As a health conscious consumer, wouldn’t you seriously think twice about ordering a double bacon cheeseburger when dining out? You would know better, wouldn’t you?
But are you aware that some of the staple foods hiding out in your fridge at home may be just as unhealthy as that burger? In fact, many of the foods you find there may be loaded with unhealthy high fat, high salt, high sugar ingredients without you even realizing it. And, if the food is in the fridge, you tend to eat it, right?
Here are five common foods you need to toss when cleaning out your refrigerator.
One – Ice Cream. Loaded with calories, fat and sugar, that carton of Ben & Jerry’s or box of Haagen-Dazs bars kept in your fridge in case of emergency should be one of the first items to go.
Let’s face it, who eats only the suggested half cup serving, which is already over the top in calories, fat and sugar, when they dip their spoon into the container? Hardly anyone does, right? Most have two, maybe three times the suggested serving, sometimes even more. Once started, it’s hard to stop. But if the ice cream’s not there in your fridge, you can’t be tempted.
If you need a treat, there are low calorie, low fat and low sugar ice cream brands found in most supermarkets. Better yet, choose low fat yogurt topped with fresh fruit or mixed with chocolate-flavored protein powder instead. If you wish, put it in a bowl and set it in the freezer for a half hour or so before eating to give it a more frozen consistency.
Two – Creamy Salad Dressing. How many bottles of creamy ranch, blue cheese or Thousand Island dressing do you have sitting in your fridge? Sure, store bought dressings are easy to use and made to taste great, but are they the healthiest choice?
When added to a salad, burger or any other food, the recommended two tablespoon serving of most common creamy dressings add about 12 grams of fat, 400 mgs of sodium and 120 calories. Some brands include as much as 20 grams of fat and 200 calories per serving. And most contain unhealthy oils and quite a bit of sugar. You also need a degree in chemistry to read and understand the ingredient lists.
Once again, who only adds two tablespoons of dressing to a salad? Very few people do. Most pour it on, doubling or tripling the calorie, fat, sodium and sugar count.
Avoid commercial dressings, unless you can find one with reduced fat, salt and sugar that tastes good. And always use dressings moderately. You’re much better off making your own dressing by filling a jar with one third balsamic vinegar, one third apple cider vinegar and one third extra virgin olive oil and adding salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder to taste. Then shake well before each use.
Three – Mayonnaise. As unhealthy as it is, commercial mayonnaise is found on just about everyone’s refrigerator shelf. A teaspoon or two may not be a problem, but most mayo lovers slather a lot more than that on a sandwich. A quarter cup serving will add as much as 40 grams of fat and 360 calories to your daily total.
Store bought mayo, whether full fat or low fat, is made with less healthy vegetable oils high in omega-6 fatty acids, which most Americans get far too much of in their diet. Even when the label claims to contain healthier olive oil, it is only a small part of the total oil. Regular mayo also has about a gram of sugar per tablespoon. Reduced fat mayo has even more sugar – about 4 grams per tablespoon. Mayonnaise is also loaded with preservatives, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and other artificial ingredients.
If you love mayonnaise and can’t live without it, make your own at home. It’s not that difficult. All it takes is some healthy olive oil, egg yolks and lemon juice or vinegar and seasoning. For a gourmet version, you can add pesto, hot sauce, curry powder or sun-dried tomatoes. Better yet, switch from mayo to lower calorie mustard or salsa or pesto made with olive oil.
Four – Processed Meats. Hot dogs, sausages, cold cuts, etc., preserved by curing, smoking, salting or added chemical preservatives such as nitrates, are linked to an increased risk of cancer and should be totally avoided or infrequently eaten in moderation. They should not be in your fridge to be carelessly consumed. Remember, out of sight, out of mind.
One serving of processed meats can add as much 1,000 mgs of sodium (half the daily recommended limit) to your daily total intake. Research has linked the daily ingestion of processed meat to a 19% increased threat of diabetes and a 42% increased threat of heart disease. Eating cured meat just a couple of times a month is associated with increased risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), commonly known as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
When making sandwiches, use freshly roasted skinless turkey, chicken, pork tenderloin or roast beef. Either roast your own meat or chose lower fat store brands of sliced meat that are reduced in sodium and nitrates. There are also brands of turkey dogs with no added nitrates that are lower in fat and sodium.
Five – Stick Butter. Anything that keeps its shape, whether it is butter or margarine, is loaded with unhealthy saturated fat, since saturated fat stays solid at room temperature. Though some brands of margarine may have been reformulated, some still contain high levels of unhealthy trans fats. Saturated fats and trans fats should be eliminated or at least greatly reduced in the diet because a high consumption can lead to increased blood levels of cholesterol, a key factor in heart disease.
Stick butter is often overused because the consistency makes it more difficult to spread in small amounts. It’s not unusual to slice off a couple of patties worth of butter to spread on a single piece of toast or top off a baked potato. Each patty adds about 70 calories of saturated fat to your daily diet.
If you want something to spread on your toast, try coconut butter spread. It has a nice sweet taste and is easy to spread, so you use a lot less. If you have to have butter, go with whipped butter. It also can be spread lightly, cutting down on fat consumed. When cooking, switch to olive oil, which is high in healthy monounsaturated fatty acids.