1. Fast Food Iced Tea
Harmful Ingredient: Propylene glycol alginate (E405) What’s a food additive that’s also used as automotive antifreeze and runway de-icer? Sadly, there are a few, including this one. Propylene glycol alginate is a food thickener, stabilizer, and emulsifier, and it can cause cardiovascular or neurotoxic issues. And it’s used in Dunkin Donuts iced tea, among others. Eat This Instead: Did you know that steeping green tea in cold water for two hours actually makes it even more beneficial to your body than your regular steeping routine? Either way, green tea can help you melt major fat.
Harmful Ingredient: Mercury Ranked the #1 Worst Fish on Eat This, Not That!’s exclusive report on 40+ Popular Types of Fish—Ranked for Nutrition, you know tilefish must be pretty dangerous if it’s deemed scarier than shark and swordfish. You might as well drink some battery acid with the amount of mercury in these ocean creatures. Eat This Instead: Atlantic Mackerel, aka the #1 Best fish on our list!
3. Fast Food Chicken Nuggets
4. Fruit Juice
Harmful Ingredients: Fructose It’s natural! It’s packed with Vitamin C! It comes from Florida! What could be wrong? Well, while 100 percent fruit juice is a better pick than sugary drinks like Sunny D, even the all-natural stuff still packs up to 36 grams of sugar per cup—or about what you’d get from popping 4 Krispy Kreme glazed donuts into a blender and hitting frappe. What’s more, most of the sweetness in juice comes from fructose, a type of sugar associated with the development of visceral adipose tissue—yep, that’s belly fat.
Harmful Ingredients: Artificial coloring, added sugar, saturated fats You already knew all the artery-clogging fats and addicting sugars in candy weren’t doing you or your family any favors, but you likely didn’t realize that certain candies can make it more difficult for your little ones to concentrate. A few years ago, researchers discovered that the artificial colors, Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 (found in Butterfingers and M&Ms), promote Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in children. In fact, Norway and Sweden have already banned the use of these artificial colors, and in the rest of the EU, foods containing these additives must be labeled with the phrase: “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”
6. Sugary Cereal
7. Diet Sodas What do cancer-causing artificial colors, flame retardants and fat-causing fake sugars all have in common? They’re ingredients in all your favorite diet fizzy drinks. Shove all that into a bottle laced with BPA, a chemical that’s been linked to obesity, and you’ve pretty much got the worst drink ever. Nearly all popular diet sodas contain aspartame, an artificial sweetener that raises glucose levels, overloading the liver and causing the excess to convert into fat. And that’s not all: The caramel coloring found in brown beverages like Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper has been proven to cause cancer in animals and is a possible carcinogen for humans. If citrus-flavored sodas like Diet Mountain Dew and Fresca are your go-to, you’re not off scot-free. Instead of caramel coloring they contain BVO, a chemical used in rocket fuel and flame retardants that may reduce fertility and can negatively affect thyroid hormones. Eat This Instead: While Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have agreed to phase BVO out of their sodas, it’s still actively used in sodas from Dr. Pepper/Seven Up Inc.
Harmful Ingredients: Caramel coloring, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), Bisphenol A (BPA), aspartame
8. Coffee Creamer
Harmful Ingredients: Titanium dioxide, trans fats, added sugar Coffee creamer and sunblock have more in common that you might think. They both contain titanium dioxide, an ultraviolet radiation blocker that doubles as a whitening agent. Besides lurking in many conventional creamers, it’s also found in seemingly ‘healthy’ bottles like So Delicious’ coconut milk-based variety. The additive has been proven to cause liver and tissue damage in mice, and may also have health implications in humans, according to a recent review of the chemical. Coffee creamer is also typically packed with trans fats, often hiding under its lesser-known name: hydrogenated oil. Pretty much all of Coffee Mate’s products have this scary ingredient that has been shown to diminish memory in adults under 45 years old. If you’re working hard or don’t want to forget where you parked your car, this is one ingredient you should steer clear of. Eat This Instead: Plain ol’ cow’s milk or unsweetened, organic soy milk both make for healthy additions to your morning cup. If you’re looking for a hint of flavor, stick with a tablespoon of one of Coffee Mate’s Natural Bliss creamers.
9. Processed Meats
Harmful Ingredients: Nitrate and salt The bacon and sausage you enjoy for breakfast and the deli meats you use to make your lunch may be putting your life at risk. How? Many of these meats contain nitrates, a preservative that interferes with the body’s natural ability to process sugar, which increases the risk for diabetes. It can also up your odds of developing thyroid and colon cancer. If that wasn’t bad enough, most processed meats are also loaded with sodium, a known contributor to hypertension that can make you bloat and set you up to develop heart disease. Looking for other ways to steer clear of nitrates? Try these Meat Alternatives for Rapid Weight Loss. Eat This Instead: At the deli counter, ask for Boar’s Head All Natural Roasted Turkey Breast. It’s free of nitrates and is relatively low in sodium. Applegate Natural’s Natural Slow-Cooked Ham and Organic Bacon are also good picks.
10. Deep Fried Foods
Harmful Ingredient: Hydrogenated Oil Fried chicken, fried cheese sticks, fried calamari, French fries. You won’t ever see these items marked as an “Eat This.” They cause trouble for your body for a variety of reasons and can wreak havoc on your weight. But there’s more: They’re also linked to depression. Deep frying is usually done in partially hydrogenated oil. Hydrogenation is a process that turns vegetable oil into a more solid form, which makes it a more shelf-stable product. Anything that is cooked with hydrogenated oils and contains trans fats could potentially contribute to depression. Eat This Instead: Bake your foods in the oven. Always.
11. Frozen Entrees
Harmful Ingredients: Sodium and Trans Fats From preservatives and artificial fillers to mountains of sodium that wreak havoc on your mood, frozen entrees are not to be trusted. So, you’ve been warned: These are the 48 Worst Frozen Foods in America.
12. Chinese Food
Harmful Ingredient: Monosodium Glutamate Chinese food is often loaded with MSG (monosodium glutamate), a flavor enhancer found in other types of food such as soups, processed meats, and more. Some research suggests that the chemicals in MSG cause a drastic increase in appetite, which seems appropriate as people who consume the most amounts of MSG are more likely to be overweight compared to those that have no MSG in their diet. Avoid these five Chinese Foods Not Eaten in China! Eat This Instead: Steamed veggies and these other 8 Chinese Foods Approved by Diet Experts
13. Restaurant Desserts
Harmful Ingredient: Sodium And here you thought we’d say the sugar. And calories. And fat. And everything else. While that’s all true, and restaurant desserts are dangerous because the portions are often oversized, it’s the sodium content that many people don’t even think about. That innocent looking dessert you see pictured above has a whopping 1,380 calories, 92 g fat (56 g saturated fat, 2.5 g trans fat), 700 mg sodium, 125 g carbs, and 86 g sugar.
14. Monochromatic Beige Entrees
Whenever your plate is made up almost entirely off-brown hues of deep-fried junk, you know you’re not in for anything remotely nutritious. (Or if it was once nutritious, it no longer is.) Appetizer samplers, fried fish, and chips, a plate of wings—if there isn’t at least half the plate made up of vegetables, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.
15. Energy Drinks
Harmful Ingredient: Sucrose, Glucose, Caffeine Ever wonder why all energy drinks taste like cough syrup? We can only imagine the number of broken Bunsen burners it took to come up with the now-familiar energy drink formula. No doubt this strange medicinal taste makes consumers feel like they’re deriving real benefits from one of these cans. All they’re really deriving, though, is an overpriced chemical cocktail with the caffeine content of a strong cup of coffee and a lot of sugar (or scary artificial sweeteners). P.S. – A University of Maryland study found energy drinks to be 11 percent more corrosive to your teeth than regular soda.
Drink This Instead: Green tea! It’s all-natural and one of the best energy boosters around.
16. Ice Cream
Harmful Ingredients: Soybean oil, titanium dioxide, artificial coloring Most “premium” ice creams are overloaded with sugar and soybean oil, a fat that’s been linked to weight gain. Some even contain harmful artificial coloring agents and titanium dioxide, an additive that gives sunblock its white hue! Eat This Instead: To have your cake and eat it, too, stick with one of these Best Ever Ice Creams for Weight Loss.
17. Bottled Smoothies
Harmful Ingredients: Caramel coloring, pectin, fructose, xanthan gum Busy mornings and grab-and-go breakfasts are practically synonymous—so it’s easy to see the appeal of store-bought smoothies. They seem like the best way to get what you crave in a pinch. But the timesaving drinks have a downside: Compared to fresh-made drinks, most of them fall short on nutrition and are so calorie- and sugar-filled that you’d have to spend hours on the treadmill to burn them off. Be sure to avoid The Worse Smoothies at the Supermarket for Weight Loss.
18. Breakfast Biscuits
Harmful Ingredients: Trans fat Making biscuits from scratch can take forever, and the majority of the packaged varieties are chock full of trans fats, an artificial fat—invented to make baked goods more shelf-stable—that’s been linked heart disease. Each of Mary B’s Buttermilk Biscuits carries three grams a pop (which is more than a day’s worth). And though the nutrition label on Pillsbury Grands! Buttermilk Biscuits reads “0 grams” in the trans fat column, it’s made with hydrogenated soybean oil—a dead giveaway that there are traces of the dangerous fat in the biscuits. Eat this Instead: Not only do Thomas’ “nooks and crannies” save you from the dangers of trans fats, but they also shave 90 calories from your plate. Smear some butter and mashed blackberries on those babies to amp up the flavor and add a hit of sweetness.
19. Maple Syrup
Harmful Ingredients: High fructose corn syrup and caramel coloring Famous syrup brands like Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth are made with two ingredients we’re constantly telling readers to avoid: health-harming high fructose corn syrup and caramel coloring. Eat this Instead: The best syrup for your waistline is a Grade A Medium Amber pure maple syrup. Since the flavor is so concentrated, a little goes a long way, saving you calories and sugar.
20. Farmed Salmon
Harmful Ingredients: Omega-6s, PCBs Atlantic salmon is the Kid Rock album release of the refrigerator section: Always bad news. By definition, all Atlantic salmon is farm-raised and packed with inflammatory omega-6s. Because salmon farmers feed their fish soy, farmed salmon has around 1,900 milligrams of the unhealthy fatty acid while wild salmon has just 114 milligrams. It gets worse: Farmed salmon are usually dyed pink, have been found to be high in PCBs (cancer-causing industrial chemicals that were banned in 1979) and have one-fourth the belly-flattening vitamin D of their wild cousins. Eat this Instead: Wild salmon. It’s high in omega-3 acids, which fight inflammation throughout the body.
21. Sports Drinks
Harmful Ingredients: Wood rosin and artificial dyes Whoever invented the Gatorade Dunk—the tradition in which winning sports teams dump coolers of the stuff on their coaches—was really on to something. One scan of the nutrition label and it’s clear: The sports drink is better off seeping into the sidelines than your stomach. Sure, it provides critical post-workout electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, but it also serves up a hearty helping of calories and sugar. In fact, there are 56 grams of the sweet stuff (which is more than a day’s worth) in a 32-ounce bottle. What’s more, the beverage is teeming with stomach-churning additives like wood rosin and artificial dyes that have been linked to cancer and hyperactivity in children. Drink This Instead: A better—and safer—way to replenish the electrolytes and water lost after a tough workout: Pick up a fork and knife. There are a number of all-natural foods that are just as hydrating as Gatorade and chock full of electrolytes and nutrients that aid muscle recovery and weight loss. Pick up some of these Healthy Foods Better For Hydration than Gatorade to reap the benefits.
22. Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli
Harmful Ingredients: Caramel coloring, soybean oil, yeast extract, high fructose corn syrup You might not see MSG on this ravioli’s ingredients list, but its troublesome compound, glutamic acid, is found inside a couple of ingredients that are there, including yeast extract. After years of bad publicity surrounding MSG, considered a “flavor enhancer” in food-additive terminology, many manufacturers stopped including it and instead slipped through an FDA loophole: They don’t have to mention glutamic acid if it’s hidden in other ingredients. So what’s the big deal about glutamic acid? A review compiled for the FDA recently concluded that the substance triggers some people to have reactions, including migraines, headache, nausea, changes in heart rate, and difficulty breathing.
Harmful Ingredients: Monosodium glutamate)
Everyone knows that when you buy Doritos, you’re bound to finish the entire bag—and it’s no surprise. The recipe for the popular chip was specially designed so that no single flavor overpowers another. When foods lack a dominant flavor, people are less apt to feel full and, in turn, consume more, say researchers. What’s more, one of the first ingredients on the food’s label is monosodium glutamate (MSG), an additive that’s been known to increase appetite and make foods taste more appetizing. And if you thought that Dorito breath was just a coincidental side effect of munching on the snack, think again. The powerful savory taste lingering in your mouth is an example of a tactic called “long hang-time flavor” that’s used to lure snackers into going back for more. With all of these factors working against you, it’s really no wonder you’re defenseless when Doritos come around. Eat this Instead: Beanitos Nacho Cheese White Bean Chips. A serving of these bean-based chips have a whopping 6 grams of belly-filling fiber, so you’ll definitely be able to put the bag down once you’ve eaten your fill. Plus, they’re free of MSG, which should let your natural willpower kick in.
Harmful Ingredients: Monosodium Glutamate, yellow 6 It’s not your imagination: This orange, puffy snack melts the second it hits your tongue —a phenomenon scientists have dubbed “vanishing caloric density.” And it’s definitely not an accidental quality of your chips, either. Food developers know that when foods melt quickly, it tricks the brain into thinking you’re not eating as many calories. In turn, snackers wind up eating a much larger serving. The sound Cheetos make when you bite into them was also specially developed to get you hooked. The crunchy sound makes them taste more appetizing, likely because we associate the sound with freshness, according to a recent Oxford University study. What’s more, Cheetos are doused with MSG, which has been shown to increase appetite and make foods taste even more delicious. Plus, Cheetos are one of the 8 Most Addictive Foods in the World. Eat this Instead: Blue Diamond Natural Almond Nut-Thins in Cheddar Cheese. These rice and almond-based crackers offer a Cheeto-esque taste with three grams of hunger-busting protein per serving. Most importantly, they’re free of those tricky vanishing calories that cause us to overeat.