Learning how to choose wisely when it comes to your health and diet can make all the difference in attaining your fitness goals. Whether you want to tighten and tone, slash and slim, or build and bulk, your diet is the most important component to your overall success rate. Eating a nutrient poor diet may inhibit any progress that could occur from regular exercises. Below you’ll find a list of 15 of the most commonly eaten unhealthy foods, followed by a healthy alternative that you can swap it for to help keep you on track.
Stop Using Sugar
Do you usually add sugar to your coffee or oatmeal? If you do, you’re adding a ton of additional and unnecessary calories to your day every time you touch that coffee mug to your lips, or take another bite of that oatmeal. If you fear that without sugar you’ll no longer enjoy these energy boosters, we have just the solution for you. Choose wisely and swap your sugar out for cinnamon to give your breakfast a spicy kick. As an added health bonus, cinnamon has also been found to help lower blood sugar levels, LDL (bad cholesterol), and triglycerides.
Stop Eating Popsicles
Popsicles are a common summer treat, enjoyed by children and adults alike. The problem with this frozen snack though is that it’s comprised mostly of sugar, artificial coloring, artificial flavoring, and water, making it a fairly unhealthy option. Swapping out your popsicles for frozen grapes allows you to keep the refreshing taste of popsicles, while leaving behind the unhealthy sugar content. The water content of grapes is a whopping eighty one percent while only eighteen percent is sugar. Because added sugar (not naturally occurring sugar), and artificial ingredients are what you need to look out for in your diet, grapes are clearly the healthier choice here.
Stop Drinking Soda
Soda is one of the biggest culprits for unnecessary sugar consumption in America, and people believe that drinking diet soda means that they’re choosing wisely when in reality they’re just trading in one form of empty calories for another. While plain, flat, water is the healthiest beverage choice, choosing sparkling water is a good way to get the carbonation that your taste buds crave, without sacrificing your healthy progress. Most full flavored sodas have between thirty nine and forty nine grams of sugar, while diet sodas may not have sugar they do most often contain aspartame, which is an artificial sweetener that causes serious health problems, including: depression, insomnia, heart palpitations, vertigo, memory loss, and even seizures. Sparkling water has none of these ingredients or harmful side effects.
Stop Snacking On Chips
Finding healthy foods to snack on that satisfy your craving for salty and savory flavors without blowing your nutritional ratios can be difficult and frustrating. Many of us reach for a bag of chips when we get a salty craving, but a snack of air popped popcorn is a more satisfying and filling option. One cup of baked potato chips contain 159 calories, 312 mg of sodium, and 24 grams of carbohydrates, while a cup of air popped popcorn only contains 31 calories, 1 mg of sodium, and 6 grams of carbohydrates. Choose wisely and avoid microwave popcorn as it has nutritional facts that more closely resemble chips than it’s air popped cousin. One of the best things about air popped popcorn is that you can add any spices to the kernels once they have popped to create an entirely unique flavor profile each time you snack.
Stop Eating Out
Not only will eating your meals away from home, eventually cost you MUCH more money than preparing and packing your own meals for the day, but it will also cost you a ton of extra unnecessary calories. Convenient store, fast food, and restaurant meals contain more calories, fats, carbohydrates, sugars, and sodium, than most anything you would ever prepare for yourself at home. Even if you keep your meals out simple and healthy like a salad, or seafood dish, you’re likely being served too much food, with too much dressing, or cooked in too much fat, oil, or butter. Your best bet for healthy food is to make it at home and take it with you wherever you go in a well insulated meal prep bag.
Stop Using Sour Cream
Just because you’ve decided to start eating a healthier diet, doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy some of your old favorite foods. It just means that you may have to tweak the recipes a bit to create a healthier version. If you choose wisely, even sweet and savory desserts can be made with healthy ingredients to cut down on your sugar, sodium, and carbohydrate intake. Substituting greek yogurt in these recipes is just one of many ways that you can make your meals and desserts healthier. The next time you have taco night at your house, try putting a dollop of greek yogurt on your homemade high protein burrito to give it an extra kick of flavor without packing on the calories.
Stop Making Iceberg Lettuce Salads
When comparing salad bases for nutritional values, it’s best to focus attention on the vitamins and minerals provided by each type, since most leafy greens are naturally low in calories, sodium, and sugars. That being said when making a salad it’s best to choose wisely and make spinach your base, because it contains 56% of your daily value of vitamin A, 14% of vitamin C, 3% calcium, and 5% iron, while iceberg lettuce only provides 7% of your daily value of vitamin A, 3% vitamin C, 1% calcium, and 2% iron. For my money the choice is clear, choosing spinach because it offers more nutrients will also ensure that my hunger remains at bay longer.
Stop Eating High Carb Pasta
For so very many reasons you should say goodbye to your traditional high carb pasta. In fact, the reasons are so plentiful that we have an entire article explaining the health concerns and dietary deficiencies of traditional pasta options that you can read here. We’ve even made an easy to read chart to help you navigate the nutritional contents of a few of the most popular pasta brands. In short though, traditional pasta simply has too many carbohydrates that will quickly be converted into sugar in your body resulting in a significant spike and dip your blood glucose levels, causing avoidable fatigue. ISOPasta on the other hand, contains only 7 net grams of carbohydrates and provides your body with lasting and sustainable energy through the 30 grams of protein that can be found in each serving.
Stop Shopping At The Supermarket
Help out your local economy, and get higher yields of nutrients when you shop for fruits and vegetables at your local farmer’s market rather than the nearest grocery store. As an added bonus when you get there early and choose wisely, you’ll even be able to save some money on the ripest and freshest produce available, as many stands will have just harvested their goods the previous day. If you’re lucky you may even find a farm that waits to harvest their produce until the morning of the market. With that kind of freshness you’ll never have to worry about what types of preservatives are being sprayed on your foods, because the distance traveled from farm to fridge is as short as possible.
Stop Drinking Fruit Juice
While a cup of 100% fruit juice (no added sugars, not from concentrate) is better than no fruit at all, eating the real thing will always provide more nutrients. While a cup of unsweetened apple juice contains 114 calories, no fiber, and 24 grams of sugar, the same amount of a diced apple (with skin) contains only 65 calories and 13 grams of sugar, while also providing 3 grams of dietary fiber. Fiber helps you to feel full faster, and longer, while also providing benefits to your gastrointestinal tract. When possible always choose whole foods over juices, whether you’re consuming fruits or vegetables.
Stop Cooking With White Rice
If we can manage to impart only one piece of wisdom on you in this entire article we hope that it’s this: when it’s possible always choose wisely and cook with whole grain options over refined products. When any grain, including rice, goes through the refining process essential nutrients like fiber, protein, and healthy fats are lost. Aside from being the healthier option, brown rice will also fill you up faster, and keep you full longer than white rice will, meaning that you’ll eat less of it, and thus consume less calories to achieve the same satiated feeling.
Stop Eating Cold Cereals
If you choose wisely you can find cold breakfast cereals with low calories, carbohydrates, and sugar, but more often than not, cold breakfast cereals will contain high calories, high sodium, high carbohydrates, high sugars, and low nutrients. Oatmeal on the other hand is provides necessary protein, fiber, and iron, while keeping sodium, and sugar levels low. Be sure to buy plain oatmeal and flavor it yourself with fruits, nuts, and spices so that you can avoid the added sugars that are found in pre-flavored varieties.
Stop Dining In The Living Room
It has been shown that mindful eating can significantly reduce overeating. By eating in the living room, in front of a computer or television, or while surrounded by other sensory distractions your mind focuses less on the act of eating, and can easily miss the bodies cues of satiety, causing you to eat past the point of being full. When you turn off the distractions and force yourself to eat at the kitchen or dining room table, you are allowing your mind and body a direct line of uninhibited communication, through which overeating becomes more difficult and less likely.
Stop Drinking Lattes
Did you know that black coffee only has about 2 calories and 5 mg of sodium per 8 fluid ounce serving? It also contains no sugar, and no carbohydrates. Now let’s compare that to a Starbuck’s simple cafe latte made with nonfat milk. The smallest size latte available is a 12 fluid ounce, that contains 126 calories, 174 mg of sodium, 16 grams of sugar, 18 grams of carbohydrates. That’s a whole lot of extra empty calories being put into your body everyday. While brewing your own coffee at home will save you calories and money, I understand that some people will still insist on their Starbucks morning coffee, and in that case my only advice to you is to choose wisely, and pick an option with low sugar, low fat, and limited calories to keep your morning java as healthy as you can.
Stop Cleaning Your Plate
If you grew up with parents who were anything like mine, you were probably often told that you had to finish all of the food on your plate before getting up from the table. Although I believe our parents had good intentions of trying to make us eat enough protein and vegetables, looking back I realize that this isn’t the best tactic for promoting a healthy diet. Finishing everything on your plate often means continuing to eat after you are full. Whether you do this to avoid wasting food, or because you feel like you need to get enough nutrients, or simply because you aren’t listening to your body when it tries to tell you that it’s full, it’s now time to stop. When your body tells your mind that you are full, listen. Push your plate aside and pack up your leftovers in meal prep containers for another time. If your diet is well balanced, chances are you won’t need to snack later when you leave food on your plate, so there’s no need to stuff yourself at any meal. My most valuable piece of advice to you is to learn how to eat to live, rather than feeling like you’re living to eat.
Dietary Fiber: MedlinePlus. (2016, March 10). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/dietaryfiber.html
Nutrition Facts: Apple juice, canned or bottled, unsweetened, without added ascorbic acid. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1822/2
Nutrition Facts: Apples, raw, with skin [includes USDA commodity food A343]. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1809/2
Nutrition Facts: Cereals ready-to-eat, General Mills, Cheerios. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/breakfast-cereals/1522/2
Nutrition Facts: Cereals ready-to-eat, Kellogg, Kellogg’s Honey Smacks. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/breakfast-cereals/1556/2
Nutrition Facts: Cereals, oats, regular and quick and instant, unenriched, cooked with water (includes boiling and microwaving), without salt [oatmeal, cooked]. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/breakfast-cereals/1598/2
Nutrition Facts: Frozen novelties, juice type, popsicle scribblers. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/sweets/9251/2
Nutrition Facts: Grapes, american type (slip skin), raw. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1919/2
Nutrition Facts: Lettuce, iceberg (includes crisphead types), raw. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2476/2
Nutrition Facts: Snacks, popcorn, air-popped. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/snacks/5356/2
Nutrition Facts: Snacks, popcorn, microwave, regular (butter) flavor, made with partially hydrogenated oil. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/snacks/10439/2
Nutrition Facts: Spinach, raw. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2626/2
Rao, P. V., & Gan, S. H. (2014, April 10). Cinnamon: A Multifaceted Medicinal Plant. Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4003790/
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