Snacking has got to be one of life’s greatest (and guiltiest) pleasures. What’s better than giving into a craving and biting into one of your favorite foods when your stomach starts to rumble? Unfortunately, while our taste buds definitely benefit from indulging, our bodies typically don’t—but that doesn’t always have to be the case. If you’re choosing healthy options, you can snack to your heart’s content (or at least in moderation) without having to worry about putting on some extra pounds. What really matters is steering clear of processed foods that put you at risk of weight gain, disease, and a whole range of health complications.
To learn more about the worst processed foods that could stall your weight loss goals, we spoke to certified weight loss coach Joann Wen, founder of Spices & Greens. She against warning three in particular: chips, cookies, and ice cream. Luckily, she also shared some great, tasty alternatives. Find it all below!
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Few foods are as addicting and deviously delicious as the ever-infamous, salty, crunchy potato chip. Even if you swear you’re just going to have a handful as a treat, who can resist sitting down and chowing through a whole bag? Unfortunately (but unsurprisingly) Wen says this snack is as terrible for you as it is tasty. “Many chips are fried in unhealthy oils and coated with salt, making them very high in calories and unhealthy fats,” she warns. But it isn’t the fat content alone that makes them so unhealthy. The real problem comes into play when you consider the fact that chips “contain little to no fiber, which can help keep you feeling full and prevent overeating.” Without a good amount of fiber, you’ll be much more likely to eat more fattening foods later in the day, which will slow your weight loss progress.
If salty snacks like chips aren’t your weak spot, you might fall into the camp of those who can’t get enough sweet stuff—which is oftentimes just as bad for you, if not worse. Wen cites cookies as one of the worst culprits. “Cookies are often loaded with sugar and white flour, which can cause blood sugar spikes and lead to belly fat storage,” she says. And just as with potato chips (and most snacks out there) this sweet treat tends to be very low in fiber. So, just like a bag of chips probably won’t tide you over till dinner, a cookie won’t either. It’s likely you’ll either find another unhealthy snack to munch on, or stuff yourself when supper rolls around—both of which can be detrimental to your weight loss goals.
#3. Ice cream
Ah, ice cream! When it’s time for dessert, it can feel almost impossible to turn down this frozen treat. However, that’s exactly what Wen suggests you do if you’re watching your waistline. “Ice cream is high in calories and often contains large amounts of added sugar, which can lead to weight gain,” she warns, pointing out that “it often contains unhealthy fats as well.” And let’s be honest, most of us aren’t eating plain ice cream, but rather varieties filled with flavors and toppings that make matters even worse. “Many ice cream flavors are loaded with empty calories from syrups and other flavorings,” Wen notes. This means you’re much better off finding a healthier way to please your sweet tooth.
Okay, so staying away from junk food like the above-mentioned suspects is a bit of a no-brainer if you’re looking to slim down. But what’s left when you cut out all of the salty, sweet goodness that’s so bad for you? Luckily, Wen offers up several alternatives.
If you’re looking for a way to curb those creamy cravings you’re missing out on when you skip the ice cream, you can go with yogurt-based snacks instead. “Yogurt is high in protein and calcium, both of which have been shown to promote weight loss. Additionally, yogurt is a good source of probiotics, which have been linked to reduced belly fat,” she says.
Other healthy snacks include ones made with whole grains (these are high in fiber so you’ll stay fuller longer!) and fruit-based options, which offer a great amount of vitamins and minerals to aid weight loss. While we can’t promise anything that helps you lose weight will taste as good as a sugar-filled chocolate chip cookie, we can promise that opting for healthier choices will pay off in the long run, whether you’re looking to shed some pounds or just keep your overall health in check. As Wen concludes, “Your waistline will thank you!”