Changing your lifelong eating habits can be a real challenge. I know the struggle all too well. It doesn’t make it easier when society worships unhealthy foods, or when these foods are genetically modified to get us to crave them in a very unhealthy way.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE food more than the next person. Even the not-so-healthy kind #foodieforlife. Once I realized that my health issues were taking over my life, I took a step back and educated myself on what was in the foods that I was eating and how it was affecting my body. Doing my own research and learning about the importance of good nutrition motivated me to make a lifestyle change.
There are many foods out there that are categorized as inherently unhealthy like fast food, but I want to talk about foods that are not so obviously unhealthy. So here’s a little bit of what I’ve learned along the way featuring the unhealthy foods that you should try to cut back on.
• Refined grains
Examples: White bread, white pasta, white rice, anything made with white flour
YES, I know what you’re thinking – many of these foods were my BFFs once upon a time too. The Hispanic in me cringes at the sight of white rice making the list!
But did you know that refined grains are low in essential nutrients and cause your blood sugar to spike? Like all of the foods on this list, they are stripped of their vitamins and minerals to increase their shelf life. Essentially, refined grains are empty calories with no nutritional value.
Alternatives: Whole wheat, sprouted, and Ezequiel bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa
• Refined sugars
Examples: fruit juices, cookies, cereal, syrup, flavored yogurt
I hate to admit but I have the biggest sweet tooth EVER. I’ve met people that don’t like sweets and I’m so shocked that that can even be possible!
If you are like me, try to cut down on refined sugar slowly. Refined sugars are natural sugars but modified and processed, and offer no nutritional value.
Did you know that the average American takes in 22 teaspoons of sugar daily – more than the three times the suggested amount by American Heart Association? The examples I gave above are foods filled with refined sugars, but refined sugar can also be one of the hardest foods to avoid because it tends to hide in common foods.
Check out Dr. Axe’s list on great alternatives for the refined sugar ingredient in your food.
• Overly processed foods
Examples: packaged meats (ham, hotdogs, sausages, etc.), canned meats, frozen dinners, packaged baked goods
I’ve gotten into the habit of looking at the ingredient list on the back of foods and sometimes I’m like whatttt? How can one thing have so many ingredients that I don’t even recognize?
Overly processed foods are loaded with artificial chemicals to help with preservation. I don’t know about you but I want to limit the chemicals in my body NOT increase them. Generally, my rule of thumb is the less ingredients the better. Always check the ingredient list!
Alternatives: chicken, turkey fillets, eggs, beans, hummus
Most of these unhealthy foods are quick and easy. I’m all for quick and easy but I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) the importance of good nutrition by recognizing that my body needs the nutrients eating whole and real foods provide. If that means doing a little extra work to give my body what it needs to stay healthy, then I’ll gladly do what needs to be done.
Of course, I indulge occasionally (I’m only human) but I remind myself that being healthy is not about being 100% perfect. I don’t try to be perfect! If I tried to be perfect, that would be in itself detrimental to my wellness. I try to eat as healthy as possible almost all of the time because it makes me feel great and I know that I’m giving my body the nutrients it needs to thrive.
So next time you’re making your grocery list or eating out, try to be more conscious of what you’re putting in your body and take control of your health one small step at a time.
Since this list is not all-inclusive, what other unhealthy foods do you limit or avoid to get your body feeling great?