We all have our little guilty pleasures when it comes to food. They can be very obvious, like juicy burgers and buckets of fried chicken, but they can also be a bit more subtle, disguising themselves as “not-so-bad-for-you” treats. No matter which ones you indulge in, you should beware of what you put in your body. Here are 10 Unhealthy Foods You Probably Eat Every Day (Part 2).
10. Instant Oatmeal
To start your day on the right foot, the key is to start it with the right breakfast. Oatmeal is one of the most nutritious, easy-to-make, and delicious things you can make in the morning, at least if you make it the right way. Whole-grain oats by themselves contain a lot of beneficial fibers and protein, as well as some vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids essential to fuel your body. The only downside is that they can take a little longer to prepare into oatmeal, and since mornings are often associated with “lack of time” and “convenience,” the easiest solution would be to turn to instant oatmeal. However, these little packets full of hope don’t carry the same deal of benefits. In fact, they carry a great deal of sugar and sodium. That’s because everything comes at a price – there’s a reason why instant oat can be “instant.” Manufacturers of instant oatmeal tend to remove the oat’s fiber to give a better texture and help it cook faster. Plus, many companies even use fillers such as flour and added sugar to their oat mix to make it taste better. Sure, it’s sweeter, but at what cost? If you really want to add sweetness to your oatmeal, just add some fruit or even milk. Tests even revealed that instant oatmeal made people feel hungrier during the day than those who had whole oatmeal. So, screw time saving and go for the right kind of oatmeal!
9. Anything “Diet”
The human mind is a very interesting place. We hear the word “diet,” and bam, the thing we’re about to eat is suddenly so healthy and so good for us—what a joke. Just because something has fewer calories or 0 sugar, it does not mean that it’s any healthier than the regular kind – and that’s how sneaky marketing works. Let’s look at soda, for example. Everybody knows that soda is bad for you – diet or not – but companies like to make us believe that by drinking a diet one, we could feel a little less guilty, because, well, it’s low or even zero calories! But, in perspective, this doesn’t mean anything. You see, they need to replace all that sugar with something else, and they usually go with artificial sweeteners, which are often packed with a bunch of harmful chemicals – like aspartame, for instance. Aspartame is probably one of the most controversial sugar substitutes yet, as it’s been linked to headaches, weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes. Still think your diet soda is harmless? Basically, switching from regular soda to diet soda may save you a few calories, as it is advertised, but it will also bring you a whole new array of problems. At the end of the day, you’ll probably still continue to drink soda – quitting is easier said than done – but at least read the labels and choose carefully which one to drink.
8. Trail Mix
There’s nothing like a bag of trail mix to keep you energized during a big day. Whether it’s a busy day at the office or while you’re hiking on a hot, sunny afternoon, trail mix is the snack of choice. The combination of carbs, protein, and fiber provided by the mix of nuts and dried fruits is often advised by nutritionists, as it offers a lot of nutrients and energy – however, that’s not in every case. Making your own trail mix is perfect for sustained energy, but beware of the store-bought versions – they’re not as good for you as they may seem. The pre-made bags are far from a simple blend of dry-roasted nuts, it’s also full of undesirable calories caused by the salt, sugar, and additional oils these bad boys pack. Oh, and of course, let’s not forget the more “obvious” unhealthy add-ons the store-bought trail mixes have: the sugary treats like little chocolate candy, the yogurt-covered fruits, sesame sticks, and all kinds of other not-so-healthy elements that turn this hearty snack into a calorie bomb. To avoid this, there’s nothing easier than making the mix yourself. This allows you to pick exactly what you want in your mix and exactly how much you want of it. It can help control portions and even save you a couple of extra bucks. Just take your favorite nuts, seeds, and pieces of dark chocolate, and voila! You’ve got your healthy masterpiece!
7. Processed Meats
Okay, this one is probably not that surprising – processed meat never claimed to be a saint when it comes to nutrition value – but it’s still impressive to find out just how much it’s bad it is for you. How can you resist the smell of crackling bacon? Or better yet, an order of juicy, fatty, hot dogs at a baseball game? Yea, it’s really hard to say no to a plate of processed meats, and yet, it’s probably the wisest choice you could ever make. Unprocessed meat like beef, pork, and lamb can be extremely nutritious and healthy, but we sadly can’t say the same for the processed kind. Many studies have shown the link between eating processed meats and a ton of diseases, such as stomach and colorectal cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart diseases. Basically, every hot dog and every deli meat sandwich is bringing you closer to developing an illness. Not only do they contain a lot of salt, but they’re also packed with chemicals, aka cancer-causing substances. Sure, eating your daily turkey sandwich doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to get cancer, but you should still do your best to eat as little as possible; at least, that’s what the American Institute of Cancer Research recommends. In other words, one little hot dog once in a while won’t kill you; just try not to make it an everyday habit.
6. Salad Dressing
Many people will claim that salad is rabbit’s food and that it tastes like nothing. While sometimes, it can feel a little dry and a little boring, if you’ve got the right dressing, you can turn any bland food into a tasty meal. Obviously, it also all depends on the kind of dressing you choose, as some can do way more harm than good. If you come across salad dressings made with soybean or canola oils, you should be good to go as they contain a lot of unsaturated “good” fats. However, many are also packed with artificial flavors and colors, and that’s where the problem begins. Even though vegetables are as good as it gets when it comes to healthy food, loading them with a bunch of calories, added sugars, sodium, and saturated fat might take away most of their benefits. Let us demonstrate: if you eat too much saturated fat, it’ll drive up your cholesterol and can lead to blockages in arteries. Too much salt and the risk of a heart attack or a stroke is increased. And finally, eating too much sugar can spike your blood sugar, which will only make you hungrier later. The best advice? Always check the ingredient list before buying your salad dressing and make sure it doesn’t go overboard with the calories. Or you could ever make your own dressing at home using oils and spices.
5. Gluten-Free Junk Food
Not being able to eat gluten must be such a bummer – well, at least, before all the new gluten-free concoctions that are now available. In 2019, around 3.1 million people across the United States followed a gluten-free diet – whether it was by choice or obligation. Unless you have an intolerance, this diet is said to not be totally necessary but is still encouraged by many nutritionists, especially because of gluten from modern wheat. This is why more and more gluten-free junk foods have started to appear on the market. Because, why shouldn’t you still enjoy the greatness of junk food even though you can’t eat gluten right? The only problem? Gluten-free does not take the junk out of “junk food,” if anything, it even adds a little bit more to the mix. They usually have the same negative effects on your body as regular junk food, only minus the gluten part. It shouldn’t come as such a surprise, considering diets relying on heavily processed foods has always been unlikely to result in any health benefits. Highly processed foods contain very little nutrients and are made with refined starches, which can lead to major spikes in your blood sugar. So, if you still want or have to follow a gluten-free diet, just go with naturally gluten-free foods like fruits, meat, fish, and most dairy products. Remember: gluten-free junk food is still junk food.
4. Sports Drinks
A sports drink is probably the best thing you can drink after an intense workout – besides water, of course. These colorful, usually fruity drinks contain a lot of electrolytes, protein, vitamins, and sometimes even caffeine to really revitalize you after a lot of effort. Sports drinks were designed with athletes in mind, so technically, it should be for them and them only, and yet, we still drink it like nothing, and this is where the problem starts. According to a Berkley study, most people who drink sports drinks at least once a day aren’t athletes – or even as active as they should be. Since sports drinks have a lot of sugars, if you aren’t a very active person, it might be a little too much for your body. Carbs – which usually come in the form of sugars like glucose, sucrose, and fructose, and electrolytes are supposed to help performance, but if you’re not doing anything but sit down all day, it will only affect your blood pressure, your weight, and your overall health. Getting all the extra sugar and sodium on a regular day is neither necessary nor recommended. Plus, the sugar content in most sports drinks can also contribute to tooth decay, mostly in children. Water is still the best source of hydration, and fresh fruits and vegetables the best source of carbohydrates and electrolytes.
3. Fancy Coffee Drinks
Everybody who drinks coffee knows how important that first cup is in the morning. It’s what gives you the fuel to go on with your day and keep up with your hectic schedule. Filled with antioxidants, magnesium, and potassium, coffee has a lot of benefits to offer those who drink it, like boosting your physical performance, regulating your blood sugar levels, and even reducing the risk of developing certain cancers. Sounds like the perfect option, right? Well, in theory, yes. But, if you venture to the more fancy, sugary, dessert-y coffee drinks, then you might have an issue. Like at Starbucks, for instance. All the creamers, syrups, additives, and sugar are nothing but healthy and might actually counterbalance all the good coffee can bring to you. The high amount of fructose found in these sugars has been linked to serious diseases like obesity and diabetes and does not bring any kind of benefits, except maybe a very brief sugar rush – followed by an inevitable sugar crash. If you really can’t bring yourself to drink plain, black coffee, you can always add a splash of heavy cream or full-fat milk. But, the best alternative would be to opt for a natural sweetener, like stevia, a sugar substitute derived from a plant native to Brazil and Paraguay.
To make your daily sandwich or to prepare your delicious morning toast, white bread used to be the bread of choice. That is, however, until people started to discover just how bad the ingredients in this highly processed piece of bread were. So, whole-grain bread became the new cool kid on the block, and everybody was fighting over who would get to find the best one yet. Well, it turns out that whole grain isn’t always so high and mighty. Words like “multigrain,” “wheat,” and “7 grain” don’t necessarily mean anything nowadays. You see, white bread is made from refined wheat, which is very low in fiber and essential nutrients and can greatly affect blood sugar. Whole grain should then be the opposite and be a better, healthier option, but it doesn’t always live up to the task. Most whole-wheat bread contains enriched flour, which causes the same sugar spike and lack of nutritional value as white bread does. Enriched flour basically means that all of the nutrients are stripped from the bread. If you truly want to eat rich-in-fiber bread, read the ingredients and look for the 100% whole wheat kind. Otherwise, you’re just tricking yourself into consuming harmful bread.
1. Agave Nectar
Speaking of sweetening up your coffee, agave nectar, a sweetener derived from the agave plant often marketed as healthy, has long been one of the most popular and acclaimed sugar alternatives, notably because of the known potential dangers too much sugar in your diet can have on your health. But, what was once the creme of the creme has now been exposed as one of the worst ways to sweeten anything. While agave nectar doesn’t really cause the same blood sugar spikes as table sugar does, it doesn’t make it any better for you. Agave nectar is actually refined and extremely high in fructose, which is a sugar that does not directly affect blood glucose levels but is still very harmful. It might be more suitable for people with diabetes, but the extra fructose can put stress on other areas of the body, like the liver – it might put extra strain on the organ to convert these sugars into fats. Consuming excessive amounts of fructose can cause severe metabolic problems and put you at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In reality, agave nectar might even be worse than regular sugar as it contains way more high fructose corn syrup. Your best bet in this situation still remains stevia, the ultimate way to sweeten anything.