Craving food is human. Our appetite keeps us alive.
But here’s an interesting fact: appetite is not always caused by hunger.
Of course, you already know this. After all, you’ve probably had the experience of being perfectly full yet still cramming down several pizza slices. A savory smell, a yummy-looking presentation, stress, exhaustion and a million other factors work on our appetites.
However, if you want to maintain a healthy weight, you should really only eat when you’re hungry.[i]
Unfortunately, controlling your appetite isn’t exactly an easy thing to do. Thankfully, there are some smart ways of eating that will help you keep your appetite and the amount of calories you consume in check.
Today, I’ll reveal 9 types of foods to avoid if you don’t want to pile on the pounds, and some alternatives that will keep you satiated and slim.
Refined grains are the most common source of carbohydrates and calories. The problem is that refined grains, such as white rice and white bread, are very poor sources of other nutrients.[ii]
And that’s not all . . .
Modern wheat contains gliadin, which is part of gluten. This substance makes it feel good to eat. It works your appetite and before you know it, you’ve eaten 400 calories more than your usual consumption.[iii]
Try brown rice, grain tortillas, and sprouted-grain bread, which are better alternatives because they contain fiber, protein, and other nutrients. Fiber keeps you full and satiated and your appetite in check[iv].
Though they may be convenient, frozen meals are loaded with sodium in order to increase their shelf life. Sodium causes water retention, which makes you feel bloated and uncomfortable and does not help with your weight loss goals.[v]
Frozen meals can also contain up to 1,000 calories per box, making each bite loaded with calories. Additionally, the small portions provided in each box are usually not enough to satisfy your hunger pangs, making the entire meal unsatisfactory in spite of their high calorie content. You would be better off eating larger portions of food that have fewer calories.[vi]
Our nutritionist, Julie Haugen, MS, RDN recommends lower sodium options within the frozen meal aisle, also vegetarian or non-breaded fish or poultry meal options can be a good option for lower calorie or gliadin content. “There are healthier frozen meals available; you have to scout them out. Read labels and look for healthier choice stickers that your grocery store may put on the shelf”.
Some Snack Bars
Elaine Magee has an interesting observation on snack bars:[vii]
“After reading many a label on all sorts of bars, I came to one realization: When it comes to choosing your bars, it’s a matter of picking your poison. Taste, fat, fiber, protein, sugars — what means more to you?”
Snack bars are very convenient. Maybe there’s just no time to eat a full breakfast. Or you’re hungry while struck in traffic. Snack bars to the rescue.
No wonder “bar foods” is one of the fastest growing food categories in the last decade. Snack bars come in many names:
Hemi Weingarten of fooducate.com[viii] has a few helpful tips in choosing the right kind of bars:
- Choose bars with a short ingredient list. Stay away from products with 40 or more ingredients.
- Check the product’s sugar content. While added sugar can’t be avoided when buying manufactured snack bars, do keep note of their sugar content.
- Choose bars made from nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
- Low-Fat/Fat-Free/Reduced-Fat Food Items
The problem with these low-fat, fat-free, and reduced-fat food items is that they give you a false sense of security. You think you can eat more since its fat free.
This is doubly dangerous. Fat-free doesn’t mean low-calorie. Get this; removing fat in food also takes away the taste. And to make up for this, food manufacturers add more sugar, salt, flour, and other thickeners to make them taste more palatable.[ix]
You actually end up eating more and taking in more calories.
Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. They’re naturally low in fat and calories. And they’re rich in fiber and nutrients.
Fruits are healthy. Fruit juices aren’t.
Dr. Joseph Mercola refers to fruit juice as “soda’s evil twin”.[x] Here are his reasons:
- Most fruit juices in the market contain very little real juice. They’re sugar water.
- They contain as much sugar as soda and make you fat just the same.
If you can’t stick with plain water, try these alternatives from The Mindful Foodie instead[xi]:
- Homebrewed iced tea. It’s delicious and easy to prepare. Add fresh mint to make it extra special.
- Fruit water. Add some fruit slices to water. Citrus fruits are highly recommended.
- Coconut water. They’re also excellent replacements for sports drinks. Just make sure you buy 100% coconut water.
- Fruit juice spritzer. Just dilute 100% juice to 3 to 4 parts water.
- Green juice. Adding apple, lemon, ginger, and fresh turmeric to your vegetable juice makes it tasty and nutritious too.
Sodas and Artificially-Flavored Drinks
You probably don’t need convincing that soda is bad for you. Instead of soda, try the alternatives to fruit juice mentioned above.
Author Dawn Jackson Blatner has this to say about cereals:
“Some cereals are as healthy as salad, others are like scarfing down a chocolate éclair.”
Here are some tips to weed out the bad cereals:xiii
- Check the ingredients list. The brand may contain whole grains and fiber but keep your eyes peeled for the amount of added sugar. Eight grams of sugar per serving should be the maximum.
- The magic words to look for in the label are “Made from 100% whole grain.”
- Bran is good too even if it’s not whole grain.
- Watch out for “fake fiber”. Isolated fibers from chicory root, soy, and psyllium don’t work as well as “real fiber” or those naturally found in whole grain.
- Make sure you get at least 3 to 5 grams of fiber per serving from your cereal.
- Check out its salt content.
Why do fried foods taste so darn good?
The simple answer, according to Sharon LaFleur, is fat.[xii] For decades we’ve been systematically removing fat from our diet in an attempt to fight obesity. However, countless studies have shown that fat is not the culprit.
Fat is an excellent source of energy and our body knows it. Frying, per se, isn’t bad. [xiii] It’s what’s being fried.
“I think instinctively people go for fried food so they can get the fat they need, unfortunately, they also get a boat load of carbs that they don’t,” Sharon LaFleur comments on Quora.
Le Cordon Blue recommends 6 alternatives to frying:[xiv]
- Pan searing
Cream-Based Salad Dressings
Quick, which one is healthier, burger or salad? No brainer right? It’s obviously salad.
Not so fast.
The salad itself is obviously healthy. But that’s not always the case with dressings. Some dressings you can buy from the supermarket can pack a whopping 200 calories per serving.
To make matters worse, we don’t really pay attention to serving sizes when it comes to dressings. This makes it too easy to take in too many calories while thinking you’re eating healthy because, well, it’s salad.[xv]
Dressings with short ingredient lists are the best. Make sure you recognize those ingredients too. Use oil-based vinaigrette if possible.
Sweets are one of the most obvious things to keep away from when dieting. They are also the hardest avoid. The reason it’s so enticing to keep reaching for sweets is that they stimulate appetite, increasing your craving for sugar even more and completely sabotaging your diet. Sugar triggers the brain-reward system.
We’ve seen studies showing that sugar is more addictive than cocaine.
What You Can Do
We’ve listed 7 effective ways to combat sugar addiction in a previous article. It’s a short read.
The foods above make it too easy to take in more calories (and get fat). Avoid them and try the smart alternatives instead.
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[i] Eating When You’re Hungry versus Eating on Schedule, Jane Kirby, Dieting for Dummies, Retrieved May 11, 2015.
[v] 8 Things You Should Never Eat if You’re Trying to Lose Weight, Elizabeth Narins, Cosmopolitan, Published March 12, 2015, Retrieved May 10, 2015.
[xi] 6 Healthy alternatives to fruit juice – even the 100% kind, Lesh Karan, The Mindful Foodie, Published February 7, 2013, Retrieved May 9, 2015.