If you’re trying to lead a healthier life, an adjustment to your diet might be the fastest and most effective change you can make. You don’t have to adhere to a difficult and limiting diet, though. The difference between feeling sluggish and having the energy you want could be just replacing a few items in your meals. Below are eight food staples that you should consider completely cutting from your diet in order to be the healthiest version of you possible.
When we think of protein, most of us think of meat. Protein is absolutely essential to a healthy diet and meat can be a great source. Many processed meats, however, are so full of preservatives, sodium, and nitrates that the protein count is actually quite low. Sodium has been linked to high cholesterol and heart disease, while nitrates may increase the risk of stomach issues and more. Processed meat is more than just sausage and hot dogs, though. Even some deli and lunch meats carry many of these harmful substances. Always opt for fresh, unprocessed meat to guarantee one of the safest and most effective ways to consume protein.
The battle of margarine vs. butter has been raging since the late 1800s, but it’s clear that the real thing is always better. Margarine is often touted as a healthy, low-fat alternative to butter. But the vegetable oils that make up margarine are full of trans fats that are a factor for heart disease and diabetes. Butter, especially from grass-fed cows, is chock-full of nutrients, and natural is often the way to go.
This may come as a surprise because it’s often such a low-calorie snack, but microwave popcorn is a deceptively unhealthy food that you should completely do away with. Besides often being low in calorie count, it’s also low in anything at all nutritious or beneficial to your body. Many of the microwaveable brands have chemicals in their butter flavoring that some say may lead to lung issues, and the bags are lined with even more chemicals that have been linked to health problems. If you can’t watch your Friday night movie without it, try popping organic popcorn yourself with an air popper or over the stove.
Sugary coffee drinks
In moderation, coffee isn’t necessarily bad for you. In fact, it can be good for you. But three or four cups a day, especially if they boast add-ons to “just coffee,” can eventually cause significant issues. These fancy artisan drinks are delicious because they often contain more sugar than coffee. The creamers, milk, sugar, syrups, and whipped cream can easily account for a quarter or more of your daily caloric intake in just one drink. If you can’t go cold turkey and need a little caffeine boost, opt for black coffee or a hot tea in the morning that is sweetened with stevia.
These refreshing summer treats are sometimes deceptively bad for you, especially if they come from chain stores. Often full of high-sugar ingredients, store-made smoothies can have almost 100g of sugar in just one glass! Making a smoothie at home using real fruit and Greek yogurt will give you the same sweetness you’re looking for without all the sugar. If you have to buy one on the go, ask for a smoothie made with only real fruit, ice, and water. Try this smoothie recipe to get protein without the excess sugar.
Just like with processed meats, cheese that has been through more than just the natural aging and pasteurization processes is full of things you don’t want or need — most significantly sodium. A slice of plastic-wrapped, American cheese can be packed with half your daily allotment of sodium. Always opt for natural cheeses to get the calcium and other vitamins you need without the potentially harmful preservatives found in processed cheeses.
While most people understand that soda isn’t good for you, it may surprise some to learn that juices can be just as bad. Even juices that are made with real fruit have high enough sugar content to rival most sodas. The juiced versions of fruits are often not as nutritiously beneficial as a whole fruit. Fiber, particularly, is one benefit that you get from eating whole fruit that may be diminished if you simply drink fruit juice. Instead of drinking juice to quench thirst, stick with water and eat an orange with your lunch.
“The whiter the bread, the quicker you’re dead.” It’s more than just a rhyme your grandpa recites; it has a lot of truth to it. A couple of slices of white bread can contain up to 150 calories with almost no nutritional value. The process of creating white bread breaks down the grains and strips them of everything that’s good for you. Instead of using white bread for your morning toast or lunch sandwiches, use a whole grain bread that is still full of those good-for-you vitamins and nutrients. Don’t be fooled by “multi-grain” or “wheat” labels; search for “whole grain” bread if you want to get the most nutrients.
Trying to live a healthy life can be intimidating, but here are some simple things to cut from your diet to start you off on the right foot. You don’t have to give up everything you love; just get rid of those things that are not the most helpful. Your body will thank you.