What's Making Me Fat? A Look at the Hidden Culprit

What's Making Me Fat? A Look at the Hidden Culprit

Often, individuals search endlessly for the areas that sabotage their weight and blood sugar control. Sadly, finding the culprit is not always as easy as counting calories. There's a delicate balance of sugar, fat and carbohydrate intake that can all play a role in controlling those difficult numbers.

It's easy to identify foods like pastries, cookies and donuts as “bad foods," but there are other starches we often forget about, and these can contain compounds that add to the scale.


Let’s take tortillas as an example. Flour tortillas can be made out of whole wheat, corn, or plain flour. Each has about 80 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrate, 5 grams of fat and 2 grams of fiber, but for this particular food, sodium becomes the hidden weight gain culprit. A whole wheat or plain flour tortilla can have about 240 mg of sodium, while a corn tortilla has about 10 mg of sodium. By evening or the next morning, the consumption of a couple of tortillas (a total of 30 grams of carbohydrate and 160 calories) may not have caused a weight issue, but the 480 mg of sodium could cause you to pack on as much as 5 pounds of fluid, depending on your body's sensitivity to total sodium intake for the day.

Another prime example comes in the form of cereals - breakfast cereals, oatmeals and dry cereals all have greatly varying preparation methods and calorie and fat content, but cold cereals tend to have the most calories from sugar. The best bet here is to find a whole grain cereal like organic oats and touch it up with your own personal flavor profile, like cinnamon and a bit of fruit and/or yogurt. Those who rely on the instant products may find the sodium is much higher and the fiber is much lower in these products than in products that might take an extra 1-3 minutes of preparation.

Fiber is also critical when it comes to ridding your body of extra pounds and balancing your blood sugar levels. It literally carries extra fat and sugar out in the toilet. Some fiber does add to the carbohydrate content, but it accomplishes so many other positive health goals that outweight the small added carbohydrate. And, by the end of the day, it has attached itself to a lot of bad things in the gut and does a great job of getting rid of them.


Fat isn't always bad! But there are certain elements in food that can make you pack on the pounds that aren't always considered. Let's look at some common foods and delve a little deeper.

Dairy items are not often considered "bad," like those processed or packaged sweets often are, but I do recommend buying fat-free cow's milk, since regular versions contain saturated fat, which, when combined with lactose sugar, gives you a double-whammy of calories and carbohydrates.

That being said, watch for items that claim to be "fat-free." Many times, they have more carbohydrate and even more calories than a “lite” or “low-fat” version. On top of that, the flavor and texture may not be as good.

What about sweetened beverages? A great number of individuals are opting to get sweetened tea instead of regular sodas at meals. This tea usually contains high-fructose corn syrup, the same formulation used in sodas and sport drinks. High fructose corn syrup is a man-made sugar that tastes very sweet, but is metabolized and stored as a fat, regardless of how little you consume. Try brewed tea or water instead of opting for the other, high-sugar options. Add stevia as an all-natural sweetener.

Finally, calories often sneak into your diet in the form of meats. Meats can have many added calories if sauces are added to them during preparation. Remember to watch for sodium, too! Sodium from added broths and condiments can cause fluid weight to pack on.

The major takeaway is to eat natural, whole foods. Enjoy wholesome eating and add your vegetables and fruits every single day. Getting extra natural water in the diet with plenty of fiber is a prescription that helps most individuals maintain their healthiest weight.

Registered Dietitian, Licensed Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator

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