so how’s that bad?”
I explained to her that through brilliant marketing, so-called experts have convinced us certain foods are healthy when they actually create serious metabolic mayhem and stall fat loss. These 5 “healthy” foods top my list as worst offenders for stalling fat loss and sabotaging your health.
5 “Healthy” Foods That Make You Fat
1. “Light” coffee drinks
Your favorite coffee store can now make your latte or frozen coffee drink “lite” with fewer calories and fat. Don’t fool yourself, however, into thinking it’s somehow healthier.
To compensate for less fat, many of these drinks pack more sugar than their regular versions. Likewise, “light” coffee drinks you buy in convenience stores come loaded with artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, nonfat milk, and other additives that wreak metabolic havoc.
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Even without the sweeteners, the caffeine-milk combo cranks up your blood sugar, stalling fat loss and triggering hunger and cravings. Skip the sugary designer coffee drinks and opt for black coffee or green tea (iced or hot) instead.
2. “Healthy” cereals with skim milk
I’m not talking about the sugar-sweetened kiddie cereals, but rather those whole grain “healthy” cereals you buy at your health food store. Your body converts these into sugar, which raises your insulin levels, stores fat, and sets you up for a mid-morning bagel-cart crash. Dump the processed crap and start your morning with protein.
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A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded a higher-protein breakfast helps you eat less food and promotes fast fat loss. In less time than it takes to pour cereal, you can make a fast, filling, fat-burning protein shake with plant-based (but not soy) protein powder, unsweetened coconut or almond milk, frozen berries, and raw kale.
3. Gluten-free junk foods
I hear people say that eating gluten-free does not automatically entail a healthy diet or fat loss. Well, duh: not if your definition includes gluten-free pizza, pretzels, and muffins. Enhance it with nutrients, certify it gluten-free, or bump up the fiber: junk food is junk food, period.
Nature did a far better job creating its own gluten-free diet with leafy and cruciferous veggies, low-glycemic fruits, and nuts and seeds.
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4. Baked chips, low-fat popcorn, and other salty snacks
Be honest: when was the last time you noshed on just one handful of popcorn?
I don’t care if your health food store promotes their new white cheddar popcorn with 67% less fat, or that potato chip brand that rhymes with “plays” makes baked (rather than fried) potato chips. The halo effect alone can make you devour an entire bag. And just because they’re lower in fat doesn’t mean these chips or popcorn aren’t still high glycemic, which means they raise your blood sugar and store fat.
Skip the crunchy snacks for a handful of nutrient-packed raw almonds.
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5. “Healthy” sugars
Your best friend and your favorite magazine both hype agave as a healthier sweetener. Reality check. Agave contains up to 97% fructose: way more than even often-maligned high-fructose corn syrup.
Fructose wreaks havoc on your liver, which metabolizes agave like alcohol and can create fatty liver. Fructose also raises cholesterol and inflammation levels. And guess how your liver repackages fructose? Here’s a hint: you can kiss fast fat loss and your size-4 skinny jeans goodbye.
Dump the agave – and those other high-fructose “healthy” sweeteners while you’re at it – for stevia or my favorite new sweetener, monk fruit.
Celebrity nutrition and fitness expert JJ Virgin is the author of The New York Times Bestseller The Virgin Diet.
Featured image by TerryJohnston
I am with you on everything. I had NASH/NAFLD and have reversed it by going whole food plant based, sugar free chemical free. I still need a little sweetener in my tea which I have once a day with a tsp of agave – I chose it because of it’s claim to not spike the glycemic index. I shy away from monk fruit because of the chemicals in it, and am a bit cagey about stevia too because of all I have read about them making you crave more artificial sugars when you use them.
What’s a girl to do?! I need a clean pure sweetener without a weird after taste and with zero chemicals in. Do you still stand by Stevia to provide that?
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