By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., Best Life lead nutritionist for TheBestLife.com
French fries, cola, cocktails—in a perfect world, you’d be able to eat these foods even while trying to lose weight. It’s all about moderation, of course…but moderation is easier said than done. After all, who can stop at just seven fries or six ounces of soda?
I’ve found that it can be helpful to go the other direction—ban problem foods, at least for a while (Bob Greene recommends four weeks on his weight loss website TheBestLife.com). Doing so trains down your tastes, helps curb cravings, and teaches you to enjoy more healthful alternatives while cutting calories. Bob chose the foods below because they’re so universally problematic, but you can substitute your own particular problem foods.
After you’ve had a few (or even one), your resolve to eat well can start to waver. And don’t forget about the calories: Wine is about twice as caloric as soft drinks, while an 8-ounce margarita can contain a whopping 535 calories. (For more on how alcohol can interfere with weight loss, click here.)
Have instead: Sparkling water with a twist of lime
2. Soft drinks and other sugary beverages
How’s this for a double whammy? Not only are you slurping down 150 calories per 12 ounces, but your body doesn’t register these calories as it would with 150 calories of real food. (One of our bloggers recently celebrated a year without soda.)
Have instead: Water mixed with 2 to 3 tablespoons of juice per cup; unsweetened or barely sweetened iced tea; flavored sparkling water
3. Fried foods
Here’s a quick calorie comparison: A broiled chicken thigh and drumstick with skin is 260 calories. Bread and fry them instead? Calories skyrocket to 690.
Have instead: Food that’s baked, broiled, grilled, lightly sautéed (using about 2 teaspoons oil per serving), pan-seared or steamed.
4. White bread
White bread (and anything made with white flour) contains grain that has been stripped of its bran and germ. What’s left? Starch, which converts rapidly to blood sugar. A quick rise and fall in blood sugar can leave you feeling hungry a short while later. On the other hand, whole grain products convert to blood sugar over a longer, sustained period, helping quell hunger.
Have instead: 100% stone ground whole wheat bread or spouted grain bread
5. Whole or two-percent milk and yogurt
These products don’t just contain up to twice as many calories as nonfat and one percent—their extra calories come mainly from artery-clogging saturated fat.
Have instead: Fat-free or one-percent milk; nonfat or low-fat yogurt
6. Foods with partially hydrogenated oil
This oil is a source of trans fat, which, in excess (just 2 grams is considered excessive), can lead to heart disease and cancer. Check the ingredients – if you see this listed (even if the product says 0 g trans fat), put it back on the shelf.
Have instead: Foods made with olive oil (my dad used olive oil for everything), canola oil, or high-oleic safflower or sunflower oil.
Slideshow: Calories in Alcohol
Ditching Dairy? See our Side-by-Side Comparison of Milk Alternatives