It seems that every time we try to lose weight or to maintain a healthy weight, the number of temptations around us increase. And at times we even make excuses such as: "It's totally fine to eat a dark chocolate candy bar every day – I heard dark chocolate is good for you." Read on for a list of the worst diet threats. These 12 diet wreckers are calorie-rich, nutrient-poor and often have a high glycemic index. In many cases, these foods are among the worst choices you could make if you're trying to lose weight or keep off the pounds lost.
1. Breakfast Cereals
It's estimated that cereal is eaten for breakfast in more than 90% of American households. And while whole grain, fiber-rich, low-sugar breakfast cereals are among the healthiest choices, not all breakfast cereals are created equal. Many may sound healthy but some breakfast cereals are more than 50% sugar by weight – that's more sugar than a glazed doughnut. For example, a 1-cup serving of Kellogg's Honey Smacks has 20g of sugar — that's the amount of sugar in 6 Oreo cookies! Even types of cereal that sound "healthy" (such as Raisin Bran, granola and muesli) are often loaded with sugar. If you feel that you must eat cereal, look for lower sugar, whole-grain cereals such as Ezekiel 4:9, Uncle Sam and Cascadian Farm Organic Purely O's.
2. Muffins (Including Blueberry and Bran!)
If you want to avoid a muffin top around your midsection, you may need to avoid muffins. Just one Dunkin' Donuts muffin will cost you 460 calories and 44 grams of sugar. That's more calories than a frosted donut or cinnamon raisin bagel with butter! What's even more concerning is that over the years, portion sizes of muffins have more than doubled from the proper two-ounce portion to a whopping five-ounces -- about the same weight as a small cell phone! If you must have muffins, try to make your own healthier muffins by keeping the muffins no larger than two ounces, and use oatmeal, flax seed, or whole-wheat flour and fresh or dried fruits and nuts.
3. Chips (Yes, Even the Veggie Ones!)
Chips are high in calories, and once you start chomping it's difficult to stop eating them. Just 15 Lay's Classic Potato Chips (what some might consider a measly portion) will set you back 160 calories and 10g of fat. When it comes to veggie chips, don't let the word veggie trick you. Most varieties are actually nutritionally equivalent to one serving of potato chips. And because veggie chips are primarily comprised of corn flour or potato flour, essential vitamins and minerals are lost during processing. If you MUST have something salty to crunch on, try whole-grain Crunchmaster Sea Salt Multi-Grain Crackers. They're gluten- and GMO-free and have 130 calories, 2g protein and 3g fiber per serving.
4. Store-Bought and Packaged Puddings
How could a calcium-rich dairy dessert that's sold in perfect portions destroy a diet? In a word: sugar. Many puddings are low in protein and are packed with too many empty calories -- in the form of sugar. For example, a 3.5-oz cup of Swiss Miss Creamy Vanilla Pudding contains 21 grams of sugar. That's equivalent to over 5 teaspoons of sugar. And a cup of Jell-O Chocolate pudding has the equivalent of 4 and half teaspoons of sugar. For a healthier way to satisfy your sweet tooth, try making your own pudding from scratch, and use healthy ingredients.
5. Soda (Including Diet Soda)
Sure, everyone knows sugary sodas are diet wreckers, but be sure to keep in mind that diet and calorie-free options may not be waistline-friendly either. A 20-oz soft drink is equivalent to eating your favorite candy bar -- packaged into one convenient bottle. Research shows that soda and other sugary drinks, promote weight gain and obesity and metabolic disorders. Diet soda may not be the answer either. While calorie-free, a study found that with each can of diet soda consumed per day, an individual's risk for being overweight increased by 41 percent.
6. French Fries
A large population-based study from Harvard School of Public Health tracked the diets of more than 120,000 men and women over 20 years, and found that those who reported eating the most French fries gained the most weight over the four-year study period. Those who reported eating French fries gained an average of 3.35 pounds over each four-year period. To make matters worse, portion sizes of fries have swelled over the past few decades, so that the average calories consumed when ordering fries is a lot more now than it used to be. The Centers for Disease Control has released figures that show the average restaurant meal is now four times larger than it was in the 1950s Today's medium size McDonald's French fries in the U.S.contains 380 calories and 19g fat.
7. Doughnuts (and Cronuts!)
Americans enjoy more than 10 billion doughnuts each year, and glazed doughnuts are the all-time favorite. Doughnuts (particularly cronuts) are the new cupcake. "Gourmet" doughnut shops offer flavors including peanut butter and jelly, salted caramel and coffee. And now cronuts (croissant doughnuts) are all the rage. Some bakers are even offering vegan and organic options. A Dunkin Donuts Glazed Jelly Donut will set you back 310 calories, 14g fat, 6g saturated fat and 14g sugar. A glazed cruller from Krispy Kreme contains about 220 calories, 12g fat and 15g sugar.
Americans are consuming more added sugar than ever before — some 355 calories a day or about 22 teaspoons of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories or 6 teaspoons of sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons for men. Whether you are using pure cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, or agave, sweeteners all have one thing in common: quick calories that have metabolic consequences. Research shows that added sugars have addictive qualities that impact hunger and satiety cues. What's more, 75 percent of packaged foods have been shown to have some type of added sugars. Make sure to always check the nutrition information on the foods you buy -- note the calories, fat and sugar content.
Related: 15 Reasons to Kick Sugar
9. Cookies (Even Gluten-Free and Vegan Ones!)
Americans eat 2 billion cookies a year. Cookies seem to be one of our favorite comfort foods. The problem is, similar to other baked goods that have the willpower-destroying combination of sugar and fat, eating one cookie will make you want another, and another. So, how bad are they? A single Pepperidge Farm Nantucket Dark Chocolate cookie has 140 calories, 6g fat and 2.5 teaspoons of sugar. And just three Oreo cookies contain about 135 calories, 5.5g fat and 2.8 teaspoons of sugar.
10. Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt
There's a reason we always see people eating ice-cream after a break-up in movies and on TV. Ice cream lights up the pleasure centers in our brain, making it hard to eat just a little. Just one small half-cup serving of Haagen Dazs Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream packs in 300 calories, 18g fat and 23g of sugar. Because you scoop from the pint, it's easy to have even more than the standard half-cup serving. Frozen yogurt is not necessarily a healthier choice, and depending on the variety and toppings, it can be quite caloric. To curb calories, go with a fruit-based dessert like a chocolate-dipped frozen banana, which nourishes your body with whole foods.
Related: 15 Frozen Treats Under 200 Calories
11. Milk Shakes
Who doesn't love a rich and creamy milkshake? Unfortunately, that 16-ounce McCafé Chocolate Shake (yes, the one made with reduced-fat ice cream!) will set you back 700 calories, 20g fat and a whopping 97g of sugar (that's more than 24 teaspoons of sugar). A medium chocolate malt shake from Dairy Queen will cost you 480 calories, 23g fat, and 101g of sugar. A 2013 study of 12 obese men given high-glycemic index shakes (read: high in fast-absorbing carbs) experienced low blood sugar, increased hunger and increased activity in the area of the brain that's associated with addictive behaviors. Liquids that are sugar-rich, like shakes, are among the worst for increasing hunger and cravings for more carbohydrate-rich foods.
12. Processed Meats
The worst for your diet: hot dogs, sausages and deli meats. High-fat processed meats like these contribute a lot of unhealthy saturated fat to your diet for the amount of protein they provide. Many of these products have as much fat as they do protein. For example, 3.5 ounces of pork sausage packs in 28g fat and 19g protein. Protein is a vital part of any diet, but you primarily want to eat lean protein sources not fat-rich ones. Try to keep your proteins lean by choosing fish and poultry products over processed meats. When buying beef, look for those labeled as "extra lean or cuts with "round" or "loin" in the name.
13. Milk Chocolate
While dark chocolate is antioxidant-rich and lower in added sugars than milk chocolate, all chocolate is calorie-dense and needs to be limited if you want to keep calories in check. Most chocolate is around 100 calories per ounce, so keeping your chocolate consumption to an ounce a day or less is advised if you're trying to lose weight. For example, a Hershey's milk chocolate bar contains 210 calories and 24g of sugar — that's 6 teaspoons of sugar! If you're looking for healthier chocolate treats, choose small one-ounce servings of dark chocolate. Because the flavor of dark chocolate is more intense, a smaller serving can be as satisfying as a larger serving of milk chocolate.