If I would have known then what I know now, my food choices would have been A LOT different, but we can only make the best decision possible with the knowledge and information that we have at the time, so I am not even going to beat myself up about it! I thought it would be fun for you to take a look at some of the foods I use to eat on the regular, why I thought they were healthy, and what I choose now instead.
The first offender is Hormel’s Turkey Chili. OMG you guys, I use to love this. I would make like a little turkey chili nacho cheesy concoction. When my husband found me chowing down on what I considered to be a pretty ingenious combination of foods, I thought it was going to be a deal breaker. He couldn’t get over the fact that I was eating chili from a can. Lucky for me, he saw past the drizzle of chili on my chin and the tortilla chip crumbs in my lap! I thought this was a healthy option because it was turkey vs. beef and the front of the label said it was 99% fat free.
Ahhemm, with closer inspection of the back of the label, I realized that there were all sorts of ingredients that don’t belong in chili; the worst offenders being soy, caramel coloring, sugar, and MSG. Caramel coloring has been linked to cancer, soy (most likely genetically modified) is not appropriate for everyone, as it is an xenoestrogen, and sugar fuels most prevalent chronic conditions in America. Plus, one serving has half the amount of sodium you should have in an entire day! Low-fat or fat-free is not an indication of a healthy food either. I could talk for years on that subject! Instead of canned chili, opt for REAL chili. Make a double batch and freeze half so you can always have some at your ready.
Oh my, I don’t even know where to begin with Special K Protein Bars. These use to be the bread and butter of my granola bar world. I thought they were a good choice because they were 10 grams of protein and only 170 calories, plus they tasted good. The protein comes from the soy protein isolate (the first ingredient) which has been shown to cause gas, bloating, and stomach discomfort. Is that the exact opposite of what you would want from eating a bar like this or what?! Not to mention, the ingredient list as a mile long with ingredient names we can’t pronounce. Our body doesn’t recognize ingredients that are made in a lab and eating products like this can lead to inflammation over time. If you are eating protein bars with a similar ingredient list, stop! Opt for a real foods bar. One of my favorite healthy alternatives is Peanut Butter Cookie Larabar!
I might as well confess right now that I have a sweet tooth. I am able to keep it at bay because I enjoy a small treat every night. Seriously, if I don’t have something my husband thinks I am sick. I use to buy a tray of brownies from Sam’s Club every few weeks and keep them in the freezer. I would pull one brownie out every night for my treat. It was just enough to satisfy my sweet tooth and I didn’t feel like the calories busted the bank. Now that I pay attention to labels, I see that these brownies are really just brown colored chemical squares. YIIIUCKK.
Instead of eating treats like these, I have switched over to dark chocolate. I recommend looking for chocolate that has a 72% or higher cocoa content to really reap the benefits of it. Raw chocolate in it’s pure form is one of the best antioxidants, the problem is that most conventional chocolate available in stores today is laced with sugar! Really, they should be called sugar bars, not chocolate bars. One of my favorite dark chocolate bars is Endangered Species 88% Dark Chocolate. As you make the switch from milk to dark chocolate you will get use to the slightly more bitter taste. Kind of like how when you were in college, you really didn’t like the taste of wine, but then it kind of grew on you, and now you really enjoy it! Oh, just me?!
I must have really liked turkey because I use to be all about turkey dogs too. I think this habit started in college because hot dogs were a quick and easy thing to make. Thank God my kitchen skills have grown since then! I use to buy Ball Park turkey franks thinking it was a healthier option to its beef counterpart, but never did I once pay attention to the ingredients. With closer inspection, I see there are ingredients I can’t pronounce (not a good sign) and they are preserved with sodium nitrate. Nitrates are preservatives that are added to processed meat products to enhance red color and flavor. These compounds transform into cancer-causing agents called nitrosamines in the stomach. Studies have shown that noticeable side effects from eating nitrates include headaches, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. No thanks!
Instead of a preserved turkey dog or hot dog with ingredients I can’t pronounce, I now opt for natural dogs like the ones made by Applegate Farms. They are more expensive than the others but your health is worth it. Why pay to eat something that could harm your body?And lets face it, sometimes you just need a hot dog!
Oh boy, fat-free, sugar-free Jell-O Instant Pudding is another one that makes me cringe. I use to make batches of this pudding and top each serving with crumbled graham crackers and strawberries.
The ingredients that really stand out to me as being the worst offenders are aspartame, food dyes, and BHA–all no-no’s, but so is everything else you can’t pronounce! If you like creamy types of desserts like this, an alternative is to slice bananas, freeze them, and blend then with a touch of milk to make an ice cream. You can get creative by adding cocoa powder, peanut butter, berries, cinnamon, and more. Much healthier!
I hope you find this information useful as you make your food choices! If you feel like you have been fooled by these same types of foods, don’t beat yourself up, just change your habits moving forward. Now that you know new information, you can make new choices!