Avoid the obvious problems
Sharomka/ShutterstockEveryone knows that if you're a drive-through regular and routinely polish off pints of ice cream you're going to gain weight, but that's not you. In fact, you rarely eat fried foods, and when you do eat dessert you limit yourself to a sensible portion. So why are your pants suddenly getting tighter?
The reasons why the pounds are piling on aren't always quite as obvious as you might expect them to be. Here are 50 sneaky things you might not have considered that could be making you gain weight.
Whole grains cover your whole plate
narunza/ShutterstockSure, they're healthy—especially compared to refined grains. But you can have way too much of a good thing. "The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend you make half your grains whole, so ingredients such as whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and quinoa can all be part of meeting these recommendations. But these whole grains also contain a hefty number of calories if you eat too much," says Toby Amidor, RDN, author of The Easy 5-Ingredient Healthy Cookbook. Two cups of cooked whole-wheat pasta, for instance, adds up to 400 calories. Try to limit yourself to a 1-cup serving (same goes for brown rice, quinoa, farro, and barley) and round out your meal with plenty of veggies and some lean protein. By the way, here are 50 things doctors wish you knew about losing weight.
You're obsessed with avocado toast
Christina Grace/ShutterstockAgain, it's about the quantity, and it's easy to overdo it. "Avocados contain a healthy dose of nutrients and heart-healthy unsaturated fat, but eating an entire avocado or using half an avocado daily for your avo toast can rack up hundreds of calories rather quickly," says Amidor. "An entire avocado contains 322 calories and close to 30 grams of fat—that's 45 percent of the daily recommended amount of total fat!" About a fifth of an avocado is the right amount for a healthy snack.
You trust in the broken cookie rule
srattha nualsate/ShutterstockWouldn't it be nice if those cookie crumbs at the bottom of the bag and the fries you swiped from a friend's plate didn't contribute to your calorie count for the day? Sadly, those nibbles add up. "It's easy to get 100 calories—or more!—from little bites each day, which could cause you to gain roughly a pound a month without realizing where the extra calories are coming from," says Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, co-founder of NutritionTwins.com. Try keeping a food diary for a few days and write down everything you put in your mouth; the tally might surprise you.
You tell your waiter to "go light" on the butter
Gamzova Olga/ShutterstockYou get an "A" for effort, but "light" probably doesn't mean the same to you as it does to most professional chefs. If they're following instructions they will scale back a bit, but they're probably still going to slather on way more butter—or mayo or aioli or other high-calorie ingredients—than you would if you were preparing a meal at home, says Lakatos Shames. "Instead, request the condiments/sauces/butter/oil on the side and use them sparingly, if at all."
You eat straight from the bag
Bus Stocker/ShutterstockYou take just one small handful of chips... and then another, and maybe another. How much are you really eating in total? "It's easy to go back for more and assume you just had a serving," especially when eating out of a "family size" bag, says Lakatos Shames. (The bigger the bag, the more people tend to eat.) Next time, take a minute to grab a small bowl and measure out a reasonable portion first.
You go bananas for sweet smoothies
Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock"Juice-based drinks and smoothies often contribute a lot of calories," says Ginger Hultin, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "They can spike blood sugar quickly, which causes it to drop back down and makes you 'crash' once insulin responds. Once blood sugar is down again, the body starts craving more sugar—and that's what fruit juice and fruit smoothies are, really."
You like to unwind with an adult beverage
Arina P Habich/ShutterstockYou probably know that margaritas, daiquiris, and other calorie-laden mixed drinks can make you gain weight, "but even having low-calorie beer and wine can add up quickly and cause weight gain," says Hultin. "Some people have a hard time with weight loss if they're drinking much at all." Don't miss these surprising causes of weight gain that aren't food.
You're nuts for nuts
Atmospherics/ShutterstockNuts have a healthy reputation, which is mostly deserved. "They're packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, protein, and healthy fats," says Hultin. The catch is that the serving size is probably much smaller than you realize. "For example, 14 shelled walnut halves and 24 shelled almonds equal one serving," she notes. Be sure to count them out (or buy prepackaged 100 calorie packs) instead of eating by the handful.
You don't focus on your food
Andrey_Popov/ShutterstockWhether you're at a cocktail party, sitting in front of your computer, or binge-watching a show on Hulu, food isn't your focus—yet you're still eating. And eating. And eating. "When we're not being mindful or paying attention, it's easy to eat more than we want—or need—to be eating" and gain weight, says South Florida sports nutritionist Barbara Lewin, RDN. Try eating more slowly and mindfully and you'll naturally eat less.