“I need to eat healthier.” That’s been your refrain, for what, the past five years? Get it together, man. If you're ready to take steps towards better health and, naturally, a better body, start today. Step 1: Ban these 10 foods from your pie-hole and never look back. (Don’t worry, pie’s not on the list.)
1. Processed Meats
In a 2013 study published in BMC Medicine, researchers concluded that of 26,344 deaths studied, high consumption of processed meat was responsible for 3.3 percent of them. Apart from being packed with preservatives and sodium, processed, packaged meats are high in nitrates, which have been linked to stomach cancer, says Jim White, R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and owner of Jim White Fitness training studios. And many processed meats are shockingly low in protein, giving your cold-cut sandwich little if any redeeming qualities, says dietician Georgie Fear, R.D., author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss.
Billed as a healthy alternative to butter, margarine’s trans fats, which put you at risk for heart disease and diabetes, are far worse than the natural saturated fat you’ll find in butter, Fear says. Does your margarine’s label say, “0 trans fat.” That might be a flat-out lie. The Food and Drug Administration currently allows food manufacturers to claim their products are trans-fat free as long as they contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat in each recommended serving. While you’re tossing out your margarine, you should also take a look at the labels on any frozen food and bakery items you have in your kitchen. Many contain margarine as an ingredient, Fear says.
3. Sugary Cereals
Millions of guys start each and every day in one of the worst ways possible. High in sugar and low in nutrition, sugary cereals set you up for fat gain and a 3pm slump. Meanwhile, it’s basically impossible to eat a recommended serving of cereal, which, for many brands, is just ¾ of a cup—not even half a bowl. “The sugar and crunch produces a dopamine surge in the brain, which urges us to keep going,” Fear says. And since most guys don’t buy cereal in single-serving packages, it’s easy to eat five or more servings in a single sitting. Congratulations, you’ve just consumed three days’ worth of sugar.
4. Fast-Food Burgers
“Ultra cheap food is made from ultra cheap ingredients, and burgers are no different,” Fear says. “Even if you try to minimize the bacon, fries, soda, cheeses, and sauces added to your fast-food meal, the meat in your burger is a far cry from what you'd buy from a butcher. In one Annals of Diagnostic Pathology study, researchers studied eight fast-food brands and found that all of their burgers contained between 2.1 percent and 14.8 percent meat. The rest was water, connective tissue, blood vessels, nerves, fat, cartilage, and, in some, even parasites. Gag.
“Considering that refined grains, sugar, and deep-fried foods are all independently unhealthy, you have to admire the donut for falling into all three categories,” Fear says. And, as if the 400-plus calories of sugar and fat (including trans fat) per serving wasn’t bad enough, some food manufacturers and donut shops use nanoparticles such as titanium dioxide, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans.
6. Microwave Popcorn
Does anyone eat popcorn because they are actually hungry? Either way, microwave popcorn doesn’t have much going for it in the nutrition department. All of its trans fats pretty much outdo any benefits its fiber holds. Meanwhile, some brands contain diacetyl-containing butter flavorings, which when breathed in, can cause life-threatening lung disease such as bronchiolitis obliterans, according to research from Brown University. And, in many popcorn manufacturing plant workers, it has. While some manufacturers have subbed out diacetyl with other chemicals, study researchers believe many of them may be just as harmful. If you have a hankering for popcorn, pop it yourself on the stove or in an air popper.
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7. Toaster Pastries
“My local food bank has stopped taking these,” White says. “If your food bank doesn’t want them, they have to be bad. I honestly think they are one of the worst foods you could possibly eat.” These are typically high in sugar, trans fats, and low in protein and fiber. Plus, they have minimal vitamins and minerals. And just look at the ingredients list. It’s staggering that food manufacturers could even manage to fit all of those ridiculously long chemical names on the package.
8. Blended Coffee Drinks
By itself, coffee can be great for you. But your blended beverage probably contains more sugar and fat than actual coffee. “Guys can easily consume a quarter of their daily recommended calories in a single drink,” White says. And that’s in a drink—it won’t even fill you up. Plus, by spiking your blood sugar and insulin levels, it guarantees a sugar and energy crash that will leave you raiding the snack drawer 30 minutes later.
As far as we’re concerned, any refined carb can suck it. But, if we had to pick the worst offender, we’d have to go with bagels. Not only are their carbs refined, leaving you with little more than sugar in bagel form, they can weigh in at 400 calories each, White says. And that’s before you slather them in cream cheese or cut them in half and fill them with bacon (see #1!).
Right now, soda is arguably public enemy number-one—and for good reason. The list of reasons you shouldn’t drink the stuff are staggering. Among them, you've got weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease, White says. But if it hasn’t stopped you from drinking soda, let us ask you one thing: do you smoke? Of course not, right? Well, according to 2014 study in the American Journal of Public Health, drinking soda can age you by as much as smoking. It’s something to think about.