Is summer around the corner? Are you wanting to look good for a class/family reunion? If your body isn’t quite where you want it to be, it may be time to take a closer look at your diet.
Whatever is causing the love-hate relationship with your bikini or swim trunks, whether it’s a few extra pounds or too much bloating in the midsection, the truth is your diet is probably to blame. “You are what you eat” rings true—if you’re constantly eating fattening, non-nutritious foods, you won’t feel healthy or confident.
If you want to clean up your diet and see real results, here are 6 foods to steer clear of (most of the time):
1. Oil-fried foods
What do wings, doughnuts, fried chicken, and French fries have in common? (Other than tasting great?) They’re all deep-friend in oil. While this gives them their crispy texture, it also adds tons of calories and fat. That’s because up to 25% of the oil used in frying is absorbed by the food. Depending on the food, this can send the fat and calorie count skyrocketing. For example, a serving of boneless, skinless chicken breast is only 124 calories, but a battered and fried chicken breast is 294 calories—more than double!
If your goal is to trim fat and show off your muscle at the beach, skip the fried foods and opt for baked or grilled options instead. When eating out, avoid anything on the menu that says “extra crispy;” that’s code for deep-friend.
2. Processed junk foods
You know the ones—the chips, the cookies, the donuts. While these foods may taste good, they’re the perfect definition of “empty calories:” foods that offer no nutritional value, leaving you hungry and unsatisfied. It’s a vicious cycle.
This type of junk food is also high in refined sugar. Too much added sugar in the diet (more than 10% of total calories, according to new USDA guidelines) can lead to a host of health problems, including increased risk of heart disease, and eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.
If you’re feeling hungry, curb your cravings with swimsuit-friendly snacks like nuts, Greek yogurt, or fruit.
3. Sugary beverages and alcohol
Soda, lemonade, frozen coffees, and adult beverages are staples for the summer months, especially during warm weather get-togethers and weekend brunch on the patio (mimosas, anyone?). But these drinks are often loaded with sugar. To give you an idea, an iced caramel latte contains the same amount of sugar as three donuts—that’s nearly 9 teaspoons in one drink!
If you’re trying to fit into your swimsuit, sugary drinks won’t help. This liquid candy has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, as well as type 2 diabetes, in numerous studies.
In 2015, the USDA released new dietary guidelines that recommended limiting added sugar intake to less than 10% of total calories. For an 1,800 calories diet, that’s just 180 calories (or 45g sugar). Given that one regular can of soda is 39 g sugar, it’s easy to see how quickly sugary drinks can add up.
Out for drinks with friends? Steer clear of sugary liquids by choosing club soda mixers and water. If the thought of water is boring, ask the bartender to add lemon/lime wedges, some mint leaves and/or a splash of cranberry or grapefruit juice. Alternatively, allow yourself one cocktail of choice, then make the switch over to the club soda mixer.
4. Fatty cuts of meat
For you meat eaters–the hot dogs, burgers and brats most of us love to indulge on during summer barbecues are literally clogging the arteries with saturated fats, AGEs, and lots of calories—the last thing you want when you’re trying to get swimsuit ready.
Too much saturated fat can also limit your lifespan. Study after study has linked high consumption of red meats to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems. One study even found a correlation between processed red meats and death; just one extra serving of processed red meat a day increased risk of mortality by 20%.
While it’s fine to enjoy the occasional juicy burger, make sure your protein comes from lean sources like chicken breasts, fish, or even plant-based protein powders.
5. White flour
White flour tends to get a bad rap. To be honest, it deserves it. Not only does it lack any nutritional value, but it’s often very high in carbohydrates and sugar and low in protein—the perfect recipe for an insulin spike and sugar crash.
Pasta, bagels, pizza crust, pastries, cakes, and cookies are some of the worst offenders. They’re also loaded with calories, which isn’t synonymous with “beach body.”
Luckily, there are healthier alternatives that still taste delicious. Try pasta made from quinoa or lentils. Or, if you’re craving Italian, experiment with new healthier options like spaghetti squash. When eating bread, whole grain and multi-grain breads are much healthier than white-flour breads.
As much as we try to make pizza healthy by sprinkling a few vegetables over it, pizza isn’t doing your body any favors. Most store-bought or delivery pizza includes lots of cheese and meat on top of a thick, white bread dough. Basically, everything we just said was not supportive of your health. Not only that, but when it comes to portion control and pizza, it’s hard to stop at just one slice.
If you’re craving pizza but you don’t want to derail your quest for the perfect beach body, try making your pizza from home. You’ll likely use healthier ingredients and have better control over portions. For a truly healthy pizza, you can try making crust from cauliflower. When you do order pizza, opt for thin crust and veggie-based toppings.
If your summer body isn’t quite where you want it to be, don’t worry. It’s not too late! Avoiding these swimsuit-sabotaging foods will help you slim down. And if you do slip up and indulge, don’t beat yourself up. Just get right back on track and choose healthier foods next time.
Written By: Jill Overmyer
Fact Checked By: Scarlett Full, in-house Registered Dietitian