Whether we’re looking to lose weight or improve our overall health, most of us could probably spend more time thinking about what we’re putting in our bodies. Some foods seem like they’d be good for you, but unless you’ve actually read the nutrition labels, you might be surprised at what’s in them. Here are a few foods to avoid if you want to keep your diet on track.
1. Soda isn’t the only beverage to avoid.
You already know that sodas aren’t great, but don’t just switch out the sugary beverages with “diet” alternatives. Diet sodas have been linked to weight gain by a number of scientific studies. “Consensus from interventional studies suggests that artificial sweeteners do not help reduce weight when used alone,” wrote neuroscientist Qing Yang in a 2010 mini-review of artificial sweeteners. “BMI did not decrease after 25 weeks of substituting diet beverages for sugar-sweetened beverages in 103 adolescents in a randomized controlled trial, except among the heaviest participants.” Another study linked artificially sweetened beverages with an increased risk of stroke and dementia. We’d recommend sticking to tap water, black coffee, and unsweetened tea, perhaps with a twist of lemon for flavor.
2. Certain condiments can pack on the calories.
Condiments and sauces might seem like excellent tools for making nutritious foods more tolerable, but they’re often full of unnecessary sugars and salts. Barbecue sauce, for instance, can pack in up to 35 calories per tablespoon-sized serving, and most of those calories come from carbohydrates. Whenever possible, consider cutting the condiments and replacing them with fresh vegetables. By using a tomato slice instead of ketchup, for instance, you can cut your caloric load while adding potassium, fiber, and vitamin C to your diet.
3. Beware of many—but not all—canned foods.
Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, and many canned foods are high in sodium. But contrary to popular belief, salt is not essential to canning. During the canning process, foods are exposed to high temperatures for long periods. This eliminates any harmful bacteria, preserving the food, and since there’s no bacteria, there’s no real need for salt. There’s just one problem: The canning process can make foods unpalatable. To get around this issue, some manufacturers add a ton of salt to their recipes. Ultimately, you’ll need to read the labels to find out whether canned foods are high in sodium. You’ll find that sauces and soups often have a ton of salt, but many canned veggies are perfectly fine. Even when they are packed in salty water, you can cut the sodium content by simply rinsing the vegetables in fresh water.
4. Yogurt is a nutritious addition to your diet, unless…
Yogurt is considered a classic health food. It’s a great way to add protein and calcium to your diet, but if you’re not careful, it’s also a great way to add a bunch of empty calories. Many flavored yogurts contain about 18 to 26 grams of sugar per serving, sometimes with added artificial sweeteners. Plain yogurt, by comparison, contains about 12 grams of sugar, most of which is lactose. You’re better off buying the plain yogurt and adding fresh fruit; it’ll taste better, and you’ll save a few calories.