According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a half-cup of granola has anywhere between 200 and 300 calories, 12 to 16 grams of sugar, 3 to 15 grams of fat (depending on low-fat options), and nearly 40 grams of carbs. Plus, granola is usually mixed with something, like yogurt or fruit, which only increases its caloric value. "Although you may think starting your day with a bowl of granola is the healthy thing to do, the calories can easily add up to over 600 calories, just at breakfast," says Toby Amidor, MS, RD nutrition expert and author of the Greek Yogurt Kitchen. If you love Greek yogurt for breakfast, try some of these more diet-friendly topping options, but make sure your bowl isn't too big—which is a breakfast mistake that could be packing on the pounds.
Frozen meals are super-convenient. They're cheap, easy to throw in your bag as you're running out the door, and take just three minutes to cook. While your 300-calorie Lean Cuisine may seem like a waist-friendly option, it's not. Most frozen meals are loaded with sodium—as much as you should eat over a full day, not just in one meal—and lots of other synthetic additives. Sodium packs on water weight, as the body needs to maintain a balance in the body, and when you're thirsty, you could reach for a sugary beverage, which adds hundreds of more calories. Salt also makes food taste better, prompting you to shovel more of it in your mouth. Another problem with frozen meals is they frequently lack sufficient fiber to keep you full, so you're likely to find yourself sneaking back into the kitchen shortly after you've eaten. If you must eat a frozen meal, consider adding a serving or two of frozen vegetables to boost the fiber and fullness quotient and dilute the sodium. These are 11 fruits and vegetables you're better off buying frozen.
Without alcohol, they're less fattening, right? Yes and no. It's true that alcohol adds calories, but so do the ingredients you're swapping in. Virgin margaritas, pina coladas, and daiquiris, are made with fruit juices and sometimes syrups, which have loads of calories and sugars. Instead, Amidor recommends sticking with alcohol—in 5 ounces of wine or a 12-ounce light beer. (Avoid a hangover with these tricks.)
Making a smoothie and ordering a smoothie at a shop are two very different things. When you make a smoothie yourself, you can measure the exact amount of fruit, swap water or almond milk for juice, and avoid any additional sweeteners. But many pre-made smoothies contain between 600 to 1,000 calories, on average, and are loaded with sugar. "An average height woman who is trying to lose weight is probably on a 1,200 to 1,400 calorie diet," Amidor says, "so consuming one smoothie with 1,000 calories can easily sabotage any weight loss efforts." Use these tricks to make healthy smoothies at home.
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Store-bought bran muffins
Bran muffins sound like a healthy breakfast option—with all that cholesterol-lowering oat bran, right? But the prepackaged ones found at the supermarket aren't nearly as fresh or healthy as they claim, and they're almost always oversized, packing in some 300 calories—about the same as a cream-filled doughnut! Many are also loaded with the saturated fats butter and oil, and contain upwards of 600 grams of sodium. Homemade is key when you're trying to lose weight, so why not try making your own? While baking definitely does take more time than going to the store, you'll reap the benefits of all your hard work spent in the kitchen. Looking for more breakfast inspiration? Here are the best and worst breakfasts to eat when trying to lose weight.
If food contains the word "veggie," it's not automatically healthy. Don't let marketing gimmicks fool you: The majority of foods are mislabeled and not as healthy as they claim to be, veggie chips included. You're a lot better off eating fresh vegetables than synthetic and processed versions. You can always try making your own veggie chips by slicing veggies like kale, carrots, zucchini, and squash, really thin, misting them with olive oil, and then baking them in the oven. Here are the ways your body is telling you to up your veggie intake.
Acai had a major health food moment, thanks to the incredibly delicious acai bowl, which is basically a super thick acai berry smoothie mixed with nuts, oatmeal, and fresh fruit. But not only does acai cost a lot more than other berries, it doesn't quite live up to all of its hype. "Acai has been touted for many benefits, including aiding in weight loss, but there is no evidence that this berry will have you shedding pounds," says Amidor. If you're looking for other options with similar antioxidant properties, these foods are super healthy and will give you glowing skin.
Aloe juice aka aloe water has been touted as the new coconut water. The bulk of aloe juice is made with aloe vera gel, water, or tea, and then sweeteners and natural flavors may be added. While aloe vera juice supposedly has health benefits, like weight loss and anti-aging properties, none of these claims have ever been scientifically proven. "Although aloe vera does contain high amounts of antioxidants, it has a slightly bitter, citrus-like flavor which is very difficult to drink on its own," says Amidor. "It also has diuretic properties, which if taken in large amounts, can lead to loss of potassium from your body, which is potentially dangerous."
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Popcorn is a whole grain, so it's not unreasonable to include it on your green-light food list. However, even "natural" and "light" microwave popcorn is loaded with artificial ingredients, plus sodium and butter—and a ton of calories. This doesn't mean you have to give up all popcorn though, as air-popped popcorn is a much better alternative. It only contains 30 calories per cup and you can customize it to your liking. Here's how to make the perfect homemade microwave popcorn.