Identify Your Trigger Foods for Weight Loss Success

Are there foods that cause you to totally lose control?

That you eat way way too much of whenever you are in their presence?

These are your “trigger foods” and I’m willing to venture that they’re high calorie and highly tasty. (Not a fruit or vegetable in sight!)


Cheez-Its – Why Can’t I Stop Eating Them Once I Start?

Cheez-Its are one of mine.

Here’s how Trigger foods are defined on

“A trigger food is a specific food that sets off a course of overeating where control is lost.1,2 The most common trigger foods are calorie-dense, highly palatable foods that are often combinations of sugar and fat (e.g. ice cream, cookies) or fat and salt (e.g. nuts, potato chips, French fries).3 Research suggests that exposure to certain trigger food cues activates particular areas of the brain that are involved with the body’s reward system.4 Food triggers should not be confused with favorite foods (foods that are highly preferred), comfort foods (foods that are linked to a sense of home and contentment) or food cravings (an intense desire to eat a particular food). With a true food trigger it is the food, not an emotion or situation, that triggers the out-of-control eating. For example, open the bag of potato chips and overeating occurs, regardless of mood, time of day or place.

As the science of brain function in response to food cues is evolving, it is not yet known whether identifying trigger foods and avoiding them altogether over a certain period of time will lessen their effect.”

We all have trigger foods but they’re different for each of us. I’m currently reading, Weight Loss Boss: How to Finally Win at Losing–and Take Charge in an Out-of-Control Food World, by Weight Watchers CEO, David Kirchhoff, who does a great job explaining his experiences with his food triggers and how he’s working to take charge of them. His problem list includes hummus, pretzels, reduced-calorie ice cream treats and nuts.

My list of trigger foods looks like this:

Cheez-Its. I’d be embarrassed to see the quantity of these little cheesy crackers I’ve eaten laid before me! They have been a problem food for me since I was a teen. A serving is supposed to be 27 crackers or 1/2 a cup with a PointsPlus value of 4. Yeah, right! Once I start eating these, there’s no way I’d ever be satisfied with a serving. I eat them until the box is gone or my stomach aches. So, you’ll never ever find them in my house. I just can’t be trusted.

Pretzels, especially peanut butter filled pretzel nuggets. At first glance they seem like a healthier alternative to chips (but only if you can stop after a reasonable number).

Nuts. I love all kinds of nuts. I don’t think I have ever met a nut I didn’t like. They’re good for you if you can limit your intake to a reasonable amount. Something I am learning to do with practice.

Peanut M&Ms. I just am not be trusted within an arm’s reach of these candy-coated morsels.

Do you know what your food triggers are? It’s worth spending some time isolating them. And then establishing a plan for dealing with them. For most people that means avoiding them at all costs, especially if you are prone to compulsive eating, like I am.

Other strategies include never ever eating directly out of the container. Always portion out your serving and put the container away before beginning to eat.

I also avoid eating unless I’m seated at a table. And I try to eat without distraction. I gave up eating in front of the television and computer ages ago. It doesn’t work for me.

It’s also best to find replacements for your trigger foods that you can enjoy with more control. According to Kirchhoff, the best replacements should:

  • Take time to eat.
  • Satisfy your hunger for a while.
  • Have bulk/volume.

I found it interesting that many of his trigger food replacements are the same as mine and include:

  • Apples – sliced or chopped – you get a lot of satisfying chewing for about 100 calories.
  • Fat free plain Greek yogurt – low in calories and high in protein so it keeps you satisfied longer.
  • Salsa with veggies – the combinations are many. For me green beans and salsa was a go to snack in my early Weight Watchers days. (You can also make a little dip for your veggies by combining salsa and the fat free plain Greek yogurt.)
  • 94% fat free microwave popcorn – a lot of volume for minimal calories. I love that popcorn is considered a whole grain.
  • Baby carrots – another 0 PointsPlus choice that provides lots of chewing satisfaction.

So, what’s the bottom line for weight loss success when it comes to trigger foods?

Identify the foods that cause you to eat too much and AVOID them. Replace them with foods that are less likely to result in overeating – baby carrots instead of pretzels or 94% fat-free popcorn instead of nuts.

It feels so much better when you take charge of your food instead of it taking charge of you!


Weight Watchers
Weight Loss Boss: How to Finally Win at Losing–and Take Charge in an Out-of-Control Food World

Image Source: Wikipedia

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