It's easy to blame fat, a macronutrient, for your weight gain -- after all, it provides 9 calories per gram, versus the 4 calories per gram that carbohydrates and protein offer. However, it's not always foods high in fat that are the most fattening -- there are a number of foods you should avoid or eat only in moderation if you're trying to lose weight or prevent fat gain, whether it's because they're high in unhealthy fats, contain too much sugar or are high in calories.
A fruit smoothie sounds like a healthy treat, but it can easily lead to gaining fat if you're not careful. If you don't make it at home -- and therefore control the ingredients and portion size -- you could consume more than 1,000 calories, 35 grams of fat and 120 grams of sugar in one 20-ounce commercially purchased fruit smoothie. In fact, make it a practice to never drink your calories, even if you need a morning pick-me-up and desire it in the form of a frozen coffee drink, which can contain more than 500 calories, 19 grams of fat and 59 grams of sugar. Other sugary drinks to avoid include milkshakes, soda and sweet teas. A study published in 2011 in The New England Journal of Medicine noted drinking sugar-sweetened beverages was strongly associated with weight gain.
Unhealthy Snack Foods
In The New England Journal of Medicine study, the humble potato chip was most strongly associated with weight gain. When you're faced with a vending machine, it's easy to pick a fattening food like chips, which contain around 160 calories per ounce, and some snack bags contain 2 servings. One variety of apple fruit pie contains 400 calories and 27 grams of fat per package. Instead of cookies or candy bars, pack your own lower-calories healthy snacks such as a piece of fruit, a hard-boiled egg or raw veggies with yogurt dip.
Eating breakfast can help you maintain a healthy weight, but only if you choose wisely. One type of commercial cinnamon roll contains more than half the calories you need in a day, ringing in at nearly 1,100 calories, 56 grams of fat and 47 grams of sugar. A muffin seems healthy, but buy one at a coffee shop, and you could be looking at more than 600 calories, 25 grams of fat and 54 grams of sugar. Foods out of a box that you eat at home aren't much better -- frosted toaster pastries can contain more than 400 calories per two-pastry serving, with 10 grams of fat and 40 grams of sugar. Stick to simple whole-grain toast with all-natural peanut butter, homemade oatmeal or scrambled eggs with lots of veggies.
Healthy, But Calorie-Dense Foods
Some foods are healthy in moderation but have way more calories than you expect -- and when you eat too much, they end up being some of the most fattening foods. For instance, nuts contain vitamins, minerals and healthy fats and can be part of a balanced diet. However, they contain 160 to 200 calories per ounce, so eating more can multiply your calorie intake. Fats used in cooking or as dressings can add up, too. For example, olive oil contains about 120 calories per tablespoon -- a belt-buster if you don't measure how much you drizzle in the pan before sauteing your meat or vegetables. Measure your portions carefully instead of eyeballing them to keep your calories in check.
- Health: 25 Fattening Foods You Should Never Eat
- Shape: The Most Deceiving Foods (They Have More Calories Than You Think!)
- New England Journal of Medicine: Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men
- Healthaliciousness.com: Top 10 Foods Highest in Fat
- Fitness Magazine: 10 Healthy (and 10 Terrible!) Vending Machine Snacks