If you follow the government’s recommendation for your nutrition, it’s going to kill you.

We’ve learned more about nutrition in the past 5 years than in the previous 50. Now the question is: what we can do about it? 

Working out isn’t the only thing that can protect us from disease and obesity; another aspect is our diet. It’s about what we put into our bodies. This blog post isn’t the end-all, be-all, but it is a start to get you on the right track to a long life!

Isn’t it easy when people tell us exactly what to eat? Of course it is! But, how do you know if the right people are telling you the right stuff? Unfortunately, there are so many misleading claims fueled by profit. I remember seeing a trail mix package in the store, a beautiful picture of mountains and a stream, the words “natural” and “low in sodium” across the top… Anyone would think, “Wow, okay, maybe this is a great, quick on-the-go snack.” Read down a little further and guess what? An “American staple” is in the trail mix: Cinnamon Toast Crunch! This is not a joke.

The goal of the marketing staff is to make YOUR decision to consume emotionally driven. You see the idea of healthy and look past the rest. It makes it really difficult to know what’s good for us and what’s not. When we are in a tight spot, it leads to a bad decision, crummy food, and the feeling of yuck. In every diet there’s room for balance and no food needs to be strictly “off-limits” for all of eternity. But clearly, some foods are on the eat-only-every-now-and-again list. To help, we aren’t going to tell you exactly what to eat. But we are going to give you tips and some foods to avoid.

Top picks for foods to avoid:

Sugary Cereal

Breakfast cereals are a marketer’s dream. Claims like “whole grains” and “heart-healthy” abound. Cereals are often made from refined grains, which are highly processed with added sugar and preservatives. They contain little fiber and don’t possess really any other nutritional value. Eating a big ol’ bowl of these refined carbs can spike your blood sugar, leading to energy crashes and cravings. As your energy crashes, cravings for additional sugar-filled carbs begin. Now you are on a never-ending cycle! And remember, sugary cereal isn’t just in a box now; it is in breakfast bars, trail mix, and who knows what else!

Try instead: Plain oatmeal sweetened with fresh fruit and topped with some chopped nuts or unsweetened dried coconut. You’ll get a delicious, filling breakfast without the mid-morning sugar crash.

Diet Soda

You already know that soda and other sugary drinks are not good for you, but what about diet soda? It doesn’t have any calories, so what’s the harm? While there’s no sugar in diet soda, there are plenty of artificial sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose. While artificial sweeteners don’t contain any calories, they mess with the body’s sense of how many calories it has consumed. It thinks it is consuming sugar! And guess what? Just like sugary cereal, it leads to more cravings for sugary food or drinks. Plus, diet soda is surprising bad for your teeth (The acid content erodes tooth enamel).

Try instead: Unsweetened iced tea or water with lemon or lime slices and a sprig of fresh mint. Hydrate yourself without drinking a bunch of chemicals.

Bottled Salad Dressings

Many condiments have ingredient lists a mile long, and numerous salad dressings are guilty as charged. You might find additives and sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrup and inflammatory vegetable oils. Of course, some brands are better than others. Check the labels and choose one made with olive oil and without chemical-sounding ingredients, or simply make your own.

Try instead: Dress your salad with olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar and a little salt and pepper. This way, you control the seasoning and avoid gross ingredients in bottled dressings.

Flavored Yogurt

Often billed as a healthy convenience food, flavored yogurt isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Flavored yogurt contains a ton of added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Regular yogurt also doesn’t contain all that much protein, so it’s not an ideal breakfast or snack.

Try instead: Plain Greek yogurt with your own toppings like chopped fruit, nuts, or unsweetened shredded coconut. You’ll get double the protein and half the sugar in Greek yogurt versus regular yogurt. Plus, Greek yogurt is thicker and creamier. Yum!

Protein Bars/Granola Bars

It’s a pretty broad generalization to say that all protein or granola bars should be avoided, but you’ll definitely want to put these snacks on your watch list. Some bars contain as much as 30 grams of sugar, which is more than a candy bar!  Also keep an eye on the ingredient list, as many bars contain numerous junky processed ingredients.

Try instead: A snack that consists of whole foods, like a hard-boiled egg, an apple and some nut butter, or sliced veggies and hummus.

Think “bang for your buck”!

We could go on and lay out hundreds of other foods to avoid, but these are some easy ones that are typically consumed frequently. We gave you a few alternatives and quick ideas, so take these suggestions and build upon them. When in doubt, ask yourself a few questions:

·      Does this food contain artificial ingredients or chemicals?

·      Is this a highly processed food?

·      Is this food balanced? (Carbs, Fat, Protein)

Okay, that is a wrap! Remember, we said this is a start. Start thinking about making educated healthy decisions by eating real food and be on the lookout for you-know-what!

Written by: Russell Francis, JCFit Owner and Coach

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