We are all aware of the most obvious foods that are bad for our health. Those that contain excess fat, sugar and salt top the list. Ones that come to mind include candy, chocolate, buttery foods, smoked meats and salty snacks. I'm sure you know many more than that. But there are some foods that don't immediately come to mind which we mindlessly consume not thinking about the effects on our health.
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1. Processed deli lunch meats
We may be in the habit of purchasing sliced turkey, roast beef, ham or salami for sandwiches or salads. Often we are lured into the lower sodium or lower fat selections. But beware, these meats are heavily processed, contain excess sodium and often nitrates and have been linked to obesity as well as colon cancer. Two slices contain approximately 500 mg of sodium, which represents one third of your daily allowance. Excess sodium can result in high blood pressure and stroke. Your best consumption should be from freshly cooked chicken, turkey or beef, now available in supermarkets.
One tbsp. will cost you about 100 calories and 10 gm of fat. This is what adds up in the calories of sandwiches and mayonnaise based salads such as coleslaw or pastas. Try to use light mayonnaise which only has 35 calories per tbsp. and 3.5 gm of fat. A huge saving! Better yet is to combine half light mayonnaise and half Dijon mustard. You'll have a tastier spread with only 17 calories and 1.7 gm of fat.
3. Sugary beverages, juices, diet drinks and alcohol
My number one food motto is not to drink your calories. A can of coke is 90 calories and contains 7 tsp of sugar. A pure orange juice has 110 calories and 22 gm of sugar. Even though this is natural sugar from the oranges an excess is not a good thing because it still raises your blood sugar levels. Diet sodas may have no calories but consuming chemical sweeteners has no nutrition and ultimately fools your body into thinking you're receiving sugar and creates a greater desire for more sugar type foods.
Alcohol has around 150 empty calories for a glass of wine, beer or mixed drink. Add a soda and you've added an extra 50 calories. The problem with alcohol is that the liver has to work harder to process and excess alcohol kills liver cells over time.
Liquid calories are the number one cause of obesity. H2O is your best bet and you can liven it up by buying carbonated water or adding sliced fruit and ice. Lower fat milk has the same calories as soda but is filled with nutrients.
4. Salad dressings
The number one culprit in that innocent salad is the dressing. When we hear about "Caesar Salad," we know that this "heart attack on a plate" contains as many calories and fat as a complete steak dinner. It's not due to the innocent romaine lettuce but rather to the high calorie and high fat dressing, containing mostly oil. Two tbsp. of a creamy bottled or homemade dressing has 120 calories and 12 gm of fat along with the bonus of close to 400 mg of sodium! The average salad contains at least 500 calories and 50 gm of fat per serving. We can already feel our pants tightening! My advice is to always add your own dressing and try to limit yourself to 2 tbsp. Go for a lighter version if available and if preparing at home try to substitute half the oil with a flavoured vinegar or juice concentrate such as apple or orange.
5. Butter, Margarine or Oil
Remember that in terms of calories, a fat is a fat is a fat! One tbsp. of butter, margarine or oil all has about 120 calories and 14 gm of fat. Unsaturated fats such as margarine or oil will not clog your arteries but will still cause weight gain. Use any fat sparingly and avoid vegetable shortenings and lard which can contain trans fats worse than saturated fats.
6. Whole milk dairy products
Cheese, yogurt, milk and sour cream are all healthy dairy products containing protein, calcium, B 12 and riboflavin, but also come with excess calories, cholesterol and saturated fat, the kind that can lead to heart disease. The key is use lower fat dairy products and keep with Canada's Food Guide of having no more than 3 servings daily. One serving is one half cup of milk or 1 oz of cheese.
The key is not to deprive yourself of these foods but remember to be mindful when consuming.