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Expert Q&A

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Can eating too much fruit keep me from losing weight?

Asked by Carla, INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana

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Can eating too much fruit keep me from losing weight? Am I consuming too much sugar?

I follow Weight Watchers, which emphasizes eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Despite eating healthfully and working out regularly, I've hit a big plateau. I eat about three to five servings of fruit a day as part of my midmorning snack, lunch and afternoon snack. I also eat lean protein, low-fat dairy, vegetables and whole grains daily.

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Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis Physician Nutrition Specialist

Expert answer

Hi Carla -- This is a terrific question that I hear quite often. The short answer is yes, but let me explain. Eating too much of anything will cause weight gain or prevent weight loss. Fruits and vegetables, which are higher in water and fiber and lower in calories than other foods, are less likely to cause weight gain or prevent weight loss, as you would have to eat much larger portions to consume too many calories. However, fruit has almost three times the calories per serving as nonstarchy vegetables, so it is easier to consume too many fruit calories, which can interfere with weight loss. I frequently see patients who think of fruit as a "free food" and are unknowingly consuming up to 250 extra calories a day, which could prevent them from losing one pound of fat every two weeks!

I would try limiting your fruit servings to a maximum of three per day to break through your weight loss plateau. Also, be sure that your serving sizes are correct, and that you are not eating even more than you realize. One serving of fruit is equal to approximately ½ cup, but serving sizes vary. See the USDA food pyramid chart for more information on serving sizes.

In addition, for weight loss, I would stick with fresh or frozen fruit only. Skip the dried fruit, fruit cups and fruit juice, all of which are higher in calories or lower in fiber and easier to over-consume. Regarding sugar, while the sugar in fruit, known as fructose, is healthier than refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup, it still contains the same number of calories per serving (4 calories per gram) so again, it cannot be consumed in unlimited quantities if you are watching your weight.

For more tips on breaking through weight loss plateaus, see my previous column on this topic.

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