Top 5 "Health" Foods to Avoid While Trying to Lose Weight.

You’ve decided to go healthy and clean up your diet. You’re main motivator is to lose a bit of weight.  Full of enthusiasm you head straight to your local health food store and load up on all the healthy alternatives to your usual store cupboard items. Only there’s one big problem with this approach. Just because something is considered “healthy” doesn’t necessarily mean you will be able to lose weight while eating it.  I’m not even going to mention low fat products in my top 5 because I think the message is finally getting through to people that low fat products are usually full of sugar and excess sugar in the diet is the true cause of obesity.  Just in case you’re still under the illusion that Light Mayonnaise is better for you than Real or 0% fat fruit yoghurts are totally harmless because they don’t contain any fat I’d implore you to just compare the labels and see for yourself the sugar content of such products.  So today I’m going to leave low fat products off my list and just focus on some of the healthy alternatives people are purchasing in an effort to lose weight.


No. 1 Honey


Many people are turning to natural sugar alternatives so that they can continue to satisfy their sweet tooth while they are trying to shed a few pounds. Honey is rich in antioxidants and there is plenty of evidence to support the use of honey and manuka honey in fighting infection but when it comes to losing weight both regular honey and manuka honey will cause you’re blood sugar level to rise rapidly which will in turn cause a spike in your insulin levels and ultimately cause fat storage. So don’t be surprised if you actually end up gaining weight while eating honey and manuka honey.


No. 2.  Rice Cakes


These guys are hailed as an ultimate health food because they are 100% natural, low in fat and low in calories… but there’s one big problem. They are made from white rice (usually, if you look hard enough you might find a wholegrain version somewhere). White rice converts to glucose very quickly once eaten. What does this mean? Well it means once again you’re spiking your blood sugar levels, which leads to fat storage.  Once your blood sugar spikes insulin will move that sugar into your cells for energy or energy storage in the form of fat. The rapid removal of this sugar from the blood stream will cause you to have a sugar crash. Leading to cravings for more sugar.  This is why you’re always hungry and can never seem to lose weight snacking on rice cakes.  It’s not as simple as counting calories. You’ve got to avoid spiking your blood sugar levels to avoid fat storage and avoid sugar cravings.


No. 3 Dates


Every healthy cookbook I pick up these days is using dates as a sugar alternative. I’m not arguing with the fact that you’re better off eating dates over table sugar, of course you are. Table sugar is empty calories. It offers no nutritional benefit whatsoever. What I am arguing with is the idea that these recipes are considered completely healthy because there is no added sugar in them but once again dates convert to glucose very quickly and they pack quite a punch in their sugar content too, 100g of dates is 57% sugar.  If you haven’t picked up on it yet when it comes to burning fat you absolutely have to keep you blood sugar levels stable. When your blood sugar levels are high your body cannot burn fat. It will use the sugar in your system for fuel. There will be no need to dip into your fat stores when you’re continuing to fuel your body with different forms of glucose. Therefore dates are out while you’re looking to lose weight.


No. 4 Granola


The cereal aisle in our supermarkets are now packed full of granola options to choose from. Granola is considered a trendy healthy breakfast but what should you watch out for here? It comes down to the added sugar and the dried fruit content. If you make your own granola with oats, nuts and seeds then you’re onto something. Oats won’t spike your blood sugar especially when coupled with nuts and seeds but unfortunately most store bought granolas contain either added sugar or dried fruit.  Two varieties available in Ireland without added sugar or dried fruit are Lizi’s granola and Maria Lucia Bakes.


And finally…No. 5 Smoothies


Smoothies are great way of boosting your daily fruit and veg intake but again homemade is the way to go.  If you’ve swapped your can of Coke for an innocent smoothie and are wondering why the pounds aren’t falling off you then look no further than the sugar content. One innocent smoothie contains more sugar than 250ml of Coke.  Most store bought smoothies are high in sugar but innocent are one of the worst on the market.  Even when it comes to homemade smoothies you need to be careful what you add to the blender.  The first rule is to make sure you’re blending not juicing. When blending you aren’t throwing anything away and you’re getting the fibre content as well as the sugar content which is very important. Secondly make sure you don’t over do it on the fruit. Choose berries & plums over tropical fruit like pineapple and mango.  Colour can be a good indicator or sugar content. Blues, reds and purples tend to be lower in sugar than oranges and yellows. So think blueberries, strawberries and blackberries over bananas and oranges. Also add a form of protein to your smoothie to help balance your blood sugar and keep you fuller for longer.  Nuts, seeds, natural yoghurt can all work well in a smoothie.


I know it’s a mine field out there and its getting harder and harder to tell the woods from the trees. I’m still navigating these waters myself but on behalf of my clients I examine every new comer to the market. I’m always checking to see why it's considered a health food, perhaps it boost immunity, provides antioxidants, phytonutrients or just contains a good dose of vitamins and minerals but as my clients are looking to lose weight at the same time as getting healthy I need to consider the overall glycemic load of the food as this really is the best measure of whether a food will cause fat storage or boost metabolism and encourage fat burning.


If you’d like to learn more or require guidance during your weight loss journey then please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m a nutrition and weight loss coach with a passion for helping people reach their goals, while at the same time arming them with the knowledge they need to be successful long term.


Best wishes,