5 Food Groups to Avoid If You Want to Lose Weight

Cereal and orange juice breakfast

Looking to lose weight but feeling stuck? Exercise is a helpful component to shedding pounds, but the truth is that no amount of time at the gym or hitting the pavement can burn off an unhealthy diet. And even if you think you’re being careful about what you put into your body, there are a number of misconceptions about what is actually “healthy.”

Someone checking waistline

And aside from avoiding the obvious weight-loss saboteurs like soda and fast food, it’s possible that your body’s reaction to foods that one would think are healthy could be causing chronic inflammation in the body, thus inhibiting any progress.

Staying active is a critical component of any fitness program, but knowing what foods to avoid is the first step in your weight loss success story.

Sugar-containing foods

It goes without saying that when trying to lose weight, you should cut out sugar-filled candies, desserts, drinks, etc. But in addition to avoiding blatant sugar bombs, it’s also important to steer clear of hidden sugars. Sugar hides away in foods such as cereals, breads, and other grains; granola bars; juices; energy and sports drinks; meal replacement bars and powder; sweetened yogurt; baked goods; condiments and salad dressings; dried fruit; and more.

Not only will these sugar-laden foods slow your weight loss, they can lead to cravings, steal your energy and focus, damage your immunity, and even increase your risk of diabetes. To avoid consuming hidden sugars, be sure to read labels and learn all sugar’s stealthy pseudonyms, including fructose, glucose, brown rice syrup, corn syrup, maltodextrin, evaporated cane syrup, and a slew of other names.

Sugar cubes on a spoon

Ultra-processed foods

Ultra-processed foods are one of the major reasons we experience weight gain and are unable to lose that weight. With GMO ingredients, artificial sweeteners, processed soybean products, vegetable oils (like canola and sunflower), and inferior meats – processed foods pose serious health threats. These chemicals, antibiotics, and endocrine disruptors create hormonal imbalances that will counteract with any weight-loss efforts.

So switch out your packaged, canned, and boxed goods for fresh and organic fruits and vegetables in order to drop a few pounds — and maintain overall health.


According to Beyond Celiac, approximately 18 million Americans have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. That means that even if you test negative for celiac disease, gluten may still create a negative, inflammatory response in the body if you have a gluten sensitivity or intolerance. That sensitivity or intolerance can then prohibit weight loss and cause a number of other health concerns.

To test your sensitivity to common allergens, try an elimination diet. Eliminate gluten (and other suspicious foods) for three weeks. Then, reintroduce the foods one at a time, eating them daily for about 1–2 weeks and recording your symptoms. Avoiding gluten can be tricky because it hides in foods just like sugar, but when it comes to baked goods, there are plenty of healthy gluten-free flour options, including almond, coconut, and chickpea flour.

Healthy homemade jar quinoa salad with sun-dried and cherry-tomatoes, avocado and fresh basil. Detox, dieting, vegetarian, vegan, clean eating food concept. White background, copy space, horizontal


Dairy — like gluten — is a common food allergen that causes inflammation. And, ultimately, inflammation is the root cause of most diseases, including weight gain and obesity. Additionally, if you are lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy, dairy can cause uncomfortable symptoms like bloating or digestive trouble.

Eliminating dairy from your diet can help you determine whether you have a sensitivity to cow’s milk. During the elimination phase, I recommend drinking coconut or almond milk and eating sheep or goat cheese. Though technically dairy, sheep and goat’s milk are typically free of the hormones, antibiotics, and heavy processing that cow’s milk is subjected to. Their biological makeup also makes them easier to digest for many people.

Another note about elimination diets: Eight foods account for roughly 90 percent of all food-allergy reactions—milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, gluten, soy, fish, and shellfish. So, if you’re trying out an elimination diet to reduce inflammation, heal your body, and shed pounds, you may need to cut out the other six foods along with gluten and dairy.

Low-fat foods

Fats have gotten a bad rap, but eating healthy fats from avocado, coconut products, butter, ghee, extra virgin olive oil, and other omega-3 fatty acid sources can actually help you lose weight. Research even proves that those on a high-fat diet burn more calories than those on a low-fat diet.

Photo of two avocado slices.

In fact, the ketogenic diet — a low-carb, high-fat diet — has been growing in popularity in recent years. The keto diet works because of its elimination of glucose, the fuel (sugar) that our bodies normally use for energy. But the human body cannot make glucose on its own, and we only have about 24 hours’ worth readily available in our muscle tissue and liver. So once glucose is no longer available from food, we begin to burn stored fat as energy instead.

So ditch the low-fat fad and choose healthy fats to feel full longer, burn more calories, and have increased energy. The keto diet aims for a ratio of around 40 percent fat, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent carbs, but these numbers will vary depending on your goals and current state of health.

By removing possible allergens from your diet, as well as sugar-laden and ultra-processed foods, and then eating more healthy fats, you’ll move that much closer to your weight-loss goals!


Dr. Josh Axe Josh is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist, and author. He specializes in how the right nutrition has a positive influence on people's health. View all posts by Dr. Josh Axe