Eating healthy can be tough, especially with all the available options in both super markets and restaurants alike. Some things common sense tell us to stay away from, even though fighting cravings can feel impossible. Other foods seem healthy, but are just junk food in disguise. Here are some of the foods you should be saying goodbye to, forever.
1. Processed Meats
Processed meat, like deli meat and cold-cuts, are jam packed with both sodium and preservatives. Even worse, they have been found to be high in nitrates that studies have shown are linked to stomach cancer. You would hope that having a sandwich at least provides you with a fair amount of protein, but the truth is these processed meats are full of fillers rather than actual meat. Try using fresh cooked steak or chicken in your sandwich instead.
Compared to natural butter or oil, margarine downfall is that it is full of trans-fat. This type of fat puts you are risk for diabetes and heart disease. It is the worst of all the fats, including saturated fat. You should also know that the Food and Drug Administration allows food companies to say their products are trans-fat free if they have less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. Don’t be fooled. ALL margarine has trans-fat, you may just be consuming it unknowingly.
3. Jarred Tomato Sauce / canned tomatoes
We don’t typically think of tomato sauce as something sweet, or canned veggies as sources of sugar either – but buying it is not the same as making it. Store bought tomato sauce has a lot of sugar, plus preservatives to extend shelf life. Worse than the hidden additives, are the resin linings used in tin cans. The resin linings have BPA, or bisphenol-A, in them - a synthetic estrogen. Due to the acidity of tomatoes, BPA can leach into the canned food and your food. BPA has been linked to reproductive problems, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. If you are going to buy tomato sauce or “canned” tomatoes, try to choose ones in glass bottles and with a short list of ingredients and little or no added sugar.
4. Sugary Cereals
Cereal is the easiest way to start the day. Let’s be honest, we grew up on the stuff and loved every minute of it. But lots of cereals are packed with sugar and artificial flavors, and unfortunately are low in nutritional value. In addition, one serving is almost never enough to fill you, typically adding up to less than a cup of cereal. It’s easy to lose track of how much sugar you are consuming with 5+ servings adding up to days’ worth of recommended amount of sugar. This is basically priming you for an energy crash and weight gain.
5. Fast-food Burgers
Cheap food = cheap ingredients. This equation isn’t universal, but it’s almost always true. When it comes to fast food meat, over 90% of the burger is made from fillers and other non-meat products. Kind of crazy, right? One study sought to quantify what were in some of our favorite fast food brands and found that the meat content ranged from 2 to 15%. While the rest of the burgers were filled up with water, connective tissue, blood vessels, nerves, fat, cartilage, and other stuff we don’t want entering our bodies.
Donuts are fried, sugar laden, and made with refined grains (the opposite of whole grain). Every single one of those things is bad for you. Each donut you eat is easily 400 or more calories, none of them healthy. Besides the high sugar content, they are packed with trans-fat and sometimes carcinogenic additives like titanium dioxide.
Here’s another trans-fat trap. Unless you are making frosting from scratch at home, stay away. Store-bought frosting might be great on your baked goods, but it’s awful for your body. Trans-fat causes inflammation and spikes bad cholesterol (LDL) while lowering your good cholesterol (HDL). All these things lead to the belly fat you are looking at right now, and worse heart disease and diabetes. Aside from the trans-fat, frosting is typically high in sugar. No one needs to be on a high-sugar diet.
8. Maraschino Cherries
Fruit! treat for you, right? Wrong, not this kind at least. Maraschino cherries are a staple for ice cream sundaes or Shirley temples, but this cherry is all fake. This cherry has been soaked in preservatives and sugar, and coated with artificial colors, like red-40 and red-3 dyes. Next time try a fresh cherry instead of this empty calorie sugary substitute.
9. Microwave Popcorn
Here’s another trans-fat culprit. Even if fresh popped stove-top popcorn might eliminate the negative aspects of popcorn, most of us only ever get microwave popcorn. It’s fast and convenient… and full of hidden ingredients. Besides the trans-fat, some brands contain diacetyl for that rich butter flavor. Diacetyl has been found to cause lung disease when inhaled. If you can’t figure out have the ingredients on the label, leave it on the shelf.
10. Toaster Pastries
High in sugar, fats (including trans-fat) and not making up for it in any other way. That means nutritional value is lacking as these pastries are also low in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. This means breakfast is just leading to a quick sugar crash by mid-morning. If you’ve ever looked at the ingredient list on a package of toaster pastries, you’ll see that most of them are unpronounceable. This can’t be good for you.
11. Blended Coffee Drinks
We usually tout the benefits of coffee, but in this case we are saying no. Although plain coffee can be good for you, a blended coffee drink is mostly sugar, syrup, artificial flavor and dairy fat – not coffee. The amount of calories in just one of these drinks is enough to fill almost your entire daily recommended value. The sugar will spike insulin levels, gearing you up for that sugar crash and have you craving more substantial food.
One bagel can easily be 400 empty calories of refined grains and carbohydrates. The worst part of a bagel however, is that none of ever usually eat it alone. It is cut in half and topped with butter, cream cheese, bacon, eggs, and even the processed meats we were discussing earlier. It’s a slippery slope of calories and additives.
Soda is high calorie, high sugar, and high fructose corn syrup. All these ingredients lead to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. There is no reason you should be drinking soda. Again, empty calories. Some studies have even reported that drinking soda ages you just as much as smoking.
14. Soy Sauce
The extremely high sodium content of soy sauce is what puts this condiment on our list. There are some positives like, like riboflavin and vitamin B-6, but the sodium levels in a normal helping of soy sauce outweigh the benefits. Even the low-sodium version has 600 mg compared to 900 mg of sodium in regular soy sauce. This will put you at risk for hypertension, besides the bloating you will feel. If you do decide to add soy to your dishes, use it very cautiously.
15. Farmed salmon
Farmed salmon is fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers among other gross things. So all the regular benefits you would get from free swimming counterparts, like vitamin D and omega-3s are there in much lower level in farmed salmon. Farmed salmon meat is also much higher in contaminants and carcinogens like PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT. Farmed fish are also treated with antibiotics and pesticides to keep them “healthy” until they are farmed. Try buying wild-caught Alaska salmon instead to reduce your consumption of all these contaminants.