5 Worst Beach-Body Foods

Summer is a challenging time for Kanye West, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry. I'm not talking about the pop charts; they seem to have those well in hand. I'm talking about the paparazzi.

Celebrity photographers love nothing more than to catch a pop phenomenon emerging from the surf in St. Barts looking a little flabby, so they can sell their "Shocking Weight Gain!" headlines at the drugstore checkout. Is it unfair? You bet. Are you and I going to stare at the pictures anyways? Oh, yeah.

We like seeing celebs look less than perfect because, come swimsuit season, we all feel like we're being gawked at; and whether those photos wind up in the tabloids or on our mom's Facebook page, we all want to look our best. So what can you do when the cover-ups are about to come off and the cameras about to turn on?

It's simple: Avoid self-sabotage by letting Eat This, Not That! 2011 guide you through the foods and drinks that can cause bloating, water retention, and short-term weight gain—snacks that can make you look flabbier than you really are.

Below, I've listed the very worst beach-body foods and beverages, and some smart alternatives that will help you make this summer your leanest, fittest, healthiest ever! (Note to Lady Gaga: These are foods that you eat. Not foods that you wear. Just FYI.) 

 #5: WORST DRINK
Diet Coke (12 fl. oz. bottle) and other diet sodas
0 calories
0 g fat
0 g sugar

No calories, no fat, and no sugar—so what's the harm? For starters, the carbon dioxide that supplies soda's fizz will continue to burble and expand in your stomach, priming you for serious bloat. That's the short-term effect. The long-term could be even worse: The artificial sweeteners in diet soda might actually inhibit weight loss. Studies have shown that rats consuming artificial sweeteners consume more calories at subsequent meals. It's as if the promise of calories, without the payoff, causes the body to crave food. Below is a better beach-day beverage: Hint Water. By drinking water, you keep your body flushed out and your skin looking healthy, and since Hint uses natural flavors, you earn all the boons of hydration without suffering the downsides of sugar and artificial sweeteners.

Drink This Instead!
Hint Cucumber Water (16 fl. oz.)
0 calories
0 g fat
0 g sugar

DROP 15 POUNDS FOR SUMMER: You can lose a couple of inches fast--and without dieting. Follow me on Twitter right here for daily weight-loss secrets. And win a chance to show off your new body and tell your success story in Men's Health or Women’s Health by joining our Fit For Life Summer Challenge!

#4: WORST SNACK
Broccoli with ranch dressing  (1 cup broccoli and 2 Tbsp dressing)
170 calories
14.5 g fat (2 g saturated)
370 mg sodium

Broccoli, like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage, falls into a class of produce known as cruciferous vegetables. These vegetables are among the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, and as such, they should be consumed as often as possible. That said, you might want to hold off your day's broccoli until you're off the beach. Cruciferous vegetables contain a sugar called raffinose—the same sugar that gives beans their heavy-winded reputation. In your gut, raffinose is fermented by gas-producing bacteria, which can make you feel bloated and gassy. That's not necessarily unhealthy, but it might lead to some awkward beach photos. Instead, if you're picking beach-bound snacks, pair high-fiber tortilla chips with low-calorie salsa. And be sure to avoid the dietary disasters on this list: The Worst Chips and Dips in America. 

Eat This Instead!
Food Should Taste Good Jalepeno chips with salsa (1 oz. chips/2 T. salsa)
150 calories
6 g fat (0.5 g saturated)
340 mg sodium

#3: WORST DESSERT
Russell Stover’s Sugar Free Toffee Squares (1.6 oz.)
210 calories
16 g fat (9 g saturated)
0 g sugar

Don't be duped into thinking that these candies are "healthy" just because they're sugar free. First, each serving has nearly half your day's saturated fat, and second, it contains 23 grams of sugar alcohol, a sweet carbohydrate that provides fewer calories per gram than actual sugar. These sweeteners aren't fully absorbed in the body, and as result, they simply ferment and emit gas. For some people, this causes severe discomfort and bloating. Stick with fruit and you'll avoid the problem entirely.

Eat This Instead!
Fruit Salad of Banana, Mango, and Papaya (1 cup)
78 calories
0 g fat
14 g sugar

Bonus tip: A day in the sun will probably leave you craving something sweet at night. Check out this indispensable Eat This, Not That! list of the 15 Best & Worst Desserts in America.

#2: WORST DINNER
Stouffer’s Skillets Easy Express Broccoli & Beef (1/2 package)
350 calories
6 g fat (2.5 g saturated)
1,660 mg sodium

Looking beyond the raffinose-riddled broccoli, this meal is stuck with an absurd amount of sodium. If you're hungry enough to work through an entire bag, you've just exceeded your day's allotment by nearly 50 percent. Why is that a problem? Because sodium is an electrolyte that tells your body to withhold water. That's not the same as being properly hydrated. See, sodium-induced water retention causes you to carry water weight, which makes you appear swollen and puffy. Unless you're going for a beached-whale look, seek low-sodium foods before hitting the waves.

Eat This Instead!
Birds Eye Viola! Shrimp Scampi (1.75 cups)
190 calories
2.5 g fat (1 g saturated)
540 mg sodium

HEALTH SHOCKER: Beware—Mr. Salty is running loose at your local supermarket and in your favorite restaurants! Click here to check out our shocking list of the 30 Saltiest Foods in America.

#1: WORST SMOOTHIE
Smoothie King The Hulk Strawberry (20 oz.)
1,035 calories
32 g fat (13 g saturated)
125 g sugar

Few foods are as disarming as smoothies. The liquid meals have a reputation for being healthy and low in calories, which seems like a perfect combination right before you bear all on the beach. But let this be your warning: Not all smoothies are created equal. This one from Smoothie King packs as much sugar as 91 Nilla Wafers and more fat than a McDonald's Big Mac. If you drink something like this with any regularity, you might unknowingly be sabotaging your beach body all summer long. Make the swap to Smoothie King's Strawberry Shredder just three times a week and you'll drop more than two pounds every month.

Eat This Instead!
Smoothie King Strawbery Shredder (20 oz.)
356 calories
1 g fat (0 g saturated)
41 g sugar

DID YOU KNOW? The average American consumes 450 liquid calories every day—that's a quarter of your daily allowance! And sugar-laden summer drinks are some of the worst offenders. See which summertime beverage is the worst offender in our must-see list of The 20 Worst Drinks in America!

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