If you’re watching your weight, it’s obvious enough when hunger strikes that eating an apple is a better choice than eating a doughnut. Some foods that could hinder your weight loss progress aren’t so obvious, however. If your goal is to slim down, avoiding those top offenders may pay off with better and faster results.
Fast food increases your risk of weight gain and becoming overweight or obese, according to the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research. Although some fast-food restaurants offer a few menu items that are low-calorie and made with fresh ingredients, the staples of burgers, fries and chicken nuggets tend to have high energy-density levels — meaning a lot of calories for a small amount of food — few micronutrients and very little fiber or water contents, all characteristics that are not conducive to weight control.
Potatoes are a whole food with a fiber-rich skin, but they may not be so great for your waistline. According to a Harvard University study published in 2011 in the “New England Journal of Medicine,” potatoes are the food most strongly associated with weight gain over a four-year period of time, whether in the form of potato chips, french fries, mashed or boiled.
In the 2011 Harvard study, sugar-sweetened beverages like soda pop came in just behind potatoes in the list of foods strongly associated with weight gain. Even if you stick to diet sodas, you may want to kick the habit. Diet soda consumption has been linked to expanding waist circumference measurements in human subjects and long-term weight gain in animal studies.
Red meat and processed red meat nabbed two of the top five spots in the list of foods that cause weight gain in Harvard’s 2011 study. Mary Ellen Herndon, employee wellness dietitian at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, recommends limiting your red meat consumption to no more than 18 ounces per week.
A cup or two of regular coffee every day isn’t likely to put a wrench in your plans to lose weight, but fancy coffee drinks might. A large mocha can contain close to 600 calories – more than a meal’s worth. In 2013, Australian researchers published the results of a study showing that even 5 cups’ worth of regular coffee per day may cause increased fat retention in the abdominal area and increase the risk of metabolic syndrome.