Just like anything else in life, in our diets moderation is key. There are also foods that trick us into thinking they're harmless when they're actually making us slower, dumber, and chubbier. Here are 20 items to avoid at all costs and some ideas for what to replace them with:
1. Trail Mix This quick, seemingly healthy snack can fool you into thinking you're having a light treat. Two handfuls of this will cost you about 600 calories, though. Just get a box of raisins or almonds instead.
2. Frozen Yogurt This treat does better in the world of saturated fats compared to ice cream, but when it comes to simple sugars and calories, you might as well be eating gelato. Low-fat cookie, instead?
3. Protein Shakes Replacing meals with protein shakes is a surefire way to deplete your body of the nutrients it needs while consuming a highly processed and sugary drink. How about a hard-boiled egg?
4. Light Salad Dressings The ingredients for light salad dressings include preservatives, sodium, and sugar. This combination makes light dressing dangerous for your waistline. Stick to balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon.
5. Flavored Fat-Free Yogurt Think you are eating something healthy for breakfast? Not quite. This tiny snack is loaded with sugar, which just turns into fat. Start a grapefruit habit.
6. Energy Drinks These drinks give you a false sense of energy for a short amount of time, not to mention they're packed full of sugar. Need to rehydrate? Drink water; add cucumbers, lemon, or strawberries if H2O bores you.
7. Processed Lunch Meat Processed meats are saturated in sodium and added chemical preservatives that increase your chances of colon cancer. That mystery meat is also often of dubious quality. Head to the deli or make some low-fat egg salad.
8. Frozen French Fries One serving of these ready-made fries contains 8–11 grams of fat. This side dish is the opposite of organic; eat a baked potato instead.
9. Prepared Salads These ready-to-go salads are easy to make, but often loaded with hidden fats and calories, often due to the large portions and dressings that often contain mayonnaise or heavy oils (the lettuce also seems to go bad quickly). Eat smaller portions or make your own.
10. Smoothies While homemade smoothies are made with fruits and often contain a low-dairy intake, the chain smoothie bars (think Jamba Juice, Robek's, etc.) add sugars, ice cream, or sorbet that often make this treat high in calories. Make your own at home without all the extras.
11. Microwave Popcorn While it may seem like a harmless snack, these little bags are filled with sodium, not to mention chemicals linked to infertility and certain types of cancer. Chew on almonds while you watch that scary double feature.
16. Doughnuts While this one is pretty much a no-brainer, we want to reiterate the fact that a single doughnut can contain more than 300 calories. They may taste good, but they leave that sugar brick in your gut for a while. If you need a sweet treat, try something smaller like a scoop of sorbet or a slice of cinnamon toast.
17. Stick Butter & Stick Margarine “If it can hold its shape in stick form, your butter or margarine is probably high in saturated fat.” –WebMD. Sprinkle olive oil on your toast instead of loading on the butter.
18. Canned Soup It's the go-to lunch choice for many people, but this meal is loaded with sodium. Do not be fooled by the low-sodium choices either; those still have more salt than most people need in one sitting. Try an organic boxed soup or make your own in the Crock-Pot.
19. Pretzels While oftentimes these are considered a more “healthy” choice than potato chips, pretzels contain white flour, which converts to sugar in your bloodstream and does little to ease hunger. An apple and a cup of coffee is a good option when the 3 p.m. yawns hit.
BONUS CONDIMENT: Ketchup Regular consumption of his high-sodium, high-fructose corn syrup condiment will make it very difficult to lose weight, not to mention it can cause your blood sugar levels to skyrocket. Throw a tomato on your turkey burger or try dry fries; they're pretty damn good.