When people think about losing weight, the first thing to come to mind is typically exercise. They hear about various workout regimens, they look into gyms and routines, and they try to plan their days around fitness. This sort of thinking is definitely helpful if one is trying to lose weight, but the truth is that it’s only half of the equation. Even the most effective exercise will fail to produce the desired results if you don’t consider the role of nutrition in your weight loss plan. While you’re planning to pick up the perfect gym habits, consider dropping these nine things for maximum results.
9. White Bread
To be clear, bread isn’t a bad thing on its own; it’s the kind of bread that matters. White bread is a strong source of carbohydrates and….not much else. The same is true of bagels and certainly donuts. Consuming large quantities of these products might actually cause you to gain weight without providing significant nutritional value (yes, even “enriched” white bread). If you can’t live without some loaf in your life, stick to wheat or whole grain bread, which include fiber and other things for much more of a nutritional punch, and make sure you balance them with other foods.
People often don’t differentiate between margarine and butter, but the two have differences. Butter is a source of fat; eaten sparingly, it benefits your body. On the other hand, the best serving size for margarine varies, depending on the brand and additives. Butter is traditionally high in saturated fat, whereas some margarine likewise carries similar amounts. Others are lower in saturated fat but have deadly trans fats. Whenever possible, skip both in favor of olive oil; otherwise, choose unsalted varieties of butter to be sure you know what you’re getting, and to cut down on your sodium intake.
7. Excess Sugar
Is it any surprise that sugar is on this list? Excess sugar from processed foods typically translates into empty calories. Sure, they’re great for a quick burst of energy, but it doesn’t last, meaning you’ll have to consume even more to power through your day, or find another source of energy. Since sugar is mostly empty calories, it doesn’t help you feel full, and therefore doesn’t stop you from eating. Worried about the sugar in fruit? Don’t. Fruits come with a range of other nutrients that help with weight loss and offer additional health benefits.
6. Microwave Popcorn
Because microwave popcorn combines the previous three things on this list, it’s definitely a food to avoid if you’re looking to shed pounds. It will raise your blood pressure and body fat, and it’s pretty easy to binge on. Popcorn itself is a healthy snack that will fill you up without filling you out; the problem lies in microwave popcorn bags, which may contain harmful additives, as well as excess butter and salt. Skip the bags and try air-popped popcorn instead, or prepare oil-popped popcorn with olive oil, and season with herbs and spices.
Pretty much excess sugar in liquid form, soda is among the most unhealthy things you can consume. Like sugar in other forms, it provides a very brief, very jarring spike in energy, along with a crash. It doesn’t fill you up, or provide your body with any real nutrition. In fact, consuming all of that excess sugar can contribute to serious health problems like diabetes, which among other things, makes losing weight very difficult. Diet soda is no better; it has harmful artificial sweeteners that are linked to cancer and other serious illnesses, and provides no benefit to weight loss.Related: One Bowl of Rice is Equivalent to Two Cans of Soda
While a little bit of alcohol is a good thing, and one or two drinks a night cause no harm, large amounts of alcohol drunk frequently may stand between you and your weight loss goals. A glass of red wine is great for heart health, but frequent beers can actually cause you to gain weight, hence the term “beer gut.” The research isn’t fully fleshed out just yet, but large amounts of alcohol have other negative effects that have been confirmed; high blood pressure, for example, can make workouts harder by straining your heart. Stick to the one glass rule.
3. Fruit Juice
You might seem surprised to find fruit juices on this list, given how healthy fruit is. Fruit is, in fact, very healthy, but fruit juice moves away from that, particularly when it has added sugars and preservatives. Like most liquid calories, your body does not register fruit juice as well as it should, which makes it easy to drink juice to excess. The added sugar can cause complications as well. Fruits in juice form also lose the fiber that is a large part of what makes fruit so healthy. Substitute your fruit juice with a fresh piece of fruit instead.
2. Salad Dressing
Salad dressing is often packed full of sugars, fats, salts, and other ingredients that certainly flavor up your salad. However, these additives also work to undo the good the salad provides, as they can spike your blood sugar and damage heart health via higher blood pressure. Keep the salad, but go light on the dressing if you can’t ditch it altogether, or choose low-sodium brands. If possible, make your own salad dressing from scratch using vegetable oils. Olive oil, for example, adds a distinct flavor and a dose of healthy fats to your diet. Your body will thank you.
1. Added Salt
Table salt is typically a go-to seasoning along with pepper, but the latter is far healthier. An excess of sodium, found in salt, can lead to heart problems stemming from high blood pressure. In small amounts, salt is useful to the body, but since so many foods already have added salt, anything you put on at the dinner table is just overkill. When it comes to weight loss, salt won’t make you gain weight directly, but it will cause water retention and spur snacking binges, both of which will increase your weight. Find alternative seasonings to spice up bland dishes.Related: 7 Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure