Top 11 “Diet” Foods That Make You Fat Instead of Thin

Young Woman Pouring Milk Into a BowlNutrition is full of all sorts of lies, myths and misconceptions.

What people believe to be true is often the exact opposite of the truth.

Here are 11 “diet” foods that are actually making people fatter.

1. Breakfast Cereals

So-called “healthy” cereals are the worst foods you can possibly eat at the start of the day.

They are usually loaded with sugar and refined carbs, which are some of the most fattening ingredients in existence (1, 2).

Starting your day off with a processed cereal will spike your blood sugar and insulin levels. When your blood sugar crashes a few hours later, your body will call for another snack high in refined carbs (3).

This is the blood sugar roller coaster that is familiar to people on high-carb diets.

Seriously… READ the label. Most breakfast cereals, even those with health claims like “low-fat” or “whole grain” on the package, are usually loaded with sugar.

If you’re hungry in the morning, eat breakfast… but choose something unprocessed and that has protein in it (like eggs and veggies).

If you really must eat cereal for breakfast, find one that doesn’t include sugar or highly refined grains.

Bottom Line: Most commercial breakfast cereals are high in sugar and refined carbs, which are highly fattening and extremely unhealthy.

2. Agave Nectar

Honey

Agave nectar (or Agave syrup) is often marketed as a natural alternative to sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

The problem with Agave, is that it is not healthy at all. If anything, it is even worse than sugar.

One of the main reasons sugar is so unhealthy, is that it contains excessive amounts of the simple sugar fructose.

Whereas sugar contains 50% fructose, Agave contains as much as 70-90%!

Of course, small amounts of fructose from fruit are fine, but consuming excessive amounts from added sugars can have devastating effects on metabolic health (4).

High amounts of fructose can cause insulin resistance and chronically elevated levels of the fat storing hormone insulin (5, 6).

It can also cause high triglycerides, elevated blood sugars, harmful effects on your cholesterol, abdominal obesity and a ton of other metabolic problems (7).

If you think you’re doing your body a favor by replacing sugar with Agave, think again. You’re actually making things worse.

Instead, use a natural sweetener that is low in fructose.

Bottom Line: Agave is even higher in fructose than sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Excessive fructose consumption is strongly associated with obesity and all sorts of metabolic diseases.

3. Whole Wheat Bread

Whole wheat is often recommended as a healthy alternative to refined wheat.

Man With a Stack of Bread Slices

Well… it’s true. Whole wheat is, at the very least, “less bad” than refined wheat.

But one of the main problem with most whole grain foods, is that they aren’t made from actual whole grains. It is a marketing ploy.

Almost without exception, the grains have been pulverized into very fine flour that is just as easily digestible and spikes blood sugar just as fast as the refined grains.

In fact, whole wheat bread has a glycemic index (a measure of how quickly foods spike blood sugar) that is just as high as regular white bread (8).

Whole wheat bread might contain a little more fiber and some more nutrients, but there really isn’t much difference when it hits your system.

Plus, there really is NO nutrient in wheat (whole or refined) that you can’t get in even greater amounts from other foods.

There are some grains out there that seem to be healthy for people who can tolerate them, but wheat definitely does NOT belong in that category.

Many studies show that wheat (even “heart-healthy” whole wheat) can lead to health problems, especially in people who are sensitive to gluten (9, 10, 11).

Bottom Line: Whole wheat bread is usually not made with actual whole grains. It spikes blood sugar just as fast as white bread and can contribute to various health problems.

4. Granola

Granola Bars

If granola is made with real ingredients, it certainly can be healthy.

But it suffers from the same problem as most other “health foods.”

When the food manufacturers start mass producing them, they alter them in a way that they aren’t healthy anymore.

Granola contains some healthy ingredients like oats and nuts, but when you add sugar and oil to it and combine it in a package that encourages overconsumption, then it isn’t healthy anymore.

Bottom Line: Granola is often highly processed and contains added sugar and oil. It is very energy dense and easy to overconsume.

5. Low Fat Yogurt

Yogurt

Yogurt is often considered to be a healthy food… and it is.

But the problem is that most yogurt found in stores is low-fat yogurt… which is highly processed garbage.

When food manufacturers remove the fat from foods, they taste terrible. That’s why they add a whole bunch of other stuff to compensate for the lack of fat.

In the case of yogurt, they usually add sugar, high fructose corn syrup or some kind of artificial sweetener.

But new studies are showing that saturated fat is actually harmless… so low-fat yogurt has had the good stuff removed, only to be replaced with something that is much, much worse (12, 13).

There is also no evidence that dairy fat contributes to obesity. In fact, one study showed that people who ate the most high-fat dairy products were the least likely to become obese (14)!

So… eat real, full-fat yogurt, but avoid low-fat yogurt like the plague.

Bottom Line: Low-fat yogurt is yogurt that has had the good stuff (saturated fat) removed, only to be replaced with something much worse, like sugar.

6. Commercial Salad Dressings

Salad Dressing

Vegetables are very healthy. They’re loaded with nutrients, antioxidants, soluble fiber and various goodies.

For this reason, salads are usually very healthy meals.

However, a lot of people don’t like the bland taste of vegetables, so they add dressing to their salads.

The problem with most commercial dressings is that they’re made with nasty ingredients like soybean oil and high fructose corn syrup.

It is much better to make your own dressing. Something with extra virgin olive oil, vinegar and some spices is a much healthier option.

Obviously, salad dressings can also be very high in calories and it is easy to consume a lot of them, which can be a major problem.

Bottom Line: Most commercial salad dressings contain unhealthy ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and soybean oil. It is much better to make your own.

7. Fruit Juices

Young Woman Drinking Orange Juice

Fruit juice is often perceived as healthy… it comes from fruit, right?

Well, not always. Sometimes “fruit juice” is actually just fruit flavored sugar water.

There may not even be any actual fruit in there… it may just be water, sugar and some chemicals that taste like fruit.

But even IF you can get your hands on real, 100% fruit juice, you still shouldn’t be drinking it (or at least not much).

The problem with fruit juice, is that it’s like fruit except with all of the good stuff taken out.

Whole fruits do contain some sugar, but it is bound within the fibrous cell walls, which slows down the release of the sugar into the bloodstream.

But fruit juice is different… there’s no fiber, no chewing resistance and nothing to stop you from downing massive amounts of sugar in a matter of seconds. One cup of orange juice contains almost as much sugar as two whole oranges (15, 16).

The sugar content of fruit juice is actually very similar to sugar-sweetened beverages like Coca Cola.

So… eat whole fruit, but avoid fruit juice if you’re trying to lose weight.

Bottom Line: Fruit juice is high in sugar, but has no fiber. It is very easy to consume massive amounts of sugar from fruit juice.

8. Diet Soft Drinks

Soda Bottles

One of the easiest changes for many people to make, is to replace sugar-sweetened beverages with diet soda.

This is an effective way to reduce both sugar and calories in the diet.

However… the studies don’t support that this leads to actual weight loss. People who replace sugary soda with diet soda don’t end up weighing less (17).

The reason may be that artificial sweeteners can stimulate the appetite in some people. Even though the sweeteners themselves are calorie free, they may make you eat more of other foods (18, 19, 20).

That being said, a lot of people can lose weight drinking diet soda, but that’s probably because they’re changing a bunch of other things as well.

As with most things, this depends on the individual. On its own, just switching to diet soda is unlikely to help and may even make things worse for some people.

Bottom Line: Artificially sweetened beverages contain no sugar and no calories, but some studies show that they can stimulate the appetite.

9. “Organic” Processed Foods

Woman Eating a Cereal Bar

Organic whole foods are excellent, but processed organic foods are not.

When you look at the ingredients labels for many of these organic, “healthy” meal replacement bars, crackers, snacks, etc… then you see that they really aren’t that much different from other processed foods.

Sure, they might contain Organic Cane Sugar instead of regular sugar… but organic sugar is just as bad as regular sugar. Your liver won’t tell the difference.

So… eat whole, single ingredient foods (organic if you can afford it) but avoid organic processed foods.

Bottom Line: Even though organic whole foods are healthy, a lot of organic but processed foods are made with unhealthy ingredients like sugar.

10. Trail Mixes

Trail Mix

Trail mixes usually contain dried fruit, nuts or peanuts, sometimes along with some chocolate and grains.

This is a very energy dense snack. The dried fruit has a lot of concentrated sugar and the nuts are loaded with fat in a dense package.

For this reason, it is excellent when you need a lot of energy… such as when you’re hiking.

However, most people today are NOT suffering from a lack of energy.

Trail mixes are high-carb AND high-fat at the same time, which is a terrible combination if you are trying to lose weight.

Bottom Line: Trail mixes are very energy dense and are an excellent snack for people who need energy. However, they are high in both carbs and fat at the same time, which is a bad combination if weight loss is your goal.

11. Gluten Free Junk Foods

Muffin

Gluten free is very popular these days.

According to one 2013 survey, a third of Americans are actively trying to reduce the amount of gluten in their diets.

The food manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon and brought all sorts of gluten-free replacement products to the markets.

The problem is that they are usually just as bad as their gluten containing counterparts.

These foods are usually made with highly refined carbohydrates, sugar and various chemicals.

If you’re going to eliminate gluten, then choose foods that are naturally gluten free (like plants and animals)… NOT processed gluten-free foods.

Junk food with “gluten free” on the label is still junk food.

53 Comments

  1. Very, very true… healthy and clean food has nothing to do with processed foods. Thanks for the info.

  2. “Whole wheat is, at the very least, “less bad” than refined wheat.”

    That’s open to debate. Whole wheat contains most of the phytic acid in wheat. Phytic acid, or phytate, is an antinutrient that blocks the absorption of calcium, iron, and zinc.

  3. Even cereals like Uncle Sam, which is basically steamed whole-wheat berries flattened and toasted, with added whole flaxseed, always caused a pretty respectable hike in my blood sugar when I ate them (type 1 diabetic).

  4. Through my own research I agree with most of this apart from: ‘Trail mixes are high-carb AND high-fat at the same time, which is a terrible combination if you are trying to lose weight.’

    You’re sending out the message that high-fat is bad for you.

    Although eating dried fruit isn’t good for you I believe that having the fatty nuts actually makes it better by reducing the ratio of carbs to fat that enters your body and thus reducing the insulin spike.

    • High carb plus high fat means high total calories. It’s true that eating dietary fat doesn’t “make you fat” and has less blood sugar impact than high sugar, high GI foods, but that really only matters if you are eating an appropriate amount of calories for your level of activity.

      To a certain extent, not much else matters if you can’t get your total calorie intake down and your daily calorie burn up. 3000 calories/day of lean meat, organic vegetables, and unsalted tree nuts is still a lot of calories that many sedentary or overweight people just can’t afford if they want to drop pounds.

    • Gretchen Starke says:

      @ Rhiannon – I agree. And the fats in nuts are healthy fats that the body, and especially the brain, need for good functioning. We need to stop sending the message that fat is bad, regardless of where it comes from or its composition.

      Any nutritional article needs to be very careful on this point. Some fats are essential to good health, especially omega-3 fats.

      I am getting really tired of so many “health” and “good nutrition” books and articles that are still riding the “fat is bad” myth bandwagon. It has been thoroughly debunked and yet it still shows up everywhere, even on doctor TV shows and nutritional expert advice on TV talk shows and news magazines.

      • Gretchen Starke says:

        I just want to add, to Kris Gunnars, that on the whole I do think this is an excellent article, and 1000% better than at least one article I saw elsewhere today that still has my ire up. That one was completely about how bad fat is for you.

        So keep up the good work. Your points about whole wheat, especially are important and clearly you HAVE done the research and you are well-informed.

        I would add that a product may have just a tiny amount of whole grains in it, compared to the amount of highly refined, and still tout – “Whole Grain” and “heart healthy” on the label.

    • Emmanuel says:

      Can you please explain how dried fruit is bad for you? I take it you mean things like hazelnuts, almonds walnuts and so on, yeah? I’ve always read that they were a good source of fat and proteins, plus that they were loaded with vitamins and minerals. To be honest, the more I read the more I feel like going back to eating whatever junk I used to eat before I decided to keep a healthy diet.

      Reason being that every single change I have made to my diet is object of controversy. One simply does not know what to believe anymore… dried fruit, soybeans, dairy products, coconut and so on. This is actually very depressing.

  5. It’s such a shame that the food industry has so many ‘hood-winked’ over what people think of is so called ‘diet’ and ‘weight loss’ foods. You only have to check labels when it says ‘diet’ and ‘low fat’ foods – they really mean more sugar, feeling hungry and handing over your money to make bigger profits for the food companies.

    Just eat a balance of fresh foods and stay clear of processed.

    All the best, Jan.

  6. What would be helpful is for there to be replacements mentioned.

    It’s tough to change habits when you don’t know the options.

    Although I don’t eat any of the things mentioned… please tell me some healthy alternatives to say, whole wheat bread?

    • There are quite a few articles on healthy eating here: http://authoritynutrition.com/healthy-eating/

    • @Robyn. Alternatives to whole wheat bread are a little tricky. Step one could be gluten free bread, however it’s so pricey, about 5-6 dollars a loaf… Bread is high carb and highly processed.

      After my money is going to gluten free bread I had to be smarter… So now my carb staple is brown rice. I know you can’t spread peanut butter and jelly on it, however this two step way to a whole grain gluten free alternative takes some letting go.

    • @ Robyn Check out some of the low carb and paleo bloggers web sites. Many of them offer excellent substitutes. Most of them use almond flour or coconut flour. These provide nutritious low carb alternatives that are surprisingly delicious, so you can have your treat without spiking your blood sugar.

      Also there are good ebooks on Amazon, and I have been able to download many when they are offered for free. Check out my Pinterest board for some alternatives :)

  7. Ok so what the hell am I supposed to eat now? Literally leaves us with veggies and eggs… Yum.

    • @Benjamin. I know how you feel, veggies and eggs B-O-R-I-N-G!

      Thats where you’ve got to be creative with how you cook em… roasted beets in coconut oil and cauliflower is sweet from the beets and crunchy from the cauliflower. Buy some spices at the 99 cent store and the flavors are endless. Eggs… good protein. Learn how to make homemade hummus and you will be jazzed it’s so yummy!

    • Meat, Fish, Chicken, Eggs, Organ meats, Vegetables (including potatoes, onions, garlic), Fermented foods, Rice, Natural Dairy, Butter, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Nuts, Fruit (including berries), Salt/herbs/spices.

      You should be able to come up with something from these ingredients.

  8. I hate articles that just tell you not to eat stuff without properly explaining why, and don’t give alternatives.

    Last I heard, most nuts are pretty good for you. In the one article you extol the virtues of full-fat yoghurt, yet a few paragraphs later are treating nuts like the devil because they’re high-fat. This is why I am increasingly ignoring new nutritional advice. It’s incredibly contradictory.

    And please stop treating everyone who wants to eat healthy as if they’re trying to lose weight. So much of the advice in this article says “this is terrible if you want to lose weight”. What if I don’t want to lose weight? What if I just want to eat healthy? I’m going to keep on eating nuts and dried fruit, fruit juice without added sugar, and breakfast cereals with low amounts of sugar.

    • I’m pretty sure he said Trail Mixes are bad… not nuts alone.

      And he said the high fat is only bad when combined with high carb, which is what you get in most trail mixes.

    • I didn’t say that nuts are bad. In fact I think they are one of the healthiest foods you can eat.

      It all depends on the context. If you combine nuts (high fat) with dried fruit (high sugar), then put it into an energy dense package (trail mixes) that is very easy to overconsume, then that can become a problem (for some people).

      For people who are not weighing and measuring their food, it is very easy to eat massive amounts of calories from things like trail mixes.

    • Um, if you look at the headline this article is all about “diet” foods. If you are not dieting, please ignore the article. Thanks!

    • Leah, I think you need to work on your reading comprehension skills. Seriously, did you just skim for key words and then start mouthing off? All of the other comments on this article are interesting and helpful. If you can’t read an article thoroughly and then contribute to the conversation, go read the tabloids please.

  9. To Leah:

    Whole wheat bread with no sugar, HFCS, honey or other sweeteners etc. is hard to find, but tastes like ‘real’ old-fashioned bread and if you don’t want to exclude bread entirely, is a possible replacement for most other breads (wholefoods does a “wheat bread” – few ingredients, tastes great); the other option for bread is make-your-own, or a local health food store.

    I personally have substituted bread with whole grain brown rice cakes (I prefer the slightly salted ones) and will put (full fat) organic cheese spread, organic cheese or avocado/ peanut butter etc. on them. I get the organic ones so they are GMO free. Or rye crackers – with pâté or another spread (hummus, mashed avocado etc.).

    For yoghurt, greek yoghurt is generally the best option for non-processed, doesn’t have 100 ingredients, and has no added sugar. Initially I preferred it with berries and/or a little honey (pure fructose, but mixed with ‘good’ fat and also has beneficial properties – still not too much though); now any other yogurt tastes so artificial and sweet.

    For cereal most organic or ‘unknown brand’ plain cereals – corn flakes, or rice crispie-types – have the least sugar, add some fresh berries, or a few raisins (sweet but better than processed sugar) if you want, especially to get used to the change in taste – it doesn’t take very long to change your taste buds though.

    I don’t know why they say no nuts – nuts with no other ingredients (or spices or natural salt added, cheaper to DIY your own flavour there) are one of the healthiest snacks. Good fat (no trans fats) is great for you; sugar is associated with so many illnesses and more research seems to be revealing how mixed up nutritional advice has been for 30 years, regarding fat.

    There are lots of websites with options for sugarless options, or no-sugar/ no-sweetener ‘diets’ – not weight loss ‘diets’.

    This article would be better with alternatives, but the web is full of info on it that’s easy to find.

  10. Trail mix is bad…? Naw. In small amounts, trail mix is a good snack. Everything else I agree on.

  11. Andrew MacDowell says:

    I wish people would read more carefully and not draw incorrect inferences. Kris doesn’t say that trail mixes are bad; he says that because they are concentrated fruit sugars and fat it is easy to eat too much and not realize it. I have found this to be true.

  12. Would you all please read the complete article before posting. He never said nuts are bad for you, Geez…!

  13. Calling food “garbage”. How classy.

  14. Wenchypoo says:

    This is exactly what slays me every time I walk into my health food store: organic pop-tarts, organic cereals, juices of every type and origin, wheat-wrapped fish sticks, soy EVERYTHING, and so-called “energy bars” that may as well be rectangular sugar blocks! This is not the food I get when I go – I pre-order my stuff from their vast online catalog, and pretty much walk out unnoticed (I pay for it, of course). The only occasional query I may get is from a curious cashier about an unfamiliar item.

    The sign outside the store says HEALTH food, so it must all be healthy, right? Oh contraire! That sign out front may as well say SUCKERS BEWARE. The word HEALTH may as well be an acronym for How Egalitarian Assholes Lurch Toward Hell – this is how they exchange their wealth for what they think is health.

    While perusing the store’s online catalog, I also see TONS of produce items labeled “organic”, when they really don’t even need to carry that item in organic form at all – yet people buy it, and wonder why they go broke trying to eat cleanly (or what they think is cleanly). Foods like broccoli, cauliflower, bananas, avocados, and others from the Clean 15 side of the pesticide foods list DO NOT need to be bought in organic form, yet people keep shelling out for them!

    I make pastured, grass-fed a priority, and then determine what I truly need to buy in organic form, and then go conventional for those items I can safely do so.

    Sadly, I’ve seen more and more women come into the store with scarves on their heads – obvious chemo patients JUST NOW trying to clean up their eating act. “Too late, Toots!” I want to say to them, because the cancer will be back – especially if they shop from the shelves.

  15. Jenna Cosentino says:

    I think all of the above are really yummy!!!

  16. I started a LCHF way of eating at the beginning of December. I don’t have any more blood sugar issues, my acne has cleared up, and I have lost that pesky last 10 lbs. almost effortlessly.

    All those positive changes in that short span of eating “real” food. “What is left to eat… Eggs and veggies” you say?

    Yes please, I actually crave eggs and veggies now instead of bread and sweets.

  17. I use Quinoa to replace my bread for breakfast. I go by the directions and use a 1/4 cup for a meal. It is very good with eggs and a fruit for breakfast.

  18. Great article. Can you define “highly refined carbohydrates” in the gluten free category?

    • Many of the processed gluten-free products are made with refined starches like corn starch, rice starch and tapioca starch. They are also often high in sugar.

      It’s best to choose whole, single ingredients foods that naturally gluten free.

  19. Glenda Kremer says:

    I am really sad about the Agave which I was told was healthy and I have a couple of bottles at home! Last couple days I have been putting less than a tablespoon with a tablespoon of Apple cider vinegar in a glass of water twice a day. So is that too much? Glenda.

    • If that is your only source of sugar, then it’s not that much and may not be a problem. But all of this depends on the individual, some people tolerate more sugar than others.

  20. Caren, I think what he was implying when talking about highly refined gluten free items were those with ingredients like corn starch, tapioca starch, white rice flour, and potato starch that are most commonly used as substitutes for wheat flour. These cause a higher insulin spike than gluten containing foods, believe it or not, and have very little nutrition or fiber.

    Obviously, if you have a gluten intolerance, you’ll at least be able to eat these foods without a reaction BUT you’ll not be doing your body any other favors.

  21. How do you feel about Greek yogurt?

  22. So are you saying that I should not be eating the orange juice that I freshly squeeze at home? I just started doing it and have only added 1/2 cup with my smoothie that does contain fruit and spinach or kale.

  23. Ms. Wendypoo, that’s a bit insensitive to those going through cancer and eat extremely clean. Keep your awful opinions to yourself that clearly make no sense.

    Claiming all cancer patients have cancer ONLY from processed foods? Get outta here. Absolutely NO evidence that this is the ONLY cause. Sorry, “Toots.” Next time do some research before posting an ignorant comment like that.

    • Andrew MacDowell says:

      Yes I felt that comment to be inaccurate and not a little heartless. There are many causes of cancer and my heart just goes out to those poor people and I wish them all the best: the last thing we should be doing is carping and nagging.

  24. Most of the above is my favorite. Btw, I’m very thin. 43kg. I don’t think it will make you fat because I want to be fat but can’t.

  25. So you’re unhealthy thin and you want to be unhealthy fat.

    Eat more every day and get to a normal healthy weight.

    Eat more again and you’ll become fat and unhealthy.

    Problem solved.

  26. That’s a great article. A bit heartless from you, ‘Wenchypoo’, but the article’s quite good.

  27. Love the post, and try to follow all of the things recommended.

    In light of a recent poorly-done study, a few people might come out saying that low-fat yogurt will decrease risk of diabetes, but it won’t be hard to show those same people why that study is pseudoscience.

    Thanks for the great blog post :)

  28. Hey Kris.

    I’ve tried eating very low carb before. 20 net carbs to be exact and I was way more depressed, tired and had multiple panic attacks. Once I added a lot more carbs in, I felt better immediately. My question is, how many should you eat if you’re trying to lose weight? I like whole fat stuff but eating around 120 carbs a day, I’m scared to eat too much fat.

  29. Hi Kris,

    About whole wheat vs refined wheat, I would say that whole wheat is worse. If you only look at the glycemia, yeah, they’re the same, but whole wheat has all the antinutrients that were removed in the refining process of refined wheat. No good…

    Anyway, gluten, wheat germ agglutinin, etc, all reasons to avoid it. If it was only because of its GI, well, it wouldn’t be that bad.

  30. Nothing is bad for you in moderation. Just move your butt out of the couch and start exercising. Just dieting and excluding some group of foods from your diet will not help you with your health in the long run.

  31. Mina Kostova says:

    In my country I tried sesame flour, it’s high fat but healthy fat, at least no simple carbs, I lost so much weight using pumpkin seed flour, flax seed flour and sesame flour. It’s not the same consistency as real flour but who cares! The important thing is, we get to be in great health and shape! The important thing is to cook everything at home.

    Don’t buy anything from outside. Don’t use ready sauces. Don’t use salad dressings, tons of hidden simple carbs combined with fat. I used to eat my salad without them. If I want sweet sour flavour, chop a bit of fresh pineapple in your salad. Add almonds. Almonds really boost metabolism.

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