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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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
The first big leap was moving to a new city and getting settled into my new home. The next big leap? Was finding community and belonging. Moving to a new city excited me! I looked forward to having my own apartment, decorating it, and exploring what the city had to offer. I also found excitement in the thought of meeting new people and expanding my connections. When it actually came down to it, I felt nervous. I heard that making new friends as an adult can be hard because we all have different responsibilities and schedules that may not align. I knew in order for me to really feel at home in my new city, I had to create community.
Having a community of people who I can share memories with, lean on in times of need, and inspire each other is something I always valued. I took a moment to truly center in on what I desired from the new friends I would make. Then I realized it all would have to start with me. I had to be centered and confident in who I was to attract who I desired to be aligned with. As someone who moved to a new city and established quality friendships, I gathered these six tips that helped me feel grounded and create community in hopes that it will help you, too.
6 tips to start building community and making new friends in a new city:
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Be true to yourself
Do you know who you are? If someone asked you to describe yourself in three words, what words would you use? In order to develop deep friendships, you must be a friend to yourself first. Know what refuels you and what zaps your energy. Self-study your habits and why you do the things you do. All this will be important to keep in mind when looking to create bonds with others. Every day there’s all kinds of people telling you who you should be, how you should act, or what you should wear. At the end of the day, the only opinion about yourself that truly matters is your own. Spend some alone time with yourself indoors or out at an event you like to truly discover who you are in this season of your life.
Pray about it
Before you step out into the world and cross paths with all kinds of people, it’s important to pray about building your community. God outlines what true friendship looks like in numerous Bible verses such as "Iron sharpens iron." - Proverbs 27:17 and “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” - Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. If you desire friendships that last, pray about what you seek in friendship. I remember praying for mentally stable, happy, and whole women who moved through life with abundance mindsets. Take a moment to journal about the community you want to build and then pray on it.
Go to fun events to meet people who share your interests
Most metropolitan cities like Washington, D.C., New York City, and Atlanta are known to have strong young professional communities and events where you can connect with others. I highly encourage you to attend events in or near your community to see what the city is like and meet people. It’s likely that the people at the event have the same interests as you, which is a great way to start a conversation. You can start by searching for events on Eventbrite or following Instagram pages that highlight events happening in your city.
Carlos Barquero/ Getty Images
Accept that you won’t be compatible with everyone you meet
While living in your new city, it’s likely you’ll meet a variety of people. Please know that everyone you meet will not bud into lasting friendships, and that’s okay! You are uniquely created and not made for everyone. Then you’ll meet people who are good for only surface-level connections, and then you’ll have your girls who you can get deep with. I think sometimes people can look down on surface-level friendships, but not everyone needs to fully know you. That’s a privilege to have and to accept within yourself. Continue to check in with yourself and be real about who you crave to spend more time with and who is nice to see for a monthly or quarterly catch-up.
Join Facebook groups & GroupMe chats
If you haven’t used Facebook in a couple of years, it’s time to dust your profile off. Facebook Groups is a great place to join online communities for people who just moved to a new city like you. Typically, you have to agree to the group’s guidelines, and then you can join. For example, you can search for groups in the Facebook app by using keywords like women, Black girl, or [the name of your city] foodies. With the GroupMe app, you’ll have to be invited to join an already existing group. While you’re out and about networking, don’t hesitate to ask if they’re in any online groups/communities they recommend you join too.
Be friendly to folks in your neighborhood
When I first moved to my new apartment, I spent the first week walking around the complex and working in the community spaces to get a better feel of it. I was able to meet people in my neighborhood, enjoy small talk, and learn more about what the community has to offer. Step outside of your comfort zone and work in your apartment’s community space or a local coffee shop to connect with others.
Overall, you may feel alone in your new city, but I guarantee you’re not. There are other people experiencing living in a new city too, and all you need to do is find each other. I hope these tips help ease the nervous feelings you have about building a new community and inspire you to make a new friend today!
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