1. Flavored yogurt
The seemingly healthy snack often delivers a serious hit of sugar, sometimes making it no better for you than a handful of M&M’s. “Flavored yogurts, even the innocuous vanilla variety, can pack nearly 30 grams of sugar per 6 oz. serving. That’s more sugar than ice cream! Excess sugar can lead to weight gain so avoid the flavored varieties and stick with plain Greek yogurt,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD, Registered Dietitian and founder of F-Factor Nutrition, a private nutrition counseling practice in Manhattan. Mix in your own berries or a small spoonful of honey to add flavor to plain varieties.
2. Pancake syrup
Sundays are all about treating yourself—to an afternoon spent on the couch and maybe some well-deserved brunch. However, treating yourself too often tips the scale in the wrong direction. “Looking to add a touch of sweetness to your meal? Don’t reach for pancake syrup, which is simply nutrient-devoid high fructose corn syrup mixed with preservatives and artificial colors and flavors. This highly refined sweetener causes your body to further crave sweets and sugary foods. Plus it offers none of the micronutrients, antioxidants, or phytochemicals that less refined sweeteners offer like real maple syrup or honey,” says Zuckerbrot. Sorry Aunt Jemima.
3. White rice
Do yourself a favor and just buy brown. “White rice is stripped of filling fiber and healthy antioxidants, and much of the nutritional value. Most calories in white rice come from carbohydrates, resulting in the Asian-staple leaving you feeling hungry not long after you step away from the table. This is due to the spike in blood sugar levels and subsequent drop, which leaves you feeling tired, hungry, and wanting your next quick energy fix,” Says Zuckerbrot.
A small pour of granola can add up to big repercussions in your diet. “Touted as a ‘health food,’ granola is often laced with as many as five different varieties of sugar plus added fats. This caloric breakfast food provides instant energy but results in an energy crash later and primes you to crave sweets throughout the rest of the day,” says Zuckerbrot. For the sake of your waist, it’s best to avoid this crunchy cereal all together. Though if you really have a hankering for it, break out those measuring cups! You’ll quickly find that a true one-fourth cup serving really isn’t that much food for all the sugar and calories you get.
5. Coffee creamer
One cup, two cup, three cup…five! While it’s important to limit caffeine intake throughout the day, you’re doing even more damage to your body by adding in cream and sugar to every cup you make. “Having a little coffee with your milk and sugar? That caffeine fix can set you back hundreds of calories and contribute to pudge if you aren’t careful. Order black coffee. Habitual “coffee with milk and sugar” drinkers are often surprised at how bitter coffee truly tastes. Recognize that adding all those accompaniments to your morning brew is like telling yourself a fruit—flavored donut is like fresh fruit. Not the same,” says Zuckerbrot. It takes some getting used to, but cutting out (at least some of) the add-ins will push you closer to your fitness goals.
How often do you see anyone with washboard abs scarfing down bagels? Yeah, didn’t think so. “Bagels are not your friend if you are trying to shed fat. One bagel has the same amount of carbohydrates found in six slices of white bread! Consuming foods high in refined carbohydrates spike insulin levels, which lead to cravings for these unhealthy foods. Also, refined grains turn into sugar, which gets converted to fat and stored in the body, helping you gain fat rather than burn it!” says Zuckerbrot. Opt for complex carbs in the morning, like oatmeal, to fuel your day and your fat burn.