Yeah. I'm not sure if this is gonna be your favorite read of all time, but what I can assure you is it can help to elevate your health if you take what I'm about to share to heart. The reality is, a lot of us spend a ton of time consuming foods that, while they may not top of the list of the worst foods on the planet, they aren't really the best things for our systems either.
Today, I'm going to share 15 'of em. Even if you decide to keep adding them to your grocery list, my hope is that you'll at least do so a little less. You ready?
1. Bottled Smoothies
Canned fruit. Cantaloupe. Watermelon. Nectarines. Fruit that doesn't have any pulp in them. Guess what all of these fruits have in common—they are low in fiber and oftentimes are "filler fruits" when it comes to the bottled smoothies that you often see at your local grocery store. Aside from that, ready-made bottles smoothies are oftentimes also packed with sugar (that raises your blood sugar) and preservatives (which can weaken heart tissues and oftentimes contain cancer-causing additives). So, if you're a fan of smoothies in the morning, your best bet would be to wake up 20 minutes earlier and make one yourself. That way, you'll know exactly what is going into them.
2. Energy Drinks
I know a guy who is a body builder and a most-of-the-time vegetarian. But man, pretty much every time that I see him, he's got an energy drink in his hand. That's so not good because they contain a ton of caffeine and sugar. That makes them the ultimate stimulant, yes, but they can also significantly increase your heart rate, trigger feelings of anxiety and make it really hard to either go to sleep or stay asleep at night. If energy is something that you struggle with, adding Vitamin B12 to your daily regimen and eating foods like bananas, apples, sweet potatoes, salmon and brown rice are much healthier ways to get what you're looking for.
3. Wheat Bread
Bread is a carb and it's pretty common for carbs to consist of sugar and refined white flour. If you eat too much of them, you have the potential of triggering heart disease, diabetes and definitely obesity. Does this mean you can never enjoy a sandwich? No. Moderation is key. But do make sure that if wheat bread is your thing that you settle for nothing less than the brands that list 100 percent whole wheat bread as the first ingredient on its label. That way, you'll know you're not consuming empty calories only.
4. Fettuccine Alfredo
I already know that some of y'all are rolling your eyes at this one. The thing to keep in mind is that alfredo sauce has tons of cream and butter in it. Then when you throw the "fun carb" known as pasta into the mix—well, you're almost begging to have cholesterol issues at some point.
An alternative is to make your own sauce (you can check out a recipe that doesn't have cream cheese in it here) or you can swap out pasta noodles for zucchini ones. I've done it before and zucchini noodles are absolutely delicious (you can check out a recipe here)!
Definitely one of my favorite desserts to make and eat is cheesecake. Not that non-bake kind either. I'm talking about the kind where the ingredients have to go into a springform pan and bake in the oven for a while (whew!). Yeah, cheesecake is great. It still makes this list, though. Between the cream cheese and sugar, there is plenty of sodium and fat to go around which can easily equate to somewhere between 400-800 calories a slice. If you've got a random taste for one, maybe just crumble up a graham cracker and put some cheesecake-flavored yogurt on top. It's nowhere near the real thing, but it should take a bit of the edge off.
6. Splenda (and Other Artificial Sweeteners)
Yes, artificial sweeteners contain less calories than sugar, but it can be at a pretty high price. Things like aspartame, saccharin, sucralose (which Splenda has a good amount of) and sugar alcohol can trigger headaches, digestive problems and food cravings. Unfortunately, long-term use of artificial sweeteners is linked to cancer too. So, if you want to sweeten your food without the use of sugar, some alternatives to consider include honey, coconut sugar, monk fruit extracts, date paste and molasses.
7. Chinese Food
Who doesn't like Chinese food? I mean, really. The main issue with it is that the sodium levels of most signature dishes is totally off of the charts! For instance, I once read that a plate of stir-fried greens has a whopping 900 calories and well over 2,000 grams of sodium (geeze). Too much sodium can lead to hypertension, and since heart disease, strokes and hypertension are some of the top 10 leading causes of death for us, well…you can see why ordering Chinese needs to be done more sparingly than most of us typically do it (and why you might want to purchase a wok and make some stir fry at home).
8. Refried Beans
Ain't nothin' like some refried beans and rice, right? While beans are pretty good for you (they are loaded with protein, iron, potassium, magnesium and fiber), when you bring lard into the mix, that makes a lot of that close to being irrelevant. Lard is loaded with saturated fat and too much of that can lead to heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes. If you must, make your own refried beans (there's a delicious black bean recipe here) or look for the low-sodium vegetarian kind. It's better for you and, when you season it right, it almost tastes the same.
Homemade meatloaf is a staple in a lot of homes, but between the beef, breadcrumbs and salt, it's another kind of food that can wreak absolute havoc if you don't eat it in moderation. Beef is high in saturated and trans fat. Breadcrumbs contain off-the-chart levels of corn syrup and sodium. And salt is loaded with sodium.
One way to get around all of this (at least a little bit) is to substitute the beef for turkey. Turkey is significantly learner than beef is. Oh, and crushed oats or crackers is a cool alternative for breadcrumbs (the oats more than the crackers, by the way).
Personally, I'm not the biggest fan of mayonnaise, so it's no hair off of my back here. But if you adore it with every fiber of your being, there are a few things you should know. One, mayonnaise is chock-full of sugar, sodium and preservatives. Two, a lot of nutritionists consider it to be the unhealthiest condiment there is. Three, have you ever wondered why, even though mayonnaise has eggs in it, the eggs never separate in its container? Eww. You'd be much better off making some of your own with the help of Greek yogurt, Dijon mustard and white vinegar. If you want to learn how, check out this recipe here.
11. Protein Bars
Are you in a rush and you want to grab something to snack on real quick? Got it. Just make sure that it's not a protein bar. Why is a protein bar not the best solution? Let me count the ways. It's got sugar. It's got preservatives. Many of them have the artificial color of caramel. It's pretty common for protein bars to have polysorbate 60 (an emulsifier that can produce all kinds of toxic compounds in your system) too. Not to mention that brands like the Nutramino Coconut Protein Bar is equal to the caloric count of a freakin' Big Mac (what in the world?!). So, are all protein bars created equal? Eh. Not totally. The key is to make sure that sugar isn't the first ingredient on the label, there are more than 10 grams of protein listed and, there are no sugar alcohols in them like xylitol, sorbitol, isomalt and glycerol; all of those are considered to be artificial sweeteners, and we already discussed why those are absolute no-nos when it comes to your health.
This one probably seems blasphemous, right? Here's the deal—a lot of applesauce has high fructose corn syrup in it. If you don't know why that's not a good thing, high fructose corn syrup is an artificial sweetener, made from corn syrup that 1) puts way too much sugar into your system, 2) increases your risk of being diagnosed with fatty liver disease, and 3) is linked to diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
So, are there any healthy applesauce brands out in the world? A few. Epicurious did us all a solid and published "The Best Applesauce You Can Buy at the Store" that features 28 different kinds for your perusing pleasure. Or again, you can always go the DIY route (there's a recipe for that here).
13. Taco Bowl
Meat. Rice. Sour cream. A fried tortilla. Other stuff. All of this explains why taco bowls (no matter how delicious they may be) are loaded with calories, sodium and fat. If you want to take the health risks down a notch, either have the meat without the fried tortilla (consider an unfried one instead) or go without the meat. Either way, this is something that you definitely shouldn't have 2-3 days a week on your lunch break. So, when you order (or make) one, just remember to act like it's a treat rather than a staple.
14. Instant Oatmeal
If you first looked at this one and said to yourself, "I thought that oatmeal was good for me", you'd be right. Oatmeal is a gluten-free grain that has all kinds of vitamins, minerals and fiber in it. Oatmeal is also dope because it can lower your cholesterol levels and help to keep heart disease at bay. The problem with instant oatmeal is 1) it's got preservatives in it and 2) it usually contains hydrogenated soybean oil too. What's wrong with that type of oil? For one thing, it has trans fatty acids that can increase your risk of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Also, soybeans contain phytoestrogens (a plant-based form of estrogen). Too much of that can throw your hormone levels all the way off. Yeah, make your own oatmeal instead.
15. Bottled Water
Thankfully, bottled water is more regulated by the FDA than it used to be. Still, something that many bottled water brands contain is BPA (Bisphenol-A). The problem with BPA is it can disrupt your hormones in a way that can cause all sorts of drama. It can alter your hormones, increase the risk of cancer and have possible effects on the brain, especially when it comes to young children. In order to avoid all of this, it's probably best to put a filter on your faucet and purchase a BPA-free bottle to put the water in. That way, you can drink up with absolutely no worries. Enjoy!
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