Sticking to a healthy diet can be tough. There's so much information (and misinformation) out there that can make it close to impossible to know what's good and what's not-so-good for us. You may read that whole wheat bread is better for you than white, and by the next day, whole wheat bread, or any bread for that matter, is being shunned by the latest nutrition guru.
What's a health-minded individual to do? We've all gotta eat, so the best thing we can do is try to eliminate some of the very worst foods from our diets. Of course, moderation is always key, so indulgences every now and then are generally OK'd by most doctors and dieticians. But make it a habit to rarely, if ever eat these 5 foods below, as delicious as you may consider them to be.
1. White Chocolate
While its seductively smooth and unbelievably creamy, white chocolate is basically junk. Now dark chocolate, on the other hand, has been touted as a health food, brimming with good-for-you antioxidants. But the white variety doesn't even come close when it comes to any health benefits.
Technically, it's not even chocolate. "White chocolate doesn't qualify as genuine chocolate because it doesn't contain chocolate solids (a.k.a. cocoa powder). White chocolate is typically made from a blend of cocoa butter, milk solids, sugar, milk fat and lecithin — a fatty emulsifier that holds it all together," as per Huffington Post.
Men's Fitness notes that a 3 oz. serving of white chocolate has 50 grams of sugar… over 12 tablespoons! You wouldn't snack on pure sugar by the spoonful, but nibbling on some white chocolate is basically the same thing. Plus all that fat makes this food a real belly buster. If you are craving chocolate, the darker the better, and a small portion will satisfy even the biggest chocoholic.
Some people opt for a smear of margarine instead of butter thinking it's a healthier option, but those myths are melting away. As per Men's Fitness, "Margarine is just a tub of trans fat which elevates cholesterol levels and damages blood vessel walls, boosting your risk for cardiovascular disease and heart attack." Was that oily piece of toast worth the repercussions?
Cosmopolitan adds, "Margarine is high in salt, and Melissa Rifkin, a registered dietician at Montefiore Medical Center says, 'Margarines sold in tubs tend to contain less trans fat than margarine sticks — the softer the spread, the better for you, but olive oil and butter are better bets'."
And don't try those fake butters either. They can be even worse for you than margarine… full of chemicals and additives. Fabio may be convincing, but with his body, even he may be opting for real butter rather than the stuff he "can't believe" isn't!
3. Diet Soda
Diet soda has to be better for you than the regular variety, right? Not so fast. As per Cosmopolitan, "Diet soda has been linked to depression, tooth decay, heightened risk of strokes and heart attacks, pancreatic cancer, and premature birth." What the fizz!?
Men's Fitness adds, "Artificial sweeteners in diet soda offer no health benefits whatsoever. According to a Purdue University study, these chemically made sweeteners fool your body into thinking you're eating real food and, because they're so much sweeter than actual sugar, your body pumps out insulin to regulate your levels, which in turn, becomes stored fat."
Stick to water or seltzer if you need a little extra zing. Diet soda may be popular, but too much of the sweet stuff and you'll be popping your seams!
4. Non-Dairy Creamer
For those of us who don't take our coffee black and there's no milk or cream in sight, those little tubs of non-dairy creamer always come in handy. But how good for you are they? Not very.
According to Rodale Wellness, "Fake creamers are full of hard-to-pronounce ingredients, including liver-damaging high-fructose corn syrup, inflammatory hydrogenated oils that would never exist in nature, and artificial flavors."
And when the non-dairy creamer comes in a large bottle, nearly everyone pours far more than the recommended serving size, upping the harmful effects with each sip. Go for milk or try your coffee black for something far better for you than a bunch of chemicals in your cappuccino!
5. Processed Meats
Vegetarians are in the clear here, as are meat-eaters who go organic or only munch on unprocessed meats. But those who love those greasy, pre-packaged lunch meats, hot dogs, and the like, you're biting into something seriously damaging to your body.
Cosmopolitan tells us, "Processed meats such as ham, salami, hot dogs, and bacon aren't just full of unhealthy fats. They can have up to 400 percent more sodium and 50 percent more preservatives than unprocessed red meats. Some contain nitrites - chemical additives that have been linked to various cancers, but are still used to enhance color, promote taste, and prevent spoilage."
Instead, Men's Fitness suggests to, "Buy chicken breasts, rotisserie chicken, or fresh turkey meat." No one should be feasting on "mystery meat" no matter how hungry they are.