Lots of experts say it’s stupid to forbid yourself from eating certain foods — that denying yourself something you really want to eat can ultimately lead to binge eating and eventual weight gain. So dessert isn’t on this list — it’s OK to indulge sometimes! But some foods really do deserve the ax — especially if you are trying to lose weight. In which case, avoid these foods (when you can!) to fend off cravings and hunger, and support your efforts to slim down.
1. Any snack that only contains carbs
When you eat crackers, dry cereal, bread, or rice cakes alone, your body converts the carbs to simple sugars and sends it directly into your blood stream. In response to the sugar rush, your body produces extra insulin, which helps your body absorb the sugar ASAP. The problem: You end up with low blood sugar and the same hunger pangs that led you to carb it up in the first place. You then may be inclined to reach for sugary foods with no nutritional value to satisfy your need for instant energy, says Charlie Seltzer, M.D., a weight-loss specialist based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Eat This Instead: Snacks that contain a combination of carbs, healthy fats, and protein. They take longer to digest, and will, therefore, tide you over for longer. (Another thing: When you treat snacks as balanced mini meals, they contribute to a balanced diet instead of just holding you over between meals.) Try a slice of bread with nut butter, or whole grain crackers with low-fat cheese, suggests Rachel Harvest, a registered dietitian affiliated with Tournesol Wellness in New York.
2. Frozen meals
To make fresh ingredients last extra long in your freezer, food manufacturers often load frozen meals with sodium, a natural preservative, Harvest says. Sodium makes you retain water, which bloats you up — so you won’t look and feel your best regardless of how much weight you want to lose.
Also: When food manufacturers try to squeeze a meal’s worth of calories into a teeny-tiny box, every bite ends up containing lots of calories by design, Harvest adds. While large portions trick your brain into thinking your body is full, the measly portions found in freezer meals are inherently unsatisfying, even though they contain plenty of calories.
Eat This Instead: Pre-frozen leftovers. Just double up on ingredients the next time you cook dinner, then cool and toss leftovers in a microwave-safe container to keep in your freezer for one to six months depending on what you’re cooking. Or stock your freezer with frozen veggies and your protein of choice (like chicken breast tenders, which cook faster than full breasts, or veggie burgers) to whip up a meal in the same amount of time it takes to cook a premade microwave dinner.