While you’re probably already aware that any processed snack will not aid your weight loss journey like whole, nutrient-rich foods will, some pantry foods are worse than others. We checked in with registered dietitians, nutritionists, personal trainers and other health experts to learn more about one processed food that they adamantly stress avoiding for healthy weight loss, and why. Read on for tips, suggestions and insight from Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, senior dietitian at UCLA medical center and assistant professor at UCLA Fielding school of public health, Susan Kelly, RDN, registered dietitian and nutritionist at Pacific Analytics, and Michael Garrico, personal fitness trainer, nutritionist, and co-founder and marketing director at TotalShape.
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Tip #1— Skip Ultra-Processed, Oily Potato Chips
Mindless and excessive snacking is your “worst enemy,” Garrico says, especially if you are trying to reduce belly fat. While he acknowledges that potato chips can feel like the “best thing in the world when you are hungry but not hungry,” their cons far outweigh their only real pro, a delicious taste. “They are not bad because they have some fat content or have 19.8% sugar, but because they are burnt or fried,” he explains. It’s the process of making potato chips that makes them harmful to your belly fat, Garrico notes, as they are “mostly salt.” Salt makes your body retain water, making it seem bloated. Slowing down your metabolism with foods like these will not help you lose weight healthily, if at all, he warns.
Hunnes agrees, and adds that the “least healthy” type of carbohydrate can be found in potato chips, “ultra-processed carbohydrates.” While these are frequently found in “packaged foods such as pastries, Pop-Tarts” or even energy bars, she notes that they are almost always in “anything fried,” a category most potato chips fall into.
The reason these types of carbs are not great at any age, she warns, is because they provide “no nutritional benefit, and they are often devoid of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds. ” This is terrible for the metabolism, Hunnes stresses because it leads to “insulin spikes, increases in IGF-1, an inflammatory marker, and increases risk for chronic diseases and deposition (fat storage) of calories in the body.”
#2— Opt For These Snack Ideas Instead
If you love the crunch from potato chips and pairing them with a savory dip, Kelly recommends opting for carrots, celery or cucumbers dipped in hummus instead. “Raw veggies such as cucumber and carrot are best paired with hummus as they have very limited calories and superb taste,” she says. “I usually eat these when I’m super tired and have hummus stored in my fridge, so I don’t need to prepare anything and my fulfilling snack is ready within a few seconds,” she suggests.
Ultimately, Hunnes concludes that instead of potato chips or other processed snacks, we are “best off to eat the least processed carbohydrates possible.” This includes “whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, in their natural form, unprocessed.” These are not harmful for our metabolism, she adds, and are “anti-inflammatory, high in fiber, and help regulate weight.”