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Sunday
Mar012015

15 Foods that Deserve a Final Goodbye

Hard truth of the day: moderation isn't the key to a healthy diet or successful weight loss. 

Now that I have your attention, let me say that I do believe most of us can thoughtfully indulge in certain favorite but not quite on-plan foods once in a while. Moderation can often be a situational strategy, but it's rarely the linchpin for an effective plan.

You've likely heard the guideline. If we eat healthily 80% of the time, we can use the remaining 20% to enjoy a little leeway during dinners out or the occasional family gathering. 

That said, not all foods truly deserve a place in our dietary lineup. Some choices frankly offer no nutritional benefit for the chemical ingredient and sugar shock toll they take on us. We may consistently downplay their sabotaging influence on our weight loss success. Additionally, many if not most of us have certain foods that invariably trigger us into unhealthy or excessive patterns no matter how "moderate" our intentions. 

Are some ideas already coming to mind? Check out these fifteen food products I suggest clients kick for good.

Breakfast Pastries

Let's just say this is no champion breakfast! There are several different varieties of toaster pastries, and not one is better than the other. Often marketed as a quick, easy and "warm" breakfast option, they are varying concoctions of sugar, artitifical sweetener, artificial fruit flavoring, preservatives and other chemicals that offer zero nutritional value and a serious metabolic disadvantage as we begin the day.

Crackers

Whether we throw some meat or cheese on them or eat them plain, somewhere along the way this food was touted as a healthy snack option. When it comes down to the details, most crackers are nowhere near healthy but fully loaded with chemicals, fake flavorings and empty carbs. Whether you generally reach for refined or whole wheat options – skip this category of food and instead snack on nuts and seeds.

Soda, Chocolate Milk and Other Sweetened Beverages

Is it little wonder we’re addicted to sugar given that even our drinks (not to mention our food) are loaded with sugar? Despite our plethora of sweet food choices, America still racks up most of its sugar consumption through sweetened beverages. I see it in carts at the grocery store and in cup holders of cars wherever I go. Soda is an obvious no-no, as research continues to demonstrate that both regular and even artificially-sweetened diet versions are damaging to our metabolisms, gut flora and overall health. But flavored milks, energy drinks, coffee drinks and even sweetened waters continue to climb in sales and expand along supermarket shelves. If you quit any food, quit this category and make a commitment to your health (and your blood sugar and insulin balance) to not consume sugar or other sweeteners in your beverages. 

Frozen Potatoes

Hash browns, French fries, tater tots – these are all common offenders in our grocery carts. Whether they're served with a beef patty or alongside another frozen dinner options, they really don’t provide any nutritional value to your meal. I’ve had several clients explain that they buy the natural versions or sweet potato kind. Nonetheless, you’re still eating a processed food with empty carbs and (in all likelihood) unhealthy oils. For side dinner options, choose a nice salad or a whole vegetable.

Margarine

Stick margarine, butter spray - it’s all fake and loaded with cellular damaging trans fats. Created as a “healthier substitute" for butter - part of the misguided fat fallacy that erroneously ruled nutritional circles for decades - the false "benefits" of margarine can now safely be laid to rest for good. Buy and eat real butter, which is full of healthy natural fat and flavor. Go for grassfed and organic as often as you can, and use it to flavor vegetables and other whole foods.

Frozen Pizza and Meat Turnovers

They might be convenient dinner or snack options, but they're dietary disaster. Whether it’s the stabilizers and preservatives that allow these foods long shelf lives or the fake ingredients added to provide that “lift and rise” for crusts and breads, your metabolism wants none of it. Most of these options have 20+ ingredients that are often impossible to recognize. If your family wants a weekly pizza night, try making it yourself at home using less processed toppings, natural cheeses and unsweetened sauces.

Packaged Cookies 

Cookies are by far one of the most popular dessert (and even snack!) items. One well-known sandwich brand continues to come out with new flavors ranging from birthday to red velvet cake. This time of year, we're even met with children selling them door to door. We joke how easy it is to eat a sleeve of them at a time, but in all honesty, even eating the recommended portion provides no nutritional value along with a slew of sugar and other artificial ingredients. I coach my clients to thoughtfully plan for dessert and to avoid at all costs bringing these foods into the house.

Fake Cheese

Whether the plastic-y block of cheese "product," the powders added to chips and crackers, or the infamous cheese in a can – this whole category of fake deserves a final goodbye. Although most cheese snobs would (correctly) point out that these versions don’t even taste comparable to the real deal, many Americans still eat these products often to add cheap flavor to their meals (or favorite queso recipe). The fact is, these processed products are loaded with artificial colors, trans fats and other gunk (reference the expiration date for a rather shocking shelf life!). Say no to these options and yes to the real cheeses your body will recognize as actual food.  

Flavored Coffee Creamers

These beverage additives are one of the ways our coffee can make us fat. This part of the refrigerator section is ever-expanding, housing our favorite “dessert-like” flavors, which are loaded with artificial ingredients and sugar.  Do yourself a favor and avoid purchasing them altogether. Opt for healthier ways of flavoring your cup of joe (e.g. organic butter, heavy cream or liquid stevia).

Meat Substitutes

Often loaded with soy, gluten and other artificial ingredients to amp up the protein on the label, meat substitutes are really an option you want to avoid completely. Often marketed as cholesterol-free in assortments of garden burgers, morning sausages, etc., they might look the protein part but fall short on providing substantive nutritional value. If you're not opposed to eating meat, enjoy the full benefits of the real stuff at each meal of the day. If you are opposed, choose higher quality, less processed protein options. Our VeganMax protein gets rave reviews as a quick and convenient protein choice for fast-paced mornings.

Microwave Popcorn

Microwave popcorn is a pretty popular choice with my clients. Popcorn is seen as a “true” whole grain option, and because it’s low in calories per serving many people utilize it as a snack - a snack they easily overindulge in. It's important to understand that boxed options are not the same as natural popcorn, which is already an unnecessary grain. Not only are the microwave versions filled with trans fats and other artificial ingredients, but the bag itself contains PFOA chemicals that have been linked to cancer, thyroid disorder and other diseases when heated.  

I often coach my clients to favor nuts and seeds for their salty-crunchy fix but if they're true popcorn lovers to simply make their own the old-fashioned way on the stove. There are all kinds of recipes online for flavoring natural popcorn kernels with coconut oil and various salts.   

Candy

I’m always surprised to see how often adults consume candy even knowing the amount of damage it does to their teeth and waistline. Whether as a seasonal treat or an office staple, candy is everywhere, but it pays to avoid it. Hard candies, jelly beans, or chocolates - all are loaded with sugar and artificial colors and/or flavors that we shouldn't be putting in our bodies. If you have a sweet tooth, opt for dark chocolate (80% or higher) and indulge in a pre-planned portion once a day - or less.

Do you recognize your cupboard contents in this list? Would you like more information or support around what foods you can moderate versus those you should cut out of your diet? Talk with one of our dietitians today! Thanks for reading, everyone.

In health, Anika Christ – Senior Program Manager of Life Time Weight Loss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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