If you’re working towards a weight loss goal by counting your calories, meal prepping, and working out regularly at the fitness center, you probably spend a lot of time analyzing ingredient labels. But some things we eat and drink tend to pass by this radar, probably because we think of them as health foods, or, at the very least, not as harmful as foods that are higher in calories from fat or sugar. For this reason, you might be surprised at this list of 5 foods and beverages that could be harming your health.
1. Diet Soda
If you’re trying to kick the soda habit, you might think a diet version is a good alternative. It packs way fewer calories and some people even prefer the taste. The problem is that, to get great flavor without sugars and syrups, manufacturers add artificial ingredients and chemicals like aspartame and BVO, which is found in flame retardants. That’s not to say all diet sodas are horrible for you — food producers are responding to consumers’ demand for more natural, healthier alternatives. Just be sure to read the label.
2. Coffee creamers
Many of us wouldn’t be able to drink our daily pre-workout cup of joe without a splash of creamer added. As you try to avoid heavy creams and sugars, it’s tempting to use a lower-calorie prepared creamer. Unfortunately, coffee creamers tend to have a substance known as titanium dioxide (the same whitening agent found in deodorant brands), artificial sweeteners, and trans fats. Drink your coffee black, opt for a natural creamer that doesn’t have these ingredients, or stick with some low-fat milk and natural sweeteners.
3. Microwave popcorn
Popcorn (without the butter and heavy salt) is a popular low-calorie snack among those who are trying to cut calories and adopt healthier eating habits. The microwaveable versions, however, often contain a chemical known as dacetyl, which affects brain cells. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy popcorn! Throwing some corn kernels in an air popper or microwaving them in a brown paper bag will do the trick without the risk of harmful chemicals.
4. Fast food iced tea
Unsweetened iced tea is another popular alternative to either regular or diet soda. Black tea without any sweeteners seems pretty harmless, and it is – if you steep it at home. Fast food chain iced teas often have an added chemical known as E405, found in antifreeze and windshield de-icer, which carries the risk of damaging the nervous or cardiovascular systems.
Take a few extra minutes to steep your own black or green tea (which is full of antioxidants and natural metabolism boosters) at home and take a to-go mug with you to the fitness gym instead of hitting the drive through.
As you can see, calories from fats and sugars isn’t the only thing to avoid as you see to make positive changes to your eating habits and more quickly reach your weight loss goals. It’s important to keep reading labels, question and look up ingredients you aren’t familiar with, and better yet, stick with foods that don’t need an ‘ingredients’ list at all.