If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you know just how challenging it is to take off a few pounds. So today let’s explore five things that can sabotage your weight loss goals:

1. Sugary Breakfast Cereals
Cold cereal is one of the most popular breakfast choices. But if you’re not careful about measuring out portions, it’s easy to eat too much. Many people unwittingly consume three to four servings at a time. This equates to 450-500 calories when you add milk. If you want to decrease your waistline, opt for hot cereals, such as oatmeal, cream of wheat, quinoa, or millet. These options are often higher in fiber and contain about half the calories as cold cereals. Also, make sure to eat protein with your hot cereal. Eggs, string cheese, Greek yogurt or nut butters are popular choices. Protein helps you feel full and may prevent the need to snack between meals.  Try these High Protein Breakfast Ideas:

MEAL ONE | High Protein Parfait
• 6 oz. low-fat yogurt, fruit flavored
• 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
• 1/4 cup low-fat granola
• 1 cup raspberries
• Alternate layers of yogurt, cottage cheese, fruit and granola in a cup.
• Sprinkle cinnamon on top for additional flavor

MEAL TWO | Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
• 1/2 cup dry old fashioned oatmeal, cooked in water
• 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree – stir into cooked oatmeal
• 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice – stir into cooked oatmeal
• 3/4 scoop vanilla whey protein – stir into cooked oatmeal
• 10-12 pecans – use as a topping for the oatmeal mixture

MEAL THREE | Coffee Smoothie
• 1 ripe banana
• 1 scoop chocolate or vanilla protein
• 1 cup room temperature coffee
• 1/2 cup milk or almond milk
• 3-4 ice cubes or frozen cauliflower florets
• Cocoa powder or cinnamon – sprinkle on top
• Blend well.

2. Calorie-laden Beverages
There’s an abundance of beverage options these days, including soda, sports drinks, specialty coffee drinks, energy drinks and alcoholic drinks. But many of these beverages contain a meal’s worth of calories in one drink. If you’re struggling to lose weight, try tracking – and limiting – your weekly beverage consumption.  For example: Removing three McDonald’s 12oz. McCafe Frappes per week has a huge impact.

Monthly Impact = 6,240 calories | 636 grams added sugar (~1.4 lbs.)
Yearly Impact = 81,120 calories | 8,268 grams added sugar (~18.3 lbs.)

3. Mindless Snacking
Many people have one or two hours during the day that can throw off their eating plan – often after work or during the evening. One solution is to focus on strategic snacking and have healthy, pre-planned snacks ready to go for times you struggle with food choices and/or portions. For instance, if you tend to snack on high-calorie foods (chips, cookies, crackers, etc.) while making dinner, consider having a strategic snack before you leave work. Additionally, revamping your pantry and having healthier snack options available may make it easier to stay on track.

HEALTHIER SNACKS OPTIONS:

• Vegetables (carrots, peppers, etc.)
• Fruit (apples, bananas, oranges, etc.
• Sprouted grain bread or wraps
• Mini bagels, whole grain
• Granola bars (<10 g sugar)
• Dried fruit (non-sugared)
• Rice cakes
• Whole grain crackers (Nut-Thins, etc.)
• Popcorn (SkinnyPop etc.)
• Fig bars
• Sweet Potatoes
• Guacamole
• Peanut butter, almond butter, etc.
• Train mix (dried fruit, nuts and seeds)
• Greek Yogurt
• Hard-boiled eggs
• Yogurt
• Milk or Kefir
• Cottage cheese
• String cheese
• Lean jerky (<3 g fat/serving)
• Meal bars
• Hummus
• Edamame

4. Weekend Struggles
Time and again people stick with their meal plan during the week, only to see their progress erased by a weekend full of unplanned treats. While it’s okay to have a fun meal or two on the weekend, sticking to a consistent meal and snack pattern may prevent you from completely falling off the wagon. If you find daily food tracking too tedious, try just tracking on the weekends. It can help you pinpoint where extra calories are coming from and encourage you to make better meal and snack choices. Remember to tracks your drinks, too!

5. Too Many Carbs
Low-carb diets (Keto, Atkins, etc.) are popular again. While these diets do work for weight loss, some find it difficult to maintain them long term. Rather than focusing on eating low carb all the time, you may have better results by matching your carbohydrate intake with your daily activity. Fewer carbohydrates are needed for lower activity days (less than 60 minutes of activity at a light to moderate intensity). Choose 1-3 servings of quality carbohydrates per meal on lower-activity days. Aim for 2-4 servings per meal on higher-activity days.

QUALITY CARBOHYDRATE SOURCES:

• Hot cereal (oatmeal, grits, etc.) | 1/2 cup cooked
• Millet, amaranth | 1/3 cup cooked
• Cereal, whole-grain (<7-9 g sugar per serving) | 3/4 cup
• English muffin, whole-grain | 1/2 muffin
• Whole grain granola | 1/4 cup
• Brown or wild rice, quinoa | 1/3 cup cooked
• Whole grain waffles/pancakes | 1 (4”)
• Whole wheat bread or rye bread | 1 slice
• Hamburger bun, whole wheat | 1/2 bun
• Fruit | 1 medium piece or 1 cup
• Potatoes  | 1/2 cup or 1/2 medium
• Squash | 1 cup
• Peas, corn, carrots | 1/2 cup
• Dinner roll, whole wheat | 1 small
• Corn or whole wheat tortillas | 1 (6”)
• Beans or lentils | 1/2 cup cooked
• Popcorn, air popped | 3 cups popped
• Whole grain crackers | ~5 crackers
• Casseroles(chili, stew, lasagna) | 1/2 cup
• Soup (rice or potato based) | 1/2 cup