“I do not think there is sufficient evidence to prove that most artificial sweeteners are safe for consumers. I prefer to stay away from them and indulge in the real thing [sugar] occasionally and mindfully. Plus, there’s a plethora of research that shows how consuming diet beverages may counter-intuitively lead to weight gain, which can increase your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease,” nutritionist, Chelsey Amer, RD, says.
Love to curl up in front of The Voice with some vino and a buttery bag of popcorn? Resist. “I once ripped open an unpopped microwave popcorn bag and I haven’t eaten it since! There are too many artificial chemicals used in the flavorings inside the microwavable bag. I prefer to avoid overly processed products like this as much as possible,” Amer explains. Make your own with popcorn kernels, a brown paper bag and olive oil with a touch of salt.
Reduced-fat peanut butter
You’re better off going full fat. “Regular and reduced-fat peanut butter contain roughly the same amount of calories. But the reduced-fat varieties typically contain more added sugar or artificial sweeteners to improve the taste,” says Faletra. “The fat found in peanut butter is healthy for our bodies, so stick to the natural full-fat peanut butters.”
Most frozen meals
While nutritionist Ha Nguyen, RDN, used to nom on frozen meals as a kid—nearly every day after high school. Today, she wouldn’t touch one with a 10-foot pole. Why? “Most prepackaged frozen meals are overly processed, made with refined flour, high in sodium, and full of additives and preservatives. All things that are not good for your body,” says Nguyen.
Boutique fruit juices
While that carton might claim to give you the vitamins and minerals you need, nutritionist Andy De Santis, RD, says fruit juices—even the boutique ones—are a slippery slope. “The alarming trend of expensive juices is concerning. These products are generally packed in calories and they won’t keep you feeling full or provide anywhere near the full nutritional benefit of eating whole fruits and veggies,” he says. “For reference, eating an apple, orange and banana would take me 10 minutes. Drinking them in a juice—maybe 10 seconds?” That’s a lot of calories in less than a minute.
You probably don’t need us to tell you that even an eight-ounce glass of any soda is bad news for your bod. Just in case you need the reminder, though, Bowers explains just how bad of an idea drinking liquid calories really is. “The sugar load in just one serving is simply not worth the glucose rush, mood issues, headache, and calorie bomb. The huge intake of soda in this country, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, is strongly associated with the rising obesity epidemic,” she explains.
Don’t tell the street vendors in New York City, but their midtown snack is actually terrible for the tourists. Nutritionist Cara Walsh, RD, explains: “Pretzels are basically made out of sugar—simple carbs. The refined-carbohydrate product contains no nutrients that are beneficial for health plus they aren’t satisfying, which is why so many people tend to overeat them.”
Once a supposed diet hero, these carb bombs are finally getting the shade they deserve. “Rice cakes are made from a specific carbohydrate that skyrockets your blood sugar,” says Walsh. They still hold a fascination for the calorie conscious, but Walsh is begging everyone to reconsider.
Fruit canned in syrup
You could swap a slice of cake for fruit cocktail and your body wouldn’t know the difference. “Fruit is naturally sweet enough on its own,” explains nutritionist Amy Gorin, MS RDN. The amount of sugar in the fruit plus the syrup could put most desserts to shame. “If you’re shopping for canned fruit, you can absolutely find fruit that doesn’t contain added sugar, such as varieties canned in water or juice.”
When you’re traveling and trying to resist that pack of cookies offered to you at 10,000 feet, maybe you reach instead for the high-fiber bar you packed to bolster your will power. While Mashru understands the appeal, it’s actually not a good idea to let a bar take the place of a well-balanced snack that offers protein and healthy fats. Mashru says that really, these popular products are “actually candy bars in disguise.”
Yes, canola was a good guy, once upon a time. We fried with it, made cakes, used it in dressings. “Made from rapeseed, most canola oil is genetically modified,” explains functional diagnostic nutritionist Cate Ritter of Cate Ritter Wellness. “Like most vegetable oils, canola is highly processed, refined, bleached and deodorized, which adds toxins and removes nutrients including the omega-3s. The manufacturing process makes it partially hydrogenated.”
Non-organic corn and products made from corn
What does this include? Ritter says “corn oil, high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, cornstarch, dextrose and maltodextrin.” All of these sneaky ingredients are hanging out in many processed foods, and corn is the second-most common GMO that’s dangerous for your health. Check your labels—all of them—before letting food into your shopping cart.
You may have quickly chugged a Red Bull (or two) to get a night started at one time or another. Nutritionist and dietician Keith Ayoob, Ed.D, says these popular grab-by drinks are quite, well, terrible for you. “These have just lots of caffeine and stimulants. That’s not energy—it’s speed. For real energy you need sleep, and there’s no substitute for that. You may also need a good breakfast, too,” he explains.
Trying to figure out why that extra $3.00 is needed for an ‘organic’ piece of fruit? Let health coach Michelle Gindi convince you to shell out the extra bucks: “Non-organic strawberries topped this year’s list for the most pesticide-laden produce, and the dinosaur-sized strawberries that we see in grocery stores are nothing close to what nature intended.”
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