5 'Harmless' Habits That Can Lead to Weight Gain

Written by Henrik Rothen

Jan.28 - 2024 10:44 AM CET

Photo: Shutterstock.com
Photo: Shutterstock.com
5 'Harmless' Habits That Can Lead to Weight Gain.

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Even the most seemingly innocuous habits can contribute to weight gain, as discovered by a recent study. Although it's common knowledge that indulging in a whole chocolate cake every evening isn't the healthiest choice for one's health and figure, there are several dietary habits people don't consider harmful.

Sweet breakfast

One such habit is having sweet breakfasts. Although cereal, sweet porridge, or croissants seem like classic breakfast options, they're not particularly healthy. A balanced and varied breakfast should include proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and fiber. Fast carbohydrates, which some cereals also contain, only provide a temporary feeling of fullness.

Nadezhda Podkorytova, Chief Physician of INVITRO-Ural, notes,

"I would classify cereals with additives and other semi-finished products for quick snacks as harmful breakfasts. Croissants and other pastries can be a part of breakfast but not the entire meal as they can cause bloating and a feeling of heaviness in the stomach if consumed in the morning. It's also important not to have just coffee for breakfast. Among beverages, tea and natural juices are preferable."

Elena Yanyushevskaya, an endocrinologist at the New Hospital in Yekaterinburg, warns about the hidden sugar in muesli, cereal, dairy pillows, and instant porridges. These often contain glazing, chocolate, and fruit fillings, reducing their health benefits. The more additives they have, the less beneficial they are.

"If you decide to have porridge for breakfast, add something protein-rich for balance, like a boiled egg or a piece of chicken. And choose the porridge wisely: for instance, it's better to avoid semolina altogether," Yanyushevskaya advises.

Not Just Breakfasts

We consume a lot of sugar – at least according to Rospatrebnadzor. The agency has calculated that Russians eat an average of 100 grams of sugar per day, while the World Health Organization recommends no more than 25 grams.

"It's extremely difficult to control sugar intake as it's present in almost all products," says Nadezhda Podkorytova. "Natural sugars are found in a large number of products – vegetables, fruits, dairy, legumes, and cereals. From these, the body gets glucose – a source of energy. Most products on store shelves contain added sugar."

Some foods contain almost the daily recommended amount of sugar.

"For example, yogurt is a healthy breakfast option, containing calcium, protein, and bacteria that improve digestion. However, in fruit yogurt, the benefits are minimized. One pot of fruit yogurt contains up to 16 grams of sugar, and in drinking yogurt – 25 grams," warns Yanyushevskaya. "And no one thinks about ketchup, mayonnaise, and ready-made sauces, which contain refined sugar, as well as molasses, glucose syrup, and artificial sweeteners."

Excessive sugar consumption can lead to weight gain, pancreatic diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, and impact the cardiovascular system.

Hidden Salt

Salt is another hidden culprit, similar to hidden sugar. According to Rospatrebnadzor, Russians consume 11 grams of salt per day. This is twice the norm for adults and almost five times for children.

"Hidden salt is present in almost all animal and plant-based food products: eggs, meat, and milk contain about 1 gram of salt per 100 grams. Bread contains between one and four grams of salt per 100 grams of product, cheese – from 0.2 to four grams," lists Nadezhda Podkorytova.

The first side effect after eating too much salty food is swelling. Excessive salt intake can negatively affect hair, nails, and skin quality, as well as lead to increased blood pressure, headaches, and kidney problems.

"It's important to remember that 80% of the salt we consume daily is 'hidden'. It's found in large quantities in ready-to-eat foods – sauces, marinades, semi-finished products, canned goods, and others," says Elena Yanyushevskaya.

To reduce salt intake, Yanyushevskaya advises removing the salt shaker from the table (often we salt food out of habit) and eliminating fast food from the diet (salty snacks and appetizers, of course, as well). When cooking, you can replace salt with spices, which make the food less bland but are not harmful to health. To quickly remove excess salt from the body, the doctor recommends eating more potassium-rich foods, such as spinach, potatoes, and bananas.

Fruit Snacks

Replacing unhealthy chocolate snacks with healthy fruit snacks is usually advised for those trying to lose weight. Overall, it sounds like a healthy habit – fruits contain vitamins and fiber, and they have fewer calories, which is important if you're concerned about that. But in reality, this habit is not so beneficial.

"Sweet fruits should be consumed in small quantities: fructose provides only temporary satiation, so its consumption often leads to overeating," says Nadezhda Podkorytova. "Some fruits on an empty stomach only increase appetite, not satisfy it, irritating the gastrointestinal mucosa – these are bananas, pomegranates, apples, tangerines, oranges, grapes, peaches. Most likely, after such a snack, a person will eat more than the norm. Therefore, it's better to eat a toast made of whole-grain bread with a piece of chicken and greens or some light cracker. Excessive fruit consumption can lead to gastrointestinal disorders and negatively affect the liver."


Many people enjoy cracking sunflower seeds, especially sunflower seeds: some like the taste, while for others, it's a habit – the process helps to calm and relax. Besides, seeds are much healthier than chips, right? But you can eat significantly more of them: you might not notice how an entire package disappears.

"In sunflower seeds, there are unsaturated acids, amino acids, as well as vitamin E and magnesium, which give the seeds several beneficial properties," says Elena Yanyushevskaya. "But a hundred grams of raw seeds contain 584 calories, and roasted – all 700. Therefore, seeds can be confidently classified as high-calorie foods."

According to the doctor, seeds are almost as caloric as sunflower oil, and excess calories (if they are indeed excess) pose a risk of overweight and all its unpleasant consequences. In addition, they stimulate appetite. And since we can't eat enough seeds to feel full, we'll have to eat something else. Of course, it won't be easy to gain so much excess weight on seeds alone that it becomes a health problem, but combined with other habits, they will play their role.

But it's worth noting again that sunflower seeds are undoubtedly a beneficial product, and their consumption in reasonable amounts will not only not harm the body but also bring significant benefits.

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