By Summer Banks on Oct 23, 2017

Diet foods are all healthy, right? Maybe not. We dig into 9 diet foods for weight loss that may be hurting your efforts more than helping.

The weight loss world is packed with mixed information about diet foods.

Quite often what people believe is the truth is quite the opposite in reality.

The following 9 diet foods for weight loss may not be all they are cracked up to be.

1. Granola

Granola can be healthy if it is made with real ingredients. [1]

However, it still suffers from the same problems as the majority of other so-called healthy diet foods.

Once food manufacturers began mass producing granola, they made changes that affected the healthy qualities.

granola for breakfast

Granola is frequently coated with high-fructose corn syrup, which may be the most-detrimental of all processed sugars, taking relatively healthy high-fiber oats and turning them into the nutritional equivalent of candy. When combined with the calorie-dense nature of granola, this food can quickly go from healthy to a major source of fat gain.

While granola does contain healthy ingredients such as oats and nuts, once you add sugar and oil to it and put it into packaging that encourages overeating, it is no longer the fitness and active lifestyle food it was intended to be.

Summary: All too often granola is highly processed and contains oil and added sugar. This can make it very high in calories.

2. Fruit Juices

We often perceive fruit juice as being a healthy drink. It comes from fruit, after all…or does it?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always come from real fruit. Sometimes what is called “fruit juice” is nothing more than just fruit-flavored sugar water. [2]

Even if you do manage to find real, 100-percent fruit juice, you shouldn’t drink it—at least not on a regular basis.

The problem with fruit juice is while it may be like fruit, it often has most of the good stuff removed. [3]

While fresh fruits do contain sugar, it is contained within the fibrous cell walls thus slowing the release of the sugar into the bloodstream. Fruit juices are almost completely stripped of fiber, and considerable amounts of sugar is often added to the final products that end up in the grocery store.

fruit juice for weight loss

Fruit juice is different from whole fruit. It doesn’t contain any fiber, chewing resistance, or anything to stop you from consuming a significant amount of sugar in a short amount of time.

Twenty ounces of processed orange juice can end up being almost as calorically-dense as a milkshake. In fact, a single cup of orange juice contains almost as much sugar as two whole oranges. [4] [5]

The sugar content in fruit juice is quite similar to what you find in sugary beverages like soda. [6]

If you’re trying to lose weight, eat whole fruit and avoid fruit juices. “Drink mostly water. For added benefit add a squeeze of lemon,” suggests Dr. Anthony Dugarte. Fresh lemon is highly-alkaline, and helps neutralize excessive acid within the body. Alkalizing your body has a host of health benefits, including but not limited to clearer skin, improved cognitive function, and fat loss.

Summary: Fruit juice is extremely high in sugar but lacks fiber. It is easy to consume significant amounts of sugar by drinking fruit juice making it one of those diet foods for weight loss that may not help with weight loss at all.

3. “Organic” Processed Foods

Organic whole foods are excellent sources of vitamins and nutrients, but the same cannot be said for processed organic foods. For example, “organic” gummy bears might be slight upgrade on their regular counterparts, but gummy bears don’t occur in nature the way grapes and spinach do. Just because a food is “organic” or made with organic ingredients does not necessarily mean it will be effective for fat or weight loss.

To verify this, all you need to do is look at the list of ingredients on the nutrition labels for these natural “healthy” meal replacement choices. There is little difference between the organic variety and other processed diet foods.

While they might contain organic cane sugar instead of regular sugar, the organic sugar is not nutritionally different than regular sugar. Your liver and other organs will not know the difference.

The best choice is single ingredient foods (organic if your budget allows it) but avoid organic processed diet foods.

Summary: Even though it’s healthy to eat organic whole diet foods for weight loss, organic processed diet foods are made with a variety of unhealthy ingredients such as sugar.

4. Low Fat Yogurt

Quite often yogurts are considered healthy diet foods for weight loss.

The problem is the majority of yogurt in grocery stores is low-fat yogurt which is technically just a processed variety that is not healthy.

Diet foods taste horrible when manufacturers remove the fat. This is the reason they add a ton of other stuff to compensate for the lack of fat and taste. [8]

It’s interesting that fat blockers like Alli offer dieters an answer to eating tasty foods with fat while lessening the amount of fat absorbed.

When it comes to yogurt they usually add sugar, high fructose corn syrup and some artificial sweetener.

New studies show that saturated fat is not the enemy. Therefore, manufacturers have removed the good ingredients and replaced them with something that could be worse. [9] [10]

There is also no evidence that shows dairy fat is a contributory factor in obesity.

One study found that individuals who ate the largest amount of high-fat dairy products were less likely to become obese or overweight than those who ate the low-fat options. [11]

What this means is you should eat full-fat yogurt and avoid the low-fat version altogether.

Summary: Low-fat yogurt is a variety from which manufacturers have removed the healthier ingredients (dairy fat) but replaced it with elements that are worse, such as sugar.

5. Whole Wheat Bread

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

It is true that whole wheat is not as bad for you as refined wheat.

wheat bread and weight loss

However, one of the biggest problems with the majority of whole grain diet foods for weight loss is they are not made from actual whole grains. This is just something marketers use to make sales. “Whole wheat bread” is very often just white bread with brown coloring.

In most cases, the grains have been crushed into a very fine flour that is just as easy to digest and causes increases in blood sugar just as fast as refined grains. [12]

In fact, the glycemic index (this measures how quickly certain foods cause increases in blood sugar) is just as high as white bread. [13]

Other than some additional fiber and nutrients, there is not much of a difference between eating whole wheat or white bread once it enters your system.

Also, there are no nutrients in wheat whether whole or refined that you cannot obtain from other food sources.

There are other grains that are healthy for those people who don’t have a sensitivity to them, but this does not include wheat. [14]

Healthier grains that do not produce an inflammatory effect in people include buckwheat, quinoa, and amaranth. These are sometimes referred to as “ancient grains”. They are extremely-rich in fiber and do not cause the rapid rise-and-fall in blood sugar that white bread and “whole wheat bread” cause.

According to many studies, wheat, including what we know as “heart-healthy” whole wheat, can cause a variety of problems, especially for those who have a gluten sensitivity. [15] [16] [17]

6. Breakfast Cereals

Those cereals that are called “healthy” cereals may be the diet foods for weight loss to skip when starting off your day. [18]

They contain added sugar and refined carbs, some of the most fattening ingredients in the world. [19] [20]

is cereal good for weight loss

When you begin your day eating processed cereal, your blood sugar and insulin level increases.

When your blood sugar dips a few hours later, your body will require another boost of refined carbs. [21] [22]

This blood sugar roller coaster is quite familiar to people who consume high-carb diets, the opposite of plans like Atkins 20.

The important thing is to read the label. The majority of breakfast cereals, even though they claim to be “low-fat” or “whole grain” usually contain added sugar. [23] [24]

Also be apprehensive about “healthy breakfast cereals”. Even cereals such as Raisin Bran, which have plenty of added fiber, still have an extremely-high glycemic load. While the glycemic index might not be as high as the multi-colored cereals, most breakfast cereals -even the “healthy” ones – are still packed with carbohydrates. It is very easy to eat 150-200 grams of carbohydrate in a single bowl of breakfast cereal, which can be a daily allotment (or more) depending on your health and physique goals.

When eating breakfast, choose something unprocessed, that includes protein such as eggs and vegetables. [25]

If you must eat cereal for your morning meal, choose one that is free of added sugar or refined grains. [26]

Summary: Some breakfast cereals contain an added sugar and refined carbs. These are not only fattening, but also unhealthy.

7. Trail Mixes

Trail mixes usually contain a variety of peanuts, dried fruit, nuts and sometimes chocolate and grains. [27]

This is an excellent choice when you require a big boost of energy. [28]

Trail mixes were intended for hikers or people who would be without access to food for days on end, and for people who would likely be expending significant amounts of energy. Trail mixes are for people who spend all day on their feet scaling a mountain or scouring a forest, not for someone with a 9-to-5 schedule in an office.

Under normal circumstances, the majority of people today are not suffering from a lack of energy. Many people can benefit from eating foods with greater nutritional density – natural foods full of vitamins and minerals – but most can benefit from choosing less calorie-dense foods. Trail Mixes, especially the kinds found in most grocery stores, are full of candies and dried fruits, which are obviously counter-productive for fat and weight loss.

Trail mixes contain a great deal of carbs and fat, an unhealthy combination when you are trying to lose weight. [29]

The dried fruit contains added sugar while the nuts contain a high amount of fat. Frequently combining dietary fat and sugar is a recipe for body fat gain, and over time can even lead to pre-diabetic conditions. It benefits anyone looking to lose fat or weight to separate carbohydrates and dietary fat as much as possible.

Trail mixes are healthy snacks as long as you limit the amount you eat at one time. Unfortunately, trail mixes are extremely easy to over-consume, as people rarely measure the amounts they eat. This makes trail mix – a food some suspect is healthy – a food that causes most people to gain weight.

healthy trail mix

Summary: Trail mixes contain a significant amount of energy and are excellent snack choices for those who need extra calories. However, they contain lots of carbs and fats that are not a healthy combination if you’re looking for diet foods for weight loss.

8. Salad Dressings

Vegetables are quite healthy. They are filled with various nutrients, soluble fiber, antioxidants and other goodies. [30] [31]

This means, in most cases, salads are perfect diet foods for weight loss.

However, many people don’t like the taste of vegetables without additional flavor, so they add salad dressing to improve the taste.

Commercial salad dressings contain unhealthy ingredients such as soybean oil and added sugars including high fructose corn syrup. [32] [33]

Salad dressings available in stores are often loaded with the worst kinds of fat along with added fillers, colors, and preservatives. Serving sizes are small, and people tend to drown their salads in these salad dressings as they try to undertake healthier eating habits. This turns a healthy meal into an unhealthy meal very quickly, and undermines the good intentions of a dieter.

The best choice is to make your own salad dressing. Make something with extra virgin olive oil, vinegar and then add some spices. The total ingredients should be a handful or less.

Homemade salad dressings with an oil-and-vinegar base are quite popular in the Mediterranean Diet, like the one supported by Modere M3 Body System. [34] [35] [36)

Salad dressings can be very high in calories, and it is very easy to overdo it. This can be a major problem for those trying to lose weight.

Summary: The majority of commercial salad dressing contain many unhealthy ingredients, like soybean oil and high fructose corn syrup. The best choice is to make your own.

9. Diet Foods and Diet Soft Drinks

One of the easiest changes many people can make is the replacement of sugary beverages with diet soda.

diet soda for weight loss

This is effective in the reduction and sugar and calories for those trying to lose weight.

However, studies don’t support the premise that drinking diet soda helps with weight loss.

Those who drink diet soda do not actually lose any more weight. [37]

This may happen because artificial sweeteners sometimes stimulate appetite. Aspartame, the common ingredient in artificial sweeteners, has been strongly correlated with weight gain and throwing hormones out of whack.

While the sweeteners added in place of sugars may be free of calories, the result could be eating more of other diet foods for weight loss. [38] [39]

Keep this in mind, many people can lose weight if they drink diet soda, but that is more than likely because they are also changing other things.

The thing to keep in mind here is this: it depends on the individual. Switching to diet soda without making other changes is not likely to make any difference and may even work negatively for some people.

Summary: Beverages that contain artificial sweeteners contain no sugar or calories. However, according to some studies, they can stimulate the appetite. You may also consider checking the label on drinks like Slimfast. The sugar content is often much higher than you think it is.

What’s the Bottom Line on Diet Foods for Weight Loss?

What are the important takeaways?

  • Always go to the ingredients list…if you can’t pronounce the first couple ingredients, this product is likely less “natural” than you think.
  • Also important to note serving sizes – you may be consuming much more than you think.

There are diet foods for weight loss out there offering a fantastic source of vitamins and nutrients. But, not every food you think is healthy is healthy. Diet foods for weight loss should be packed with nutritious calories, real whole grains and plenty of bang for their calorie buck. Be mindful and read labels.


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About the Author:

Summer Banks, Director of Content at Dietspotlight, has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with doctors specializing in weight loss and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University. full bio.