So you want to eat better. You fully understand all the clichés that “you are what you eat” and “not all food is created equal.” That’s great – a step in the right direction. What stops many people in their newfound desire to eat better is having to choose what diet plan to follow. With a wide range of diets, plans and suggestions for what you should and shouldn’t eat, how can you pick just one. We believe that the best way to start on a path to better eating is to know the ten things you should cut from your diet as much as possible. By knowing these foods you can start to replace them with healthier options right away.
#1: Fried Fast Food
One of the very worst foods found in many American’s diets is fried fast food menu items. Although French fries and chicken nuggets might be a staple in many households, they are high in saturated fats, sodium and omega-6’s. As American’s consume foods high in omega-6’s, the balance between them and their healthier omega-3 relatives becomes skewed. An imbalance in the 3-6 ratio can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure and many other health pitfalls. Opt for non-fried options when you do go out to eat and cook at home whenever possible to control your ingredients.
Soda is a top offender on the ‘what not to eat list’. No, not just regular soda – but all soda. Less is definitely more when it comes to this bubbly beast. Whether you opt for regular soda chock full of sugar or their diet-labeled counterparts loaded with sodium, soda is not a good beverage option. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, approximately 5 percent of the US population drinks an excess of 567 calories from soda each day, which is equivalent to four sodas. Studies have shown that cutting soda alone can lead to a reduction in body weight in a short period of time.
#3: Sugar Substitutes and Artificial Sweeteners
There are lots of sweeteners that claim to be healthier than sugar and some go so far as to claim to be downright healthy. No matter how you dress it up, all sweeteners are sweet because of sucrose, glucose, or fructose (which raises blood sugar). Countless studies show that all sweeteners should be kept to a minimum. Research has proven that sugar and consequent insulin peaks are the leading risk factor in heart disease. Also steer clear of all artificial sweeteners – these chemical sugar substitutes have dangerous compounds like aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin.
#4: Processed Meats
Another food to steer clear of whenever possible are processed meats like bacon, ham, hot dogs, sausages, salami and other deli style cold cuts. These types of meats have been linked with an increase in cardiovascular diseases and certain kinds of cancer. Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who regularly ate 50 grams (approximately 2 ounces) of processed meat (the equivalent of one hot dog or 1-2 slices of deli meats) have a 42 percent higher risk of heart disease than people who avoid them. What’s more, a research study at the University of Zurich found that over 3 percent of deaths could be potentially avoided if people limited their processed meat consumption to less than 20 grams per day.
For many of us, our day begins and ends with dairy. A glass of milk, cheese and crackers or a healthy smoothie – all are full of calcium rich dairy. Unfortunately there are hidden dangers found in some milk products. For example, unless you are opting for organic milk, you will probably find an unwanted growth hormone – recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST, or bovine growth hormone) in your milk. This growth hormone is a genetically engineered synthetic hormone fed to cows in order to boost milk production. This hormone has been linked to a number of problems, including joint inflammation in people who have even a minor intolerance of milk products.
#6: Frozen Dinners
Frozen dinners are a common go-to product for many busy families, but they often come up short. Many frozen meal options, even those deemed healthy or low-calorie, are high in sodium and trans fats. They may contain an unhealthy amount of preservatives and artificial fillers to lengthen the amount of time they can remain in the freezer.
#7: Mass Market Energy Drinks
With crazy schedules and endlessly hectic lives too many of us turn to energy drinks to curb the afternoon crash. The problem is that many of these drinks keep us energized by containing sucrose, glucose and caffeine. Some of the mass-market options are laden with chemicals and caffeine that far surpass a cup of coffee complete with plenty of sugar or artificial sweeteners.
#8: Salty Fried Snacks
There’s a reason that when it comes to potato chips, flavored tortilla chips and other salty snacks you can’t eat just one. It’s because many of these tasty snacks contain ingredients that keep us coming back for more. The problem is that these “betcha can’t eat just one” ingredients are chemicals. It’s not just these chemicals we have to worry about but they are also high in sodium and often fried in fats high in Omega-6 fatty acids.
Sometimes eating better starts with the things in your diet that you may overlook. Margarine may be a small part of your diet, but it might be doing a lot more damage than you think. These products are full of saturated fats, which are more solid than monounsaturated fats like olive oil. They can lead to weight gain, raise your bad cholesterol levels, lower levels of good cholesterol, increase your risk of heart disease and raise your risk of suffering a stroke.
#10: Microwave Popcorn
When starting a new eating regimen many people first look for healthy snacks that can replace the more fattening versions they enjoyed in the past. Those looking for a salty snack often turn to microwave popcorn because on the surface it looks healthy with low fat and calories per serving. However, many of the major brands also contain trans fats and in some cases even diacetyl (DA), a chemical that breaks down the layer of cells that protects our brains.
Now you know – the ten foods that you should work to avoid in your diet. Cutting these ten things will help you control blood sugar, lower blood pressure, balance your omega-3 and 6 ratio and avoid an array of health hazards. While this doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in the occasional slice of pizza or a fast food hamburger – do your best to avoid them as part of your regular diet. Steering clear of the ten biggest diet snafus will help you on your path to better eating and better health.