Let’s face it. It can be really difficult to adopt a healthy diet.
You can bring a healthy lunch to work and next thing you know your officemate is celebrating their birthday with pizza for the whole office.You could go to the movies after having a full dinner but a friend decides to bring chips. You might want to have a healthy breakfast but you’re in such a hurry so you grab fast food instead.
We’ve all been there.
There are some foods though that really have a bad effect on your health so it’s best to avoid them altogether as you really don’t need them in your diet.
Doing so can increase your risk for heart disease, hypertension, stroke, obesity, as well as for some cancers.
Without further ado, here are the top 13 worst junk foods to avoid.
1. Processed meat
A steak looks good. Ground meat can look pretty decent, but meat combined with fillers, synthetic seasonings, flavor enhancers, and preservatives is really awful.
Stil we tend to eat them - or worse, feed them to our children - as manufacturing companies have disguised them in shockingly vibrant colors or playful shapes.
All of those additives take a toll on your body chemistry not to mention cause your blood pressure to rise.
2. Frozen meals
If you are kitchen savvy or if you pay attention to food, you know that food tends to deteriorate about 2-4 hours after its serving period. This is why we don’t expect too much when we decide to consume leftovers - frozen and thawed - from dinner last night.
How then, do those conveniently packaged frozen meals end up still looking presentable after heating? You guessed it, more preservatives.
Preservatives keep the food from losing its color, flavor, and texture; as well to keeps mold and other natural organisms out.
Flour, sugar and fat. These are the main ingredients in your doughnuts, and the common denominator for these three is that they are high in calories but low in nutrients.
Overall, this makes the doughnut a classic example of an empty-calorie food that doesn’t give you essential vitamins and minerals but could instantly provide about a third of your daily calorie needs.
4. Potato chips
Potato chips were created so that no single flavor overpowers another. This has a psychological effect of making you consume more as you would never feel fully satisfied with what you ate.
You could just as easily taste the first 7 chips and inhale the rest until all those empty calories are gone!
Chips are also enhanced with monosodium glutamate (MSG), an enhancer known to increase appetite and give foods the appetizing flavor.
5. Margarine and shortening
It’s really funny when margarine or similar products would have a “zero trans-fats” label on them. If we are being technical, sure, they aren’t trans fats yet - but primarily, they are fats which are very dense in calories.
In truth, the process of turning these otherwise liquid fats into spreadable semi-solids creates unstable chemical bonds that when acted upon by chemicals or UV radiation, ultimately turn into trans-fats.
If you see hydrogenated oil in the food ingredients, think twice before purchasing as you don’t want to increase your risk for cardiovascular disease.
6. Soda and fruit juices
Could you imagine yourself eating a teaspoon of sugar? Probably not. But you actually are consuming an equivalent of 5 teaspoons of sugar whenever you drink a cup of soda.
It might feel refreshing at the moment but in the long run it makes you feel worse as fat starts to accumulate in your body.
Most commercial beverages are now sweetened with the industrial byproduct called high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is sweeter and cheaper than cane sugar and food companies make you consume HFCS despite scientific evidence that it can cause metabolic imbalances which cause increased appetite, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia.
7. Blended iced beverages
Did you ever notice that your home-blended smoothie will have a different consistency than a blended iced beverage from your favorite cafe?
Other than the sweetened flavored syrups they add to a simple iced version of your coffee, a blended iced version would receive an equal amount of another sweet enhancer that adds thickness to it.
Top it with whipped cream - pure fat that separates when making skimmed milk - and you’re really in for a calorie bomb.
Need we say more? Every piece of your usual-sized hard candy is equivalent to a teaspoon of refined sugar which contain corn syrup combined with normal cane sugar.
All variation of candy like taffy, gummies, caramels, and even sour powdered versions contain food coloring and come in eye-catching packaging so consumers will be more attracted to them.
9. Sugary cereal
These are often marketed to children, with friendly looking cartoon characters smiling down at them in the grocery aisle but even us young-at-hearts can’t seem to do away from these treats either.
However, unlike growing children, we don’t need those extra calories.
When nutrition guidelines tell us to increase our intake of grains and cereals, it means from natural sources. They don’t mean those glazed, sugar-frosted highly-processed versions
10. Deep fried food
“Frying makes everything better.”
You’ve probably heard this from commercials or even from your friends. Fat does have a way of enhancing flavor and texture to food but this instant gratification can have awful long-term effects.
Fries and fried chicken obviously fall into this category. However, even healthier food items such as vegetables and lean meats can be unhealthy when prepared with fat such as in vegetable tempura or fried chicken cutlets.
Other over-the-top fried foods such as deep-fried bacon-wrapped cheeseburgers are definitely something to avoid if you are taking care of your health.
11. Energy Drinks
Energy drinks are good if and only if you are an endurance-trained athlete. This means you perform in sports that demand energy for long periods of time such as long distance training or football.
If you are buying energy drinks in order to get a boost for a lazy day at work, then you are merely boosting your sugar, sodium and caffeine intake. Sugar is meant to be burned, but sitting at a desk does very little to do that.
On the other hand, sodium and caffeine disrupts the balance in your blood stream, giving you energy. However, when the effect crashes, you are left feeling even lazier than before.
12. Pancake syrup
Pancake syrup is essentially high fructose corn syrup with caramel food coloring. HFCS contains unbound fructose and glucose, making it instantly absorbable by the intestines.
It enters the bloodstream so fast that it causes a spike in insulin levels, abruptly disrupting the body’s balance, and if it is eaten by a sedentary person, the fructose mostly gets stored as fat in the liver and the rest in other parts of the body.
When possible, it is always best to stick with natural syrups such as maple syrup and honey, or if you are really watching your calorie intake, skip the syrup altogether.
13. Salad Dressing
Vegetables are high in fiber, high in vitamins and minerals, and are very filling but are very low in calories. A cup of salad contains 11-16 calories. Compare that to rice whose 1 cup is already 200 calories!
Put different garden vegetables together and you’ll have a colorful, crisp and delicious salad.
However, we tend to mess things up by tipping the calorie counter once we open that bottle of dressing. If you check the labels, you’ll find that a tablespoon of caesar salad dressing contains about 90 calories.
Adding a standard fat-based dressing immediately doubles or triples the calories of your salad and they also contain sweeteners, emulsifiers, and preservatives since they are a processed food.
When possible it’s best to make your own olive-oil based dressing at home.
Dieting can be difficult if you are not used to being conscious about what you eat. However, pointing out foods that are potentially dangerous for you health can be a good start.
Limit your intake of these foods to prevent developing risk factors for lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, obesity and cancers.