You’ve decided to get serious about your health. So, you swap out your junk food for healthy food alternatives and you GAIN WEIGHT?! You are confused. You have questions. And, you are seriously considering going back to your normal way of eating. After all, making changes to gain weight is not what you signed up for.
The big misconception is that eating healthy is enough to prevent weight gain – maybe even produce weight loss. In reality, there are tons of healthy foods that can make it hard to lose weight. Some are even the sneaky culprits responsible for unexplained weight gain.
One of the major points of confusion is that “healthy” is still a pretty relative term. Some foods that have preservatives and chemicals are considered healthy because of their vitamin content. On the other hand, some healthy foods that don’t have chemicals or preservatives contain lots of sugar, fat, or both.
The confusion around the difference between healthy foods and weight-management friendly foods can be frustrating. Some of us give up soda for fruit juice with just as much sugar. Others trade in a candy bar for an energy bar that has just as much sugar and even more fat. Still, others give up ice cream for frozen yogurt that has the same nutrient profile as ice cream. Until we truly understand what to look for in foods that can help us maintain our health and weight, we will continue to make changes that don’t make much of a difference at all.
The checklist you need to be sure that your meals are healthy and weight management friendly.
Here are the main reasons that healthy foods can still cause weight gain:
They are high in sugar
Sugar by any other name is still sugar. Whether we are consuming table sugar, honey, or organic brown rice syrup, the effect is the same. Over-consuming sugar makes it harder to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. High sugar intake also sets us up for increased appetite, cravings, and weight management struggles. So, in general, high-sugar foods should be consumed with caution if weight management is a concern. Some healthy foods that fall into this category are fruit juice, granola bars, and many kinds of cereal.
They are low in fiber
Foods that are high in fiber keep us fuller longer. When our diet consists of mostly lower fiber foods, we struggle to eat reasonable portions and experience sugar cravings as well. In short, while the actual food may be lower in calories, our lack of fullness leaves us seeking more food later. Rice cakes are an example of this type of health food.
They are low in protein
Even if you aren’t trying to build massive amounts of muscle, your body needs a reasonable amount of protein to sustain normal function. If you are reducing your intake to lose weight and/or exercising regularly, you need even more than what is required to sustain normal function. Just like fiber, protein helps to keep us fuller longer. Additionally, our bodies burn more calories when breaking down protein than they do to break down any other nutrient. So, getting sufficient protein actually helps us manage our weight in multiple ways.
For many women, getting enough protein can be a struggle. Including protein in each meal or snack makes it easier to meet those needs. When we lose out on the weight regulating benefits of protein, we make it harder to manage our weight over time. Typical healthy meals that fall into this category include a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast or soup and salad for lunch. Both are healthy meals that are low in protein.
The Bottom Line
So if healthy foods can make us gain weight, what should we eat to maintain our health and without growing our waistline? Eat the Figure Friendly way. Figure Friendly is what I call foods or meals that have a positive or neutral effect on your health and make it easy to manage your weight as well. An easy way to identify Figure Friendly foods is to look for items (or build meals) that are low in sugar, have moderate protein, moderate to high fiber, and minimal additives.
So now that you know the difference between healthy foods and Figure Friendly foods, you have the ammunition you need to purge your pantry and fridge. And, you have the right information to make choices that serve your health and waistline on your next grocery shopping trip.