40 Most Unhealthy Foods and Their Alternatives

What is an Unhealthy Food

 

Basically, these foods have little nutritional value and contain many unwholesome ingredients, such as trans fats, grease, artificial flavors, processed salt, and sugar.

They are better known as junk food and include processed cookies and chips, soft drinks with high sugar content, and fried foods, such as chicken, French fries, and hamburgers.

These foods have been linked with record levels of obesity in the U.S. as well as other negative health effects, such as lack of energy, poor concentration, and increased risk of heart disease due to higher cholesterol levels.

Although enticing, these foods only cause harm in the long run in the form of various health problems.

The first of these is the cache of extra fat in the body.

Many of these unhealthy foods contain a high amount of fat, which may not be completely used up by the body, and are stored by the body in the process.

This accumulation of fat consequently leads to obesity, high cholesterol, and cardiac diseases.

Another serious problem that unhealthy foods cause is that they predispose you to diabetes.

A single meal of these appetizing foods is loaded with more sugar and carbohydrates than your body will need in three days.

When you eat a single meal with too many carbohydrates, your body begins to struggle with balancing the amount of sugar.

When this is done persistently, insulin, which is responsible for regulating blood sugar, may not be produced in the quantity required to stabilize the body, which may lead to diabetes.

Other health problems include tooth decay and fertility issues in men due to excess sugar.

Discussed below are the top 40 unhealthy and so-called healthy foods that you should try to avoid completely.

 

Trans Fats

 

According to recent research, trans fats have been declared “the biggest food-processing disasters in US history” (1).

The dangers of trans fats include:

  • Hardening of Arteries: Trans fats accumulate in the arteries over time, and when they are eventually clogged, the person suffers from a stroke or heart attack. Furthermore, trans fats increase bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol levels.
  • Obesity: It is yet another dangerous result of trans fats. If you consume more trans fats than you should, you are sure to become overweight over time, especially around the abdominal area, which again leads to a series of health issues. These fats also affect insulin levels in the body and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes (3).

A group called “Ban Trans Fats” has started a national campaign in the U.S. to create social awareness.

So, if you intend to live a healthy life, avoid foods with any percentage of trans fats, including:

 

Refined Vegetable Oils

 

Canola Oil, Soybean Oil, Sunflower Oil, Corn Oil, and Safflower Oil – are refined, not healthy oils.

We have been told to avoid fats, but this is not entirely true.

There are two types of fats: good fats and bad fats.

As discussed earlier, bad fats are trans fats and vegetable fats.

This is contrary to the belief that cholesterol and saturated fat are bad fats.

Actually, they are good fats that the body needs to function properly.

Trans fats and vegetable fats are the real culprits because they contribute to inflammation, cancer, heart disease, and obesity.

Trans fats are not natural fats.

They are vegetable oils artificially transformed with hydrogen under high pressure and chemicals.

Consuming vegetable oils is damaging for our body, especially the reproductive organs and lungs.

These oils are known to release cancer-causing chemicals, as claimed by experts (4).

A diet high in vegetable oils can cause irritability, liver toxicity, learning disabilities, and decreased immune function (5).

So, avoid using an excess amount of vegetable oils, such as canola oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, and safflower oil.

Healthy Alternatives: Use coconut oil or krill oil instead.

 

Cookies, Chips, and Crackers

 

Crackers, crisps, and cookies are loaded with sodium, sugar, refined white flour, (6) trans fats, and processed omega-6 fatty acids, which if taken in large amounts can damage our health.

All these ingredients combined pave the way to health hazards, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and Alzheimer’s (7).

Accordingly, it is important to determine if your favorite cookie brand is using hydrogenated cooking oils.

To provide shelf-stable biscuits at a fair price, some brands, such as Oreos, now use “high olec” oils.

Healthy Alternatives: It is a good idea to replace your daily dose of crisps, crackers, and cookies with baked tortilla chips, oatmeal cookies, kale chips, mixed nuts, or homemade sweet potato chips.

 

Flavored Microwave Popcorn

 

Popcorn is generally a healthy snack, but the gooey toppings that come along with it can add many artificial flavors, sodium, trans fats, (9) and chemicals, such as perfluoroalkyls, which has been associated with kidney disease and poor semen quality (10).

Pop Secret, one of the biggest culprits, supplies 5 grams of trans fat per serving (more than 15 grams per bag) (11).

The problem is that sometimes we don’t stop at a single bag as we snuggle up to watch our favorite movie.

Another example is Orville Redenbacher’s microwave popcorn.

While butter-flavored Pour Over Movie Theatre contains 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving, the caramel flavor contains 1.5 grams.

Healthy Alternative: If popcorn is an important part of your movie ritual, try switching to air-popped popcorn with a sprinkle of salt and butter (if you must).

 

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

 

Also known as sucrose, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a chemical sweetener found in many foods we commonly consume.

When we eat regular sugar, our pancreas creates insulin, and the sugar is broken down into energy, which signals our brain that we are full and our appetite is suppressed and satisfied.

On the other hand, HFCS does not cause the pancreas to produce insulin.

Without insulin production, our brain never receives the message that we are full, and our appetite goes dangerously unchecked (12).

While natural sweeteners are digested normally, high fructose corn syrup goes straight to the liver, where it is turned into fat and subsequent weight gain (13).

Shown below are some foods with HFCS that should be avoided.

 

Slim-Fast Shakes

 

Most of these shakes contain high levels of fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and enriched flours (14).

Corn syrup is a grain, not a vegetable.

It is an antinutrient and contains omega-6 fats, which are inflammatory and disrupt blood sugar level if taken in large amounts (15).

In flour-enriched products, only 2 or 3 nutrients are added back after removing 15.

These products are left with no nutrients and are great for losing weight if you do not care about your health.

Healthy Alternative: You can have water and green smoothies with your friends.

Not only will these fluids help you shed weight, but they will also leave your insides detoxed and fresh.

 

Sodas and Colas

 

Most of these beverages, including Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Coca-Cola, Sprite, and Dr. Pepper, contain HFCS, and 50% more fructose than glucose.

Most of the time what is consumed through these beverages is neither HFCS nor natural sugar but instead a fructose-concentrated brew that could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and liver disease.

The human body isn’t designed to break down an excess amount of sugar.

While glucose acts as the body’s fuel, fructose is almost completely processed in the liver, where it is converted into fat (16).

Healthy Alternative: Not a fan of plain water?

Squirt some lemon juice, add a slice of cucumber and some mint leaves, and prepare for yourself a tasty and refreshing alternative to sodas.

You could also try iced tea, lemonade, Arnold Palmer, black or green tea, or coffee (in moderation).

 

Ketchup

 

The ketchup that most of us so generously spread on fries ends up making it even unhealthier because most ketchup brands use high fructose corn syrup as their #3 ingredient.

An example of such a brand is Herinz, America’s best-selling ketchup.

The production process involves 4 grams of sugar, whereas the rest (and majority) comes from HFCS.

Healthy Alternatives: The best possible way to avoid consuming excess amounts of HFCS is to switch to healthier ketchup brands, such as Hunt’s 100% Natural Tomato Ketchup or using homemade ketchup.

You could also experiment with alternatives, such as salsa, low-sodium barbecue sauce, or sun-dried tomato hummus.

 

Cereals

 

Considered a healthy breakfast option by many, most breakfast cereals, ironically enough, end up damaging health due to the presence of HFCS, (17) sugar, corn, wheat, and soybean flour.

These ingredients lead to frequent hunger pangs and a spiked sugar level.

To control our sugar level, our body has to produce insulin, which again is harmful.

Kellogg’s was found to be a big offender, along with many other leading brands, such as Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, Apple Jacks, Frosted Mini-Wheats, Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, Special K. Kellogg’s, and Smorz.

Others include Oreo O’s and General Mills’ Trix.

Healthy Alternatives: For a healthier breakfast, incorporate oatmeal, fruits, smoothies, and other healthier options, such as yogurt tartlets, quinoa apple cake, or whole-wheat toaster pastries in your diet plan.

 

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

 

MSG is usually found in soups, noodles, and meat to add flavor, usually disguised by the names of monopotassium glutamate, gelatin, calcium glutamate, glutamic acid, yeast extract, natrium glutamate, calcium caseinate, textured protein, magnesium glutamate, sodium caseinate, autolyzed yeast, monoammonium glutamate, gelatin, and worst of all “natural flavors.”

These are just a few names.

Although they are meant to enhance flavor, they actually interfere with the body’s nervous system to fake the enhanced taste effect.

Many people have allergic reactions to even small amounts of MSG, while others develop long-term adverse effects/diseases, for instance, liver inflammation and dysplasia (18).

Other adverse side effects include:

Digestive System Issues—Monosodium glutamate may interfere with the digestive system and also be responsible for bouts of diarrhea and extreme pain in the gallbladder (19).

Blood Pressure—It can induce high blood pressure and also block the effect of medication, thus making it a potentially dangerous condition for someone (20).

Affects Sensory Organs—The hearing ability of the ears can become overstimulated with excess glutamate in the body and produce a ringing sensation.

It also affects the eyes, as the retina can be damaged by excessive MSG intake (21).

Migraine—Some people suffer from acute migraines or headaches after consuming monosodium glutamate (22).

Asthma—For some, intake of MSG is found to cause severe allergic reactions, such as asthma (23).

Most children who are prone to allergic attacks should avoid consuming MSG in any quantity.

It may also increase appetite, causing obesity in some children.

According to Scientific American, 2000, obesity is associated with asthma (24) in children, and MSG can be doubly harmful to such children.

The following foods are just some containing MSG that need to be avoided:

 

Doritos

 

Love that rich, bold flavor when you munch on Doritos?

Turns out that it’s not powdered cheese but MSG.

Also know that if you are snacking on other packaged chips, most of the time those too are loaded with MSG.

The more flavor the chips have, the more MSG and other artificial flavors they contain.

You can also expect these packaged chips to be rich in sodium, trans fat, empty calories, and butylhydroxytoluene (BHT)—an ingredient used by the food industry to prevent food from going bad.

Healthy Alternatives: Satisfy your chips cravings with kale, celery sticks, carrots, fruits, and nuts.

If you like to take it up a notch, experiment with healthier chips recipes, such as baked taro chips, baked butternut squash chips, and many other options.

 

Fried Foods

 

Not only is the oil used to fry the foodstuff not always be of good quality, but fried foods also bring along many other health hazards.

Besides containing hefty amounts of trans fat, sodium, calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol, these foods are also rich in MSG (25).

The first step to ridding your body of these harmful substances is to say no to fried foods.

KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Chick-Fil-A, and many others use MSG in their food products (26).

Healthy Alternatives: Instead of going for packaged fried foods, treat yourself to home-fried dishes to avoid being harmed by some of the dangerous ingredients mentioned above.

Another option is to bake or grill your food to help reduce your calorie intake.

 

Ranch Dressing

 

It may be America’s favorite dipping sauce and dressing, but with its ever-appetizing taste come the notorious ingredients, such as MSG, modified food starch, maltodexterin, sodium, and other artificial sweeteners and flavors. An example of such a ranch dressing brand is Hidden Valley Ranch (28).

Furthermore, a 2-oz serving of this dipping sauce contains around 188 calories, 6.7 g of carbohydrates (per serving), and 627.1 mg of sodium (per serving) (29).

Healthy Alternatives: To minimize the negative effects of ranch dressing, it is important to look for healthier ranch recipes.

You could also go with better and healthier alternatives, such as hummus and soy with ranch seasoning.

 

Cholesterol

 

The optimum amount of cholesterol you should be getting each day is less than 300 mg (30).

You should know, though, that there are several different types of cholesterol.

Doctors today only focus on two of these: LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol.

LDL means low-density lipoprotein.

This particular type of the fatty substance is what clogs your arteries, thus increasing your risk of having a heart attack and/or stroke (31).

The foods below can easily spike your daily cholesterol limit, specifically if you consume more than your daily recommended serving, which in most cases is pretty easy to do.

 

Red Meat

 

Red meat is not something you have to eliminate from your diet completely, but you will do yourself a big favor if you investigate the different types of recipes and ways to prepare it.

This type of meat generally contains more saturated (bad) fat and cholesterol than white meat, beans, and vegetables and hence contributes more to raised blood pressure and consequently increased risk of heart disease (32).

Healthy Alternatives: Great alternatives to red meat are lean chicken or salmon, which are actually considered foods that lower cholesterol (33).

You should also take a look at how you prepare your red meat and the types of side dishes you choose to serve, e.g., baked potato with all the trimmings is a no-no!

 

Butter and Oil

 

Butter is undeniably delicious, and it is used in more dishes than you might imagine, but 100 grams of butter contain 215 mg of cholesterol.

Some butter brands also raise bad cholesterol levels and cause plaque buildup in the arteries, resulting in clogging and other heart-related diseases (34).

Healthy Alternatives: Examples of healthier alternatives to butter include Greek yogurt, olive oil, avocado, applesauce, nut butter, and pumpkin puree.

 

Yogurt

 

Although popular among many dieters who add yogurt to their daily menu, it is still better to watch out for additional sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrup, which is frequently used in the process by many brands.

Choosing a lighter version of yogurt doesn’t change the fact that you are still getting your dose of artificial sweeteners, although a meager amount, which can be equally bad.

Furthermore, while great sources of calcium, certain premium whole milk yogurts are loaded with saturated fat (around 8 grams of fat, including 5.1 grams of saturated fat) (35) and actually come closer to being a dessert rather than a healthy snack.

Healthier Alternatives: These include fat-free yogurt, which contains around 0.3 gram of saturated fat with an overall fat content of 0.4 gram (36), Greek yogurt, low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, or kefir.

 

Donuts

 

Most of us know that donuts are not the healthiest food option.

What many of us don’t know is that these soft, glazed treats not only contain unhealthy amounts of sugar but also MSG, fat, cholesterol, saturated fat, and in some cases trans fat.

A glazed, medium-sized donut contains 11.46 grams of total fat (37).

Healthy Alternatives: Fruits and nuts are a good substitute for your sugar cravings.

You could also try whole-grain toast topped with cinnamon or healthier homemade donuts without excess sugar and preferably baked.

 

Artificial Sweeteners

 

There is much debate between the health benefits of table sugar or sugar substitutes.

While both can affect your physiology, the mental or “artificial sweetener mind-set” can also lead to grave physiological effects as well!

While it is a commonly held belief that in moderation all sugar substitutes are safe to consume, newer research raises questions about the safety concerns of artificial sweeteners.

To prevent the harmful effects of overconsumption of sugar substitutes, the FDA set daily consumption limits for the more popular varieties of artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin, aspartame (known to cause such conditions as Alzheimer’s, hives, tinnitus, depression, insomnia, and blindness) (38), sucralose, and neotame.

Whether they are wrong or right, it seems best to sidestep the problem altogether and avoid the common foods below that are loaded with artificial sweeteners:

 

Fruit Juices

 

The next time you are at the grocery store look at the nutrition facts on any juice carton and you will be surprised at the high amount of sugar or in some cases artificial sweeteners it contains.

Also, most juices have only 5% to 10% natural fruit juice, topped with preservatives and extra flavors that in turn dilute their healthy effect.

Since we are led to believe that natural fruit juices are a healthy choice, we tend to consume more and then even worsen our health with added calories.

Healthy Alternatives: It is advisable to eat fruits rather than drinking them or avoid packaged juices altogether just to be better aware of what you put into your body.

 

Sugar-Free Products

 

Sugar-free products are loaded with artificial sweeteners, (39) which will make you gain weight as they trick your mind and body, while depriving it of the essential nutrients it actually needs (40).

This will produce a vicious cycle of craving, eating, eating more artificial sweeteners, and more cravings.

As a result, you will gain weight in the long run.

If you really care about your health, stay away from highly toxic aspartame (NutraSweet) and other sweeteners, such as sucralose (Splenda), saccharin (Sweet’N Low), and acesulfame K.

It is still better to consume sugary foods in moderation than to overdo on sugar-free snacks.

Healthy Alternatives: When satisfying you sugar cravings, instead of choosing sugar-free snacks (which can very well be as harmful), go for healthier ways.

You could snack on strawberries dipped with chocolate, dark chocolate, frozen chocolate banana, smoothies, or a bowl of fresh fruits.

Not only will these foods keep you from consuming unhealthy calories but also give your body a nutritional boost.

 

Protein and Energy Bars

 

Protein and energy bars are mostly soy protein isolates that cause deficiencies of vitamins E, D, B12, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, and zinc (41),

Zinc is necessary for a strong immune system (42) and also important in intelligence and behavior because it is needed for optimal development and functioning of nerves and the brain system (43).

It also helps control blood sugar and is required for healthy reproductive systems (44).

Healthy Alternatives: Note that not all protein and energy bar brands are bad for you, so you just have to invest some time in picking out the right one.

Furthermore, you could replace these bars with homemade energy bar recipes or with real food options, such as low-fat yogurt and fruit, a dried fruit and nut mix, or a homemade fruit smoothie.

Use almond or coconut milk in place of soy milk.

 

Sodium

 

Healthy kidneys naturally balance the volume of sodium in the body, (45) but if you’re taking in too much sodium it accumulates in the blood, increasing blood volume and making the heart work harder to pump all that extra fluid through the body (46).

The CDC report relies on information from a study of nutrition that was carried out between 2007 and 2008 and involved over 7,000 Americans aged 2 and older.

The CDC found that 65% of daily sodium intake comes from food purchased in stores and 25% from meals eaten at restaurants (47).

 

Processed Foods

 

Most processed foods include a high concentration of sodium, (48) which is best avoided by those suffering from this health issue.

An underactive thyroid has the potential to increase blood pressure, and a high sodium diet can make this particular risk much worse. A patient suffering from high blood pressure issues should attempt to keep the intake of sodium below 1,500 mg per day.

Healthy Alternatives: You can easily replace most processed foods with whole foods, for instance, brown rice in place of white rice, tomatoes as a replacement for ketchup, hummus instead of mayonnaise, water for soda, tempeh or tofu instead of chicken nuggets, and fruit as a replacement for fruit juice.

 

Cheese

 

Cheese is not only loaded with saturated fats (50) but also with a large amount of sodium.

A slice of cheddar cheese has around 174 mg of salt (51).

Stay away from such brands as Cheez Whiz (contains around a quarter of the RDA of sodium per serving).

It is always best to avoid brands that offer “reduced sodium cheese” and “low-fat cheese,” as we can never be too sure what is substituted for them.

Healthy Alternatives: Instead of consuming plain, low-sodium, or sweetened cheese, go for better options, such as organic cheese, Parmesan cheese (rich in umami, improves digestion, and makes low-fat food taste better), and Swiss cheese (contains 15 grams of protein and 44% of your daily calcium intake).

 

Reduced-Fat Italian Salad Dressing

 

Two tablespoons of this salad dressing contain more sodium than a bag of chips! It is usually loaded with 267.6 mg of sodium per serving, (52) but other similar salad dressings are just as plentifully packed with salt.

Healthy Alternatives: Instead of choosing these high-sodium salad dressings, go for regular ones.

You could also make homemade salad dressings using olive oil, lemon, and herbs.

 

Canned Tomato Sauce

 

Canned tomato sauce contains about 27 mg of sodium per cup (54).

Another reason to avoid canned tomato sauce and any canned food in general is the use of bisphenol A, a harmful chemical used to coat the lining of cans and most plastic products (55).

Healthy Alternatives: A better way to get the goodness of tomatoes in your food is through adding tomato paste or tomato puree.

 

Nonfat Cottage Cheese

 

Half a cup (100 grams) of this nonfat cottage cheese contains about 330 mg of sodium, (56) and if you are not careful enough to consume no more than this amount, you could end up overdosing on your daily sodium intake.

Healthy Alternatives: Better substitutes to cottage cheese include plain nonfat yogurt, part-skim Ricotta cheese, and reduced-fat hard cheese (57).

 

Sugar

 

The effect of sugar is more or less the same whether you are consuming white sugar, icing sugar, or brown sugar.

It means a spike in your blood sugar levels after eating it.

One of the most common sugar myths is that just because you consume brown sugar doesn’t mean your blood sugar levels won’t be affected (58).

High blood sugar is a common complaint due to the issues it creates with insulin, which can severely harm your health, e.g., obesity, diabetes, and fatty liver disease.

Another thing to remember is that every time you consume sugar not only is your blood sugar negatively affected, but also that your fat hormones are inadvertently triggered (59) and your immune system becomes sluggish, (60) which can lead to many other health problems.

When your immune system is lagging, it can give bacterial and viral infections a chance to thrive, which opens you up to many other health problems.

 

Bakery Items

 

Such items as muffins, pastries, chocolate cake, and biscuits not only contain high levels of sugar and gluten but also artificial flavors and colors and trans fats to enhance taste and give them a longer shelf life.

Healthy Alternatives: These could include vegan almond cranberry oatmeal cookies, homemade healthier chocolate and peanut butter crispies, and low-sugar, whole-grain cookies.

 

Sodas and Beverages

 

Soft drinks, sport drinks, and energy drinks all contain heaps of sugar, artificial flavors, and sweeteners, which all negatively impact the body.

A 12-ounce can of Coke contains 35 g of sugar, exceeding the daily intake by 10 grams (61).

Sodas also have a pH value of 2.5, which means you are consuming many times more acid than your body’s pH level.

Loaded with empty calories, drinking sodas can lead to obesity (62) and other health problems, such as osteoporosis (63) and weakened teeth (64).

Healthy Alternatives: Spruce up water with added slices of lemon, strawberries, or your favorite fruits and vegetables to prepare a great way to refresh yourself throughout the day.

Other options include green tea, vegetable smoothies, and red wine (in moderation).

 

Jams and Jellies With Added Sugar

 

These jams and jellies may contain natural fruits but are accompanied with large amounts of sugar for added taste.

Another significantly harmful ingredient is pectin, a natural fiber that makes the jam sticky and smooth, but what’s so bad about a natural fiber you ask?

Just as it gives jam a sticky texture, pectin also clings to health-boosting antioxidants, such as lutein, beta-carbonate, and lycopene, sweeping them out of the system before the body has a chance to benefit from them (65).

Healthy Alternatives:

Make a healthy jam alternative by mashing a bunch of blackberries and spreading it on your toast.

Sliced bananas also work great as a spread in between slices of bread.

 

Coffee Creamer

 

Sunblock and coffee creamer have more in common than you know!

Titanium dioxide is a mutual ingredient used in both products that acts as a whitening agent and ultraviolet radiation blocker.

These creamers are also crammed with added sugar, trans fats, and other harmful ingredients (66).

Not only do these ingredients raise cholesterol, but Titanium dioxide is also proven to cause tissue and liver damage in mice (67).

Healthy Alternatives: Try using coconut milk or cow’s milk to get your morning coffee boost.

 

Other High Caloric and Unhealthy Foods

 

Mac and Cheese

 

Not only is this food rich in calories (200 calories in 1 canned cup [8.6 oz]) (68) but also coloring agents yellow 5 and 6.

These coloring agents, as per studies of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, not only lead to allergies but also cause cancer and ADHD in animals.

A number of these dyes are made from coal tar, the same ingredient used to kill bugs in lice shampoo and seal-coat industrial floors (69).

Healthy Alternatives: For a healthier mac and cheese experience, you will need to make some changes to your recipe.

Start by switching to whole-grain macaroni, and complement it with lowfat or no-fat cheese.

Search for healthier recipes and experiment until you reach the desired taste.

 

Chocolate

 

This comes as a bad news for most of us.

High in fat, sugar, and calories, milk chocolate is probably not the best option if you have a chocolate-binging episode.

Each M&M contains around 3.4 calories, a Hug version of Hershey’s Kisses has around 23 cals, and each piece of Godiva chocolate has 73 calories (70).

Healthy Alternatives: Cocoa powder is a healthier option compared with chocolate, as it is devoid of sugar, fat, and artificial flavors.

It contains around 10 calories (one tablespoon) and is full of antioxidants in its purest form.

Other options include dark chocolate, cacao nibs, and carob (71).

 

Pasta

 

A 2-ounce serving of cooked pasta contains only 75 calories, (72) but it’s the rest of the ingredients, such as the meatballs on the spaghetti, which contribute to this being a high-calorie dish.

Of course, pasta does have a lot of carbs, so it’s apt to be more filling.

Healthy Alternatives: To pasta include brown rice pasta, soba noodles, zucchini (peeled and shredded into ribbons), and spaghetti squash.

 

Whole-Wheat Bread

 

Although healthier compared with its processed counterpart, whole-wheat bread can make you pack on pounds as a result of its high calorie count.

A slice of whole-wheat bread (1 serving/1 medium slice/25 grams) contains around 66 calories (73).

Healthy Alternatives: This bread in itself is a healthier form but high in calories.

Other healthier substitutes to whole-wheat bread are gluten-free bread, honey-flax bread, rye, multigrain, and pumpernickel.

 

Bacon

 

A single cooked slice of bacon (8 grams) has 43 calories (74), which is perfect for those who are trying to gain weight fast.

Furthermore, 40% of bacon is saturated fat, followed by a decent amount of cholesterol.

Another problem comes in the form of omega-6, which can cause many problems if the bacon you have is from commercially fed pigs, with plenty of soy and corn.

Healthy Alternatives: Replace your breakfast bacon with seitan bacon, mushrooms, tempeh, pressed baked tofu, and fried shallots.

 

Ramen Noodles

 

This staple of many a college student has a deservedly bad reputation.

These noodles not only have 436 calories (per 100 grams) (75) but also may have up to 3,000 mg of salt, (76) while the recommended daily intake of salt is no more than 2,300 mg (77).

These noodles are fried during the manufacturing process, adding unneeded fat.

The soup flavoring may contain MSG (78), which is tied to weight gain and perhaps cancer (79).

Healthy Alternatives: Ramen noodles should be avoided but can be made healthier by buying low-salt brands, eliminating the flavor packet and replacing with low-salt broth, and by adding an equal or greater amount of vegetables.

 

Mayonnaise

 

Because it can turn an otherwise low-calorie healthy meal into a high-fat one, mayonnaise is definitely one of the unhealthiest foods to avoid.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with using a little mayonnaise, especially the lower fat kind, people tend to slather it on bread indiscriminately or add it to dressings and pour it over their otherwise healthy salad.

That often nearly doubles the number of calories due to the levels of fat mayonnaise contains (680 calories per 100 grams).

Healthy Alternatives: Substitute mayonnaise with mustard, hummus, no-fat plain Greek yogurt, almond butter, low-fat cottage cheese, or another condiment with lower fat if possible, and use mayonnaise only in moderation.

 

Corn Dogs

 

The average hot dog is a mix of animal by-products, (80) flavorings, binders, fillers, and preservatives.

Meat by-products include parts of the animal that aren’t muscle, such as blood, bone, spleen, kidneys, and other things hard to imagine eating.

Preservatives include sodium nitrate, a known carcinogen (81).

Coat it with corn batter and deep fry it in fat and you’ve got 300+ calories on a stick.

Healthy Alternatives: A baked whole corn dog and other homemade corn dog recipes are a better alternative to the regular ones.

 

Margarine

 

It’s not really an issue of butter vs. margarine since they both have loads of fat, and neither is a healthy choice.

The issue is the level of trans fat in margarine, (82) which occurs when hydrogen is added to vegetable oils.

The hydrogen allows margarine to be solid at room temperature, when normally it would be like oil.

The problem is that this trans fat may also make our blood platelets thicker while lowering the healthy LDL cholesterol and increasing the HDL (bad) cholesterol (83).

Healthy Alternatives: Use oil instead of margarine when cooking, and try such substitutes as hummus, cottage cheese, avocado, ricotta, or light cream cheese.

 

Processed Meats

 

Processed lunch meats and deli meats are really bad for your diet, as not only do they contain high levels of saturated fat, but they are also loaded with preservatives, such as sodium nitrite, (84) which can be harmful to the body.

Consuming lots of processed meats and pates can lead to breakouts and headaches, particularly if you are sensitive to the preservatives used (85).

Healthy Alternatives: Try sticking to a maximum of one to two portions a week, or cut them from your diet entirely and replace them with lean chicken breast in salads and wraps.

 

Prepared Salads

 

If you are planning on eating salad for dinner, it’s best to make it yourself at home.

Prepared salads bought at grocery or convenient stores aren’t always the healthiest option, and even the supposedly low-fat varieties can be loaded with cheese, mayo, and other diet disasters, such as dousing the salad in chlorine before packaging (86) and the water used.

Healthy Alternative: Prepare your own tasty chicken salad at home with heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil, mustard, or white wine vinegar dressing, and add your favorite vegetables to the mix, such as sweet peppers, cucumber, and carrots.

The more brightly colored the vegetables you choose, the more antioxidants they contain, boosting your health as well as your diet!

 

Smoothies

 

Buying a smoothie from your local coffee bar is usually seen as a healthy option.

After all, aren’t smoothies mostly made from blended fruit?

The truth is that the portion sizes at coffee shops can add empty calories to an otherwise healthy choice, with sherbet, sugar, or other additions mixed into your smoothie to create a tasty treat that isn’t doing your blood sugar level any favors.

Healthy Alternatives: Make your own smoothie at home with fresh or frozen fruit, ice, yogurt, or milk for a tempting way to start your day.

You’ll know exactly what’s in it and can be sure you’re getting a healthy start!

 

French Fries

 

That yummy salty side dish many people add to their hamburger order can cause many health problems.

Potatoes, all by themselves, are great low-fat sources of B-vitamins (87).

When fried, this low-calorie vegetable turns into a high-calorie, sodium-laden health hazard.

The oils used to fry potatoes are often filled with saturated fats, which can lead to high cholesterol.

One serving can be as much as 365 or more calories (88).

Healthy Alternative: Although they make it onto the list of unhealthy foods to avoid, you can lighten the impact of French fries by baking them instead of frying or by frying in unsaturated oils and adding salt sparingly.

You could also try seasoned pepper sticks, baked green beans sticks, zucchini, and kale chips.

 

White Bread

 

Generally, bread isn’t a problem if used in moderation, but white bread is a problem almost any time because of the white flour it contains.

White flour products have been pointed out as one of the main culprits for obesity.

The process used to mill the flour virtually eliminates any nutritional value, leaving it low in fiber and high in glycemic index and refined grains (89).

To combat this, some bread makers fortify their bread.

An Italian study showed that people who eat a great deal of white bread are twice as likely to develop kidney cancer.

Healthy Alternatives: Substitute your conventional white bread with oopsie bread, Ezekiel bread, corn tortilla, rye bread, brown bread, or whole-wheat bread (90).

 

Conclusion

 

A healthier lifestyle begins with knowledge and persistence toward healthier choices.

Making little changes like these can have a significantly positive impact not only on your future well-being but also on your wallet by saving money on future medical costs.

Hopefully, you now have some better ideas for your next trip to the grocery store.

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