If you find yourself wandering over to the chip or candy aisle every time you hit the grocery store shelves, you’re not alone. Whether you love salty eats or something sweet, there’s a snack food for everyone. But you may not realize your bagged food of choice could be a major hazard to your health. If you haven’t been looking into your nutrition labels lately, then it’s time to start. These six processed foods are damaging to your body and should be tossed from your pantry, fridge, or freezer immediately.
1. Frozen meals
Frozen meals are dangerous because they seem a lot healthier than they really are. Even if you go for turkey, a scoop of mashed potatoes, and some green beans, you’ll still end up consuming lots of sodium and unhealthy fats. NBC News explains the frozen meals that are under 300 calories are the ones to really watch out for, as they provide only a fraction of the veggies you should be eating and not nearly enough calories or protein to keep you satisfied. You’ll be reaching back into the fridge for a snack later, and this time, you may not be so inclined to look for something healthy. The sodium is often off the charts in frozen meals as well — some have over 1,800 milligrams of sodium in one meal, which is almost half of your daily allotment. Steer clear of these frozen meals, and cook your own dinner instead.
There’s nothing that can destroy a healthful, home-cooked meal faster than a can of soda. To prove the point, consider a review that found drinking sugary soft drinks promotes weight gain. And it might go straight to your waist. One study involving more than 1,000 subjects found those who regularly drank sugar-sweetened beverages developed more belly fat over time. And you could be putting yourself at risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Keep your soda consumption to a minimum, or eliminate it completely from your diet.
3. Hot dogs and lunch meats
There’s nothing that screams barbecue quite like a hot dog on the grill, but any processed meat that’s been cured, smoked, or salted is very bad for your health, particularly when it comes to your heart. Even if you bought turkey from the deli counter that’s lean and mostly fat-free, it’s not the fat that you have to be worried about — it’s the additives.
It’s even bad for your lungs to eat these foods. Research has linked processed meat consumption to chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), which is characterized by chronic bronchitis and long-term coughing. If you’d like to stay healthy, it’s best to steer clear of lunch meats.
4. Sugary breakfast cereals
It may seem innocent to give your children a bowl of cereal for breakfast every morning, but unless you’re really taking a look at the ingredients on the box, you may be harming their health. Authority Nutrition explains they’re usually little more than sugary carbs marketed toward children. High-fructose corn syrup is very common in these cereals, and they often have very little fiber or protein. If you must go with cereal, look for minimally processed options with a decent amount of fiber and as little sugar as possible.
5. French fries
It’s hard to resist ordering a big pile of fries at a restaurant or buying them in the frozen foods section for easy access when you’re at home, but this processed food should be avoided at all costs. Bodybuilding.com says fries are loaded with unhealthy saturated fats that can lead to clogged arteries. And these bad fats can raise levels of bad cholesterol and lower levels of good cholesterol, which may contribute to heart disease. Your plate of fries may even contain trans fatty acids, which are known to be terrible for us. Stay far away from the fries, and make your own healthier baked version instead.
There was a time when experts believed margarine was a healthier alternative to butter, but this turned out to be far from the truth. Health explains margarine is a butter-flavored spread that’s mostly oil. These spreads typically contain trans fats that raise bad cholesterol levels and lower good cholesterol, which can contribute to heart disease and stroke. The best butter substitutes are usually the whipped versions with less saturated fat, no trans fat, and healthful oils, such as olive oil. In most cases you’re better off opting for heart-healthy oils and even the occasional bit of butter.