We all have our guilty food pleasures, but there are definitely some that you should eternally ban from your diet, or at least limit your intake.
Here are 10 foods to avoid as much as possible, and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier, more balanced meal plan.
As I am sure you’ve heard, elevated blood sugar is dangerous for your health and increases the risk of diabetes. So why would you fill your body with liquid sugar that will spike blood sugar levels? That’s exactly what soda is — a drink with little to no nutritional value yet loaded with calories and sugar. If you love soda, you don’t have to say goodbye to it for good, but limit your intake to no more than 12 ounces per day.
Tip: For the best bet, choose a naturally flavored seltzer instead!
While it’s true that many margarine manufacturers are working to remove damaging trans fats, there are still some on the market that have them. If you see the words ‘partially hydrogenated’ vegetable oil on the nutrition label, then it’s not a healthy choice since that’s another term for trans fat.
Tip: When choosing a spread, look for one made from olive or canola oil that contains no partially hydrogenated oils on the ingredient list.
3. Snacks with partially hydrogenated oils
Marketed as healthy options for snacks and meals on the run, snack bars contain oils that can be anything but good for your health. Partially hydrogenated oils are code for trans fats, which can be easily missed on food labels. That’s because the Nutrition Facts label can list 0 grams of trans fats when the food contains less than one half gram per serving. However, if a food contains 0.45 grams of trans fats, even though it will display zero grams on the food label, it still contains a source of trans fats.
Tip: Keep a look out for foods that list “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list and leave them on the shelf!
4. Fat free dressings
They sound like a winner when it comes to weight loss, but the fact is fat can be healthy! In fact, fat free dressings typically remove healthy fats such as olive oil and instead bump up the added sugar. This leaves you with a product containing almost the same amount of calories that is less filling and contains none of the health benefits.
Tip: Choose a salad dressing containing a monounsaturated fat such as olive oil. The fat in it will even help you to absorb more nutrients from your salad.
5. Sugary cereal
Would you start off your kids’ day by sitting them down to consume a bowl full of pure sugar? Of course not! However, sugary cereals are practically the same thing—they provide your children with excessive levels of added sugar, artificial colors and flavors, and little to no nutritional value.
Tip: Opt for a whole grain cereal that packs in sweet flavor by using healthy seasonings such as cinnamon or antioxidant rich freeze dried fruit.
6. Canned soup
Soup can be a great choice for your health. It can contain vegetables, lean protein, fiber and even whole grains. However, many canned soups provide enough sodium for your whole day, plus some! Excessive sodium in your diet can increase the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and even weaken bones. In fact, you want to aim to keep your total daily intake of sodium to 2000mg or less.
Tip: If you do choose a canned soup, look for a reduced sodium option.
7. Store-bought cookies
Next time you have a cookie craving think of these little words — refined carbohydrates, saturated fat and excess sugar. That’s what most cookies on the shelf contain, and some include high levels of trans fats as well.
Tip: What’s a cookie lover to do? Some brands now sell cookies made with 100% whole grains such as oats, but still consume with caution. Even “healthy” cookies can contain a large amount of added sugars.
8. Rice cakes
What? How can the snack choice of dieters everywhere be bad for you? Rice cakes are made mainly from puffed white rice making them have a glycemic index level almost as high as glucose itself! This means that these little cakes can spike blood sugar and insulin levels, which can increase diabetes risk as well as make it harder to lose weight!
Tip: If you love rice cakes, don’t despair —100% whole grain brown rice cakes are available and are a healthier alternative.
9. Microwave ‘movie theatre’ popcorn
Movie theater popcorn (and the microwaveable kind) may seem like a healthy choice over candies and
chocolate, but the saturated fat and sodium will get you. Research conducted
by the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that movie theater
popcorn calories range from 400 to 1,200, and it has as much as 1 to 3 days worth of saturated fat and almost a days worth of sodium (1500mg) in it.
Tip: Aim for air popped instead for a healthy alternative.
10. Fruit drinks
The word fruit makes you think of something healthy, right? Think again! Fruit drinks contain little, if any, actual fruit. Instead many fruit drinks contain less than 2% actual fruit juice and are packed full of added sugars, high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors and colors. These drinks contain the same health risks as sodium, but from the outside look like a healthier option.
Tip: Don’t be fooled! If you’re in the market to purchase a fruit drink, choose one that is made with 100% fruit juice and skip the rest.