Five food mistakes to avoid if you're trying to lose weight

If you’re following a strict diet but not losing weight, this might be why.

not so healthy salad

Yasmine Probst, University of Wollongong and Vivienne Guan, University of Wollongong

Many people wonder why they’re not losing weight when they follow a strict diet and exercise routine.

One possible reason is that what look like healthy options aren’t what they seem. Many foods and drinks contain hidden fats, sugars or salt, each of which will curb your weight loss efforts. In addition to the kilojoules, these flavoursome foods leave you wanting more.

Losing weight is largely about tipping the balance of kilojoules in and out. If you’re trying to lose weight or simply seeking a healthier lifestyle, here are five common traps that might be hindering you.

Read more: Health Check: what's the best diet for weight loss?

1. All salads are good for you
Vegetables are good for you, absolutely. But salads often include other ingredients, which will hike up your kilojoule (kJ) count.

A Caesar salad looks green and leafy but is filled with hidden fats from the bacon (8g* fat; 360kJ), parmesan cheese (6g fat; 340kJ) and creamy salad dressing lathered over the top (20g fat; 770kJ). 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 920 kilojoules.

Fats provide the highest kilojoules from food (followed closely by alcohol, but more on that later). So be wary of dressings, sauces, gravies and high fat foods that may be adding kilojoules to your meal.

2. I don’t eat junk food, just ‘healthy’ snacks
Australians consume more than 30 per cent of their kilojoules 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 kilojoules.

While muesli bars are made up of healthy elements, it’s usually sugar holding them together. From

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.

Read more: Three charts on: how and what Australians eat (hint: it's not good)

3. 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 kilojoules. 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.

Read more: White, brown, raw, honey: which type of sugar is best?

4. 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 and in its own convenient package.

Meanwhile, fruit drinks generally contain only 25 per cent fruit juice and are very high in sugar. But 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.

Smoothies may have unhealthy ingredients added, while juices lose the good bits found in whole fruit. Element5 Digital/Unsplash

5. Drinks can’t have too many kilojoules … right?
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 480 kilojoules.

So after two glasses of wine, not only have you exceeded the recommended two standard drinks, but you’ve also consumed the equivalent kilojoules to eating two full cups of corn chips. The same applies for beer, where just one schooner equates to 1.6 standard drinks which is the same as 615 kilojoules.

Of course, many of us don’t stop at one.

Read more: Think before you drink: alcohol's calories end up on your waistline

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.

We need 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.

Editor’s note: this article originally said the bacon in a Caesar salad had 40g of fat and the salad would be the equivalent of your total daily fat intake in one meal. This has now been corrected.The Conversation

Yasmine Probst, Senior lecturer, School of Medicine, University of Wollongong and Vivienne Guan, PhD Candidate, University of Wollongong

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Do you eat slowly and carefully to avoid over-eating? Do you give your stomach enough time to tell your brain it is full? 



    To make a comment, please register or login

    13th Mar 2019
    It's not that complicated, fat=fat. Eat plant based foods till your hearts content, literally.
    13th Mar 2019
    Actually fat does not equal fat! If only it were that simple. If it were then the obesity epidemic would not have happened. Over the last 30 years or so, the proliferation of low/no fat foods has escalated so that now there are whole aisles of the stuff in supermarket shelves. At the same time as consumption of fat has reduced, people have become fatter.

    Fat in the diet helps regulate appetite and keeps you feeling fuller for longer. This means you would naturally eat less. Think back to when the milkman turned up daily to deliver the milk - full fat of course. We ate cheese - small amounts, how many remember the bread and dripping of your childhood dinners? And yet people were not as fat as they are now.

    Of course overeating anything - even lettuce - will add fat if you eat more than you need. It has to be stored somewhere and once the natural stores are full (muscle, liver etc) it is stored as fat. This was great when we had long periods when food was scarce. But now food is never scarce but we still continue to gobble it down as if it were anyway.
    14th Mar 2019
    Lower calorie food, fat as in oil, meat, eggs, and dairy are high in calories and fat, I agree with NHB, eat more plant food, not too many nuts or seeds either. Plant food has fiber that fills you up, but animal proteins do not have fiber.
    13th Mar 2019
    I think you will find that healthy fats are an essential part of your diet for a number of reasons.
    Carbohydrates and sugars are the things that hinder weight loss. Cut down on the carbs significantly and the body will use body fat to get its energy. Of course, the whole losing weight thing is very complicated but if you cut right down on those two things you will see results. Try some fasting as well, it can be incredibly good for you.
    13th Mar 2019
    Plenty of healthy fats in nuts, avo's and beans. Eg; a handful of walnuts will do.
    14th Mar 2019
    Fasting is not advisable for all people, it can leave you more hungry and pigging out afterwards. We do not need much fat at all, but we do need wholefood carbs which turn to glucose for energy,fats go straight to fat on the body.

    13th Mar 2019
    Totally agree on processed sugar, stay well away, also anything processed, especially meat.
    14th Mar 2019
    The only sugar I consume is fresh fruit and a little honey. No meat for me either.
    14th Mar 2019
    Here is my views on the points above in this article:
    1: Salads can be filling and nutrient dense if you make them properly and without oil, once an oil dressing goes on it or mayonnaise it is no longer healthy and will keep weight on.
    2: Only healthy snacks are fruit or a few nuts, anything else will contribute to weight gain, if you eat filling and nutritious meals you should not feel like snacking.
    3: A little honey is okay, your body can process it better than refined sugars, also I would not recommend soy milk, it is very unhealthy, and dangerous to your thyroid, try no milk or almond milk (preferable home made or make sure it does not contain oil or sugar).
    4: Fruit is king, you can eat as much as you like, do not be afraid of the sugar content as long as you get the fiber with it and not just the juice. Smoothies are good if you put some fresh greens, coconut water and fruit but not anything that has fat.
    5: You should consider never drinking packaged drinks again, bottled sugar water is one of the main causes of weight gain, alcohol also is a culprit and hard on your liver, if your liver does not function properly you cannot lose weight. Drink lemon juice.
    14th Mar 2019
    I hope you never promote aspartane (found in diet cold drinks) as an alternative sweetener as it has been proved Cancer of the Kidneys. I personally know a lady who drank it (definitely NOT every day) who had Cancer on one kidney. They could have attempted to remove it from the surface of her kidney but it would have caused severe bruising. She has a restricted diet. Her other kidney has surprisingly grown a little larger but will never do the work of 2. Not all people can eat foods that are mainly grain. There is a lot of people with wheat allergy which makes the seriously ill. There is also a lot of people with Coelic Disease who can not eat anything containing wheat, rye, barley and in most cases oats. They also cannot eat food that has come into contact with food containing any of them at all. Some react to other grains as well.Some also can't have milk at all. For those suffering from Coelic Disease some are seriously ill from it or may not have symptoms but it causes damage to your bowel and can lead to bowel cancer. It is shocking how many sauces, salad dressings which have "guilty" grains. Most of the beer contains barley.

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