At this point, we’re pretty aware of the foods that make us gain weight, right? Those foods that are high in ingredients that aren’t great for our bodies—like added sugars, oils, and high-fructose corn syrup. Foods that are high in sodium can cause our bodies to bloat, and drinking a lot of alcohol is also not doing our bodies any favors. However, there are some foods that are a lot sneakier when it comes to your weight gain because typically those are the foods you don’t expect to make you gain. What are they? The food that secretly makes you gain weight is food that is advertised as being “healthy” for you.
Sure, this category is kind of vague, but according to a few doctors and nutritionists we spoke to, the evidence is clear: Foods that are generally advertised as being “healthy” for someone can actually cause your body more harm than good. Why? We tend to eat more of it because we believe it to be “healthy”. When in reality, a lot of these foods still include added sugars, and don’t have as much nutritional benefit for our bodies as what is being advertised to us.
“The worst food for weight loss isn’t a specific food that can be generalized to everyone, but rather it will be a specific food for an individual,” says Dr. Kim Periano, DACM, LAc, CNC and founder of Your True Body. “This food will have a few key characteristics: It [will be] difficult to gauge the quantity you eat, it seems like it’s healthy, and it’s easy for you to accidentally overeat it. Things can get tricky when we find a food we love and associate with being healthy and therefore we accidentally or are unaware of how much we consume.”
We decided to round up a few examples of those “healthy” foods that make you gain weight so you can get an idea of how they aren’t helpful for you, and for more healthy tips, be sure to check out our list of 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
Yogurt seems like it should be a healthy food, right? Yogurt by itself is quite healthy for you and can offer your body a whirlwind of nutritional benefits. But not all yogurt is considered healthy.
“Most people choose yogurt flavors that replicate desserts, (think strawberry cheesecake, Boston cream pie) or have granola or candy toppings, or fruit jelly, to mix into the yogurt. They feel they are making a healthier choice, as they are staying away from that slice of cake or pie,” says Jenny Fontana, nutritional therapist, and teacher in the Professional Nutritional Recovery Coach Certification and Training Program.
“The problem is that there are often large amounts of sugar in many of these yogurts and/or mix-ins that add only empty calories and offer you no real nutrition. You may also be choosing yogurt with aspartame or sucralose. Both ingredients are artificial sweeteners and even more detrimental to your diet, as they have been shown to increase carb cravings, and are considered neurotoxins,” she says.
Instead, focus on these 9 Best Low-Sugar Yogurts, Approved by Nutritionists.
Juice from fruit should be a healthy thing to consume, right? Especially since fruit is loaded with all kinds of nutrients that your body needs—like antioxidants and fiber. But unfortunately, those bottled fruit juices on the shelves don’t have as many of the nutritional benefits as you hoped, and are typically loaded with added sugars to make them sweeter.
“It’s a lot easier to drink a lot of calories than it is to eat a lot of calories, which is why juice may be getting in the way of your weight loss goals,” says Aja Gyimah, MHSc and founding RD for kuudose. “Switch out juice for a glass of water to create a calorie deficit and you may start to see the results you want!”
Next time you’re shopping for juice, here are The 7 Best ‘Healthy’ Juice Brands & Which To Avoid at All Costs.
“There’s so much information available on what dietary food can help people lose weight while the truth is, some of these weight-loss foods can actually make a person gain more weight than they would like,” says Jolene Caufield, senior advisor for Healthy Howard. “Granola is the perfect example of this—disguised as healthy food, granola is often laced with sugar additives that can lead to more sugar craving throughout the day. And remember sugar is the first thing to blame for weight gain.”
Skip the bags of sugary granola at the store and make your own at home! This can significantly cut down the sugar, and you can mix in all your favorite nuts, seeds, and dried fruits that you like. Get started with our Cranberry Orange Granola, our Honey-Pecan-Cherry Granola, or even our Paleo Granola or Keto Granola!
Meal replacement bars
Don’t have time to cook a meal? It’s much easier to have something you can grab quick on-the-go, and there are numerous meal replacement bars and protein bars on grocery store shelves that can help you out with those moments. But if you’re not careful, you could be consuming more sugar than you want—even more than cooking a meal would give you.
“The issue regarding processed health foods and stalled weight loss is primarily found in those on a vegan or plant-based diet, or a healthy diet that relies on quick meals,” says Trista Best, MPH, LD, and RD for Balanced One Supplements. “When following these diet patterns it is tempting to turn to processed convenience foods that are free of animal products, but are unfortunately still high in fat and sugar which simultaneously increases the product’s calories.”
A diet soda sounds like it should be healthier than a regular soda, right? After all, it doesn’t have all that sugar. But in reality, diet soda still isn’t going to help you in terms of losing weight.
“Just because it’s labeled as ‘diet’ doesn’t mean it’s healthy. It doesn’t help anybody lose weight and just leads to more weight gain,” says Caufield. “Sodas, in general, are something that should never be in anyone’s diet due to the presence of so many chemicals and sugar. Diet sodas, on the other hand, are just the same except sugar alternatives are used to keep its flavor. Those sugar alternatives provide no nutritional value and can mess up the body’s system leading to greater food intake.”
There are just a few examples of how healthy food can make you gain weight, but if you’re looking for even more foods to avoid, here’s our list of 7 Common Diet Foods Making You Gain Weight.