Which Foods Are Fattening?


Harvard researchers recently stud- ied subjects who gained 3.3 pounds over 4 years and they found some similarities with regards to which foods cause weight gain. Foods items most closely associated with weight gain were:

• Potato chips (1.69 lbs)

• Potatoes (1.28 lbs)

• Sugar-sweetened beverages (1.00 lbs)

• Unprocessed red meats (0.95 lbs)

• Processed meats (0.93 lbs)

Other food items associated with weight gain included

• butter • refined grains • sugar-containing drinks • sweets and desserts


By contrast, each serving of

• nuts • whole grains • fruits • vegetables • yogurt

consumed were all associated with a modest reduction in body weight.

In addition to diet, the researchers found that several other lifestyle factors were also correlated with weight gain or loss. Not surprisingly those who reported more physical activity either lost weight or were less likely to gain (mean of -1.76lbs) while those who quit smoking were more likely to have gained weight (mean of 5.17lbs) over the ensuing 4 years.

Foods that are highly palatable and easily accessible are the most “fattening.” If you eat these occasionally you might be okay but if they are included in every meal your risk of weight gain with age increases.

The cartoon above shows the difference between fast foods and whole foods.

By keeping the right foods on hand in your refrigerator you can grab and go with fruits and veggies, whole grains and yogurt. The new USDA MyPlate icon emphasizes that you should make every meal half fruits and vegetables.

NOTE ABOUT POTATOES: boiled and baked potatoes that are topped with healthy, low-fat ingredients have been shown to be the highest satiety foods. More research is needed to find out just what the subjects were putting on their potatoes to cause weight gain! Most processed potato foods in the marketplace contain quite a bit of added fat (butter, sour cream, frying oil).

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