You may be surprised to find out that some of those “healthy” foods you’ve always heard about, or the ones that advertise themselves as healthy, are actually sabotaging your efforts. It can be frustrating to make the decision to change your eating habits and lifestyle only to see no budge whatsoever on the scales or in the way your clothes fit. Here are some of the most surprising foods to avoid when losing weight.

8 Foods to Avoid

You don’t have to count calories or fat grams to lose weight, nor do you have to eliminate carbs. Just steer clear of these eight foods:

Dairy

Plenty of people know to stay away from the half and half and the whole milk when they’re trying to lose weight (they blame it on the calories and the fat grams), and most will probably even steer clear of the sugar-filled yogurt options. The surprising part? Even so-called healthy dairy options—skim milk and Greek yogurt, for example—can hinder your weight loss attempts.

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Did you know that all dairy is bad for you? People try to keep in in because it “has calcium,” but dairy is actually so acidic, it actually leaches calcium from your bones as part of your body’s way of reaching a slightly alkaline state again. On a weight loss front, an acidic body holds on to excess weight because fat cells store that acidic waste in order to keep it away from the vital organs. In addition, dairy is clogging to the body, creates excess mucus and slows down digestion and removal of toxins, all of which lead to trouble losing weight.

Whole Wheat

One of the most recent health myths has to do with replacing white flour in baking, choosing whole wheat bread over white in restaurants, and then calling it good. It’s as if making this simple change should be the magic bullet to weight loss, and whole wheat is generally touted as being “healthy,” at least for those who don’t suffer from celiac disease.

The reality is far, far different. While trading in white breads for whole wheat ones may lead to an initial weight loss (think of whole wheat as the lesser of two evils, but still no good), the ongoing effects of wheat (gluten, specifically) consumption can make it difficult to lose weight. Weight gain or trouble losing weight could occur because you’re bloating terribly or because you just feel hungry for carbs all the time.

Did you know you can be addicted to wheat? Consuming wheat products leads you to crave more and more of them, which in turn can lead to overeating and weight gain. In addition, wheat encourages your body to store fat on your belly, a trouble zone for a lot of people, and can cause low energy levels, which don’t exactly encourage you to move around much.

Anything That Says “Light” on the Package

The first problem? It’s packaged. A packaged food boasting that it’s “light” or “low-fat” almost always has to get replacement flavor from somewhere, and it’s often sugar and sodium. Refined sugar is extremely acidic and, like dairy, encourages your body to hang on to extra weight. If it’s high-fructose corn syrup lurking in that package (you may be surprised!), it can contribute to even more weight gain than regular sugar.

As for foods loaded with sodium, bloating can make you feel heavy and contribute to extra pounds. Table salt can cause you to look almost 10 lbs heavier than you actually are. Sodium obviously isn’t always the enemy, but the salt added to a lot of packaged, processed foods is often excessive and not the best quality.

Just Any Old Salad

Just like smoothies, salads are often presented as the ultimate healthy meal—and they can be. Croutons, fried chicken, bacon, and cheese are easy enough to avoid, but what about that healthy salad dressing? A look at the ingredients list may surprise you. Even “healthy” options probably contain oils.

The best oils for salad dressings are unrefined olive, coconut, sunflower, flaxseed, and hemp seed, but even those should only be used very sparingly. You may also see dairy- or soy-based ingredients. If you can, try using fresh lemon or lime juice, salsa, or mash an avocado as salad dressing.

Protein Bars

Society seems to have an obsession with getting enough protein even though it’s not that difficult to do while committed to eating healthy, wholesome foods (even for vegans and vegetarians). Protein bars are viewed as healthy, even though they’re glorified candy bars with whey and/or soy protein isolates thrown in. So you get a chalky, unsatisfying taste and texture paired with a lot of the bad things you can find in candy bars, like high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and agave nectar. There’s no winning there!

Dried Fruit

Have you noticed a theme lately? Hidden sugars are everywhere, and with the dried fruit, that’s no exception. Trail mixes with dried fruit and nuts would be okay as an afternoon snack, but there’s often a lot of sugar added. Try making your own with unsweetened dried fruit and raw nuts. Nifty Nuthouse has a selection of unsweetened fruit, or you may also be able to find some in your local health food store. Not all dried fruit is bad for you, but you do have to remember to read the ingredients list!

Remember to only eat even unsweetened fruit on occasion. The best way to enjoy fruit is still raw. Even unsweetened fruit is more concentrated and higher in sugar than its raw counterpart.

Tofu

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There are a lot of people out there who look at tofu as a healthy replacement to meat, but what they don’t realize is:

  • Soy is genetically modified, greatly contaminated with pesticides, and highly allergenic.
  • Soy makes it more difficult to obtain and use the protein in our food.
  • Soy depresses thyroid function, which controls metabolism and weight.
  • In many cases, the way tofu is cooked (fried, for example) makes it an unhealthy choice with unnecessary calories.

I didn’t mention tempeh or miso because these are fermented and safe to eat as long as they’re organic. They don’t have the same negative effects on your health and your weight as tofu and most other soy products.

Commercial Smoothies

There’s this misconception that all smoothies are healthy. Unfortunately, that’s not the case at all and you have to meticulously read the ingredients lists in smoothie shops, too. Here’s what could be hiding in your smoothie:

  • Whey protein isolate (dairy)
  • Soy protein isolate
  • Turbinado/agave (sugar!)
  • Dairy (yogurt or skim milk)
  • Soy milk
  • Sweetened fruit juice
  • Artificial sweeteners

Take a look at that list! Sweeteners abound (artificial ones are no better for you!), and the likelihood of getting something with dairy or soy in it is pretty high.

Smoothies can be incredibly good for you and assist you in your weight loss goals. They’re one of the easiest ways to fill your body with vitamins and minerals—nothing but the good stuff. However, it’s best to make them at home or do your research and find a smoothie shop near you that serves legitimately healthy drinks. The ones Kimberly has designed at Glow Bio are aligned with Beauty Detox principles and can now be ordered online.

Avoid Certain Ingredients and Claims

As long as you’re diligent about avoiding dairy, wheat, and soy and check the labels for hidden sugar, sodium, and other mystery ingredients, you should be able to avoid most of the foods you’d be surprised to find are making it difficult for you to lose weight.

When you focus on whole foods, you’re unlikely to consume too many diet-sabotaging ingredients. The best foods don’t come with labels and they’re very straightforward about what they are (how many times has the produce section felt confusing?). Stick with those and you’ll be your happiest, most beautiful self in no time.

 

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New York Times Bestseller and Nutritionist