Ditch These Ingredients And Choose From Healthier Alternatives

If you’re making most of your meals at home and you’re making an effort to avoid take-out, you’re on the right track. We know that cooking isn’t the easiest thing in the world to work into your busy schedule, and you deserve a lot of credit for just for standing over a hot pan or slicing up an onion with your own two hands.

If you’re a home cook, then you’re already taking steps towards a healthier life, but your life could be even healthier if you avoided some of these common ingredients. Want to know which foods to remove from your kitchen pantry and fridge? Keep reading to find out which foods aren’t as healthy as they often claim.

Full Sodium Broth Is Not Doing You Any Favors

GettyImages-471729612 Campbells soup in store shelf.
Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

The recommended daily amount of sodium for the average adult is around 2,300 mg, however, most Americans consume closer to 3,400 mg of sodium per day. If you already have high blood pressure, all of that sodium isn’t doing you any favors. Full sodium chicken, beef, or vegetable stock can contain more than 800 mg of sodium per serving.

That’s pretty much the same amount of sodium found in three orders of large french fries from McDonald’s.

Fat-Free Dairy Products Aren’t Sugar Free

GettyImages-3342312 A woman shops for milk in a grocery April 12, 2004 in Chicago, Illinois.
Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Fat isn’t the enemy of health. In fact, you need some fat in your diet and many fats are actually very good for you. Dairy products that have the words “fat-free” written on their labels often replace that fat with more sugar. Sugar is often worse for you than fat, plus all of these products have been altered and processed.

Christine M. Palumbo, MBA, RDN, FAND says, “Many people find the texture, taste, and mouthfeel of these products to be less satisfying, which either turns them off from the dish altogether or spurs cravings for seconds and thirds as they search for satisfaction.”

Canned Vegetables— More Like Can’t Vegetables

GettyImages-838560170 Shelves of tinned and jars of food for sale inside a supermarket in Toledo.
Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

While technically vegetables are very good for you, canned vegetables can contain excess salt, corn syrup, processed oils, and preservatives. You’re much better off getting fresh vegetables from the produce aisle. They won’t last as long, but they’ll taste much fresher. If you want veggies that will last a long time, opt for frozen vegetables instead. Just make sure to read the ingredients list and pick the pack of frozen veggies with the least amount of additives.

Some canned vegetables can also contain bisphenol A (BPA) which is a synthetic estrogen found in the coatings of canned foods.

Artificial Sweetener Won’t Get Rid Of Your Sweet Tooth

GettyImages-73847513 Packages of Equal and Splenda artificial sweeteners are displayed at a coffee shop
Photo illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Photo illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

You may think you’re being healthy by baking cookies with Splenda instead of sugar or adding packets of Equal to your coffee, but these products are actually very over-processed.

“Although they don’t contribute calories, artificial sweeteners are up to 700 times sweeter than natural sugar—and often leave you craving more sweets later in the day,” says Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD. It’s a good idea to cut back on sugar, but don’t replace that sugar with fake sugar.

Stay Away From Cream Of Something Soups

GettyImages-957722262 Mushroom cream soup in ceramic bowl served with forest mushrooms, greens, fried onion, salt, bottle of olive oil on blue textile napkin over dark blue texture concrete background
Photo by: Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo by: Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Soup can be a wonderful, healthy, and easy weeknight meal, but don’t think that you can just whip up any soup and it will automatically be healthy. Any canned soup with “cream of” in its name isn’t doing you any favors.

First of all, a half a cup of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup contains 870 mg of sodium. This stuff also contains less real cream and more vegetable oil products. When you put cream of something soup into your recipes, you’re adding a whole lot of salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats.

Fat-Free Salad Dressing Isn’t Doing Your Salad Justice

GettyImages-490764424 Baby carrots and a bowl full of delicious ranch sauce placed in a blue plate against a black background.
Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Salads are great healthy lunch options, however, when you dump a bunch of fat-free salad dressing onto your fresh vegetables, you’re actually doing more harm than good. As with most products that are advertised as fat-free, fat-free salad dressing overcompensates for its lack of fat with added salt and sugar.

You can make your own healthy salad dressing at home by just mixing together extra virgin olive oil, some kind of vinegar such as balsamic or red wine vinegar, and some spices of your choice.

Opt For All Natural Peanut Butter Over Processed Peanut Butter

GettyImages-158914476 Jars of Skippy peanut butter are displayed on a shelf at Cal Mart grocery store
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If the ingredient list on your jar of peanut butter doesn’t say “peanuts” and “peanuts” only, then it isn’t an ingredient that you should be using in your kitchen. Many processed peanut butter brands contain hydrogenated and processed vegetable oils.

All-natural peanut butter may be more expensive, but that’s because peanuts are more expensive than additives and natural peanut butter contains more peanuts than processed peanut butter. Processed peanut butter is also full of sugar and salt, which isn’t great for your overall health.

Vegetable Oil Shouldn’t Be Your Go-To Oil

GettyImages-469502909 Still life featuring a collection of olive oil bottles
Photo by Tom Kelley/Getty Images
Photo by Tom Kelley/Getty Images

Oils like soybean, corn, and cottonseed oil are highly processed. These oils contain a ton of essential omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, which can be good for you in moderation, but harmful if eaten in excess.

It’s much harder to get enough omega-3 fatty acids than it is to get omega-6 fatty acids, which is why you should swap out vegetable oils for avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil. These oils may be more expensive than vegetable oil, but they’re healthier and they taste better.

Chemical Food Coloring Isn’t Natural

GettyImages-1048781386 Baker Sophie Cabot mixes food colouring in the kitchens preparing the red velvet and chocolate wedding cake
Photo by Chris Jackson – WPA Pool/Getty Images
Photo by Chris Jackson – WPA Pool/Getty Images

If you want to have fun with colored food, use natural food dyes instead of chemical food coloring. If you want to dye your food red, use things like beet juice, red cabbage, or paprika to get the job done.

Diet expert Jay Cardiello said, “Artificial food dyes, which many people use to color baked goods, are cause for concern and may have serious side effects—especially in children. Red 40, for example, may contain cancer-causing contaminants.”

Bake With Unbleached Flour

GettyImages-56702108 Master Chef Fabio Bertoni, of Il Forno Bertoni bakery in Montichiari, mixes some flour as he teaches a bread making technical class during the advanced course of Italian cuisine at the Alma International School of Italian Cuisine
Photo by Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images
Photo by Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

Jay Cardiello also had some wise words to share with us about using bleached all-purpose flour: “Although it may give your food a nicer color and help you to create baked goods that are more soft and tender, the bleach chemicals may be harmful to your health.”

It’s not difficult to find unbleached flour in your grocery store. Your baked goods will still be delicious if you switch to unbleached flour, and they’ll even have more of a farmhouse, rustic quality.

I Can’t Believe We’re Still Using Fake Butter

GettyImages-1036389274 A lump of margerine lies a bowl in Kaufbeuren, Germany
Photo by Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images
Photo by Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images

Even though artificial butter alternatives contain fewer calories than butter, these products still contain a ton of saturated fat. All of this saturated fat can clog your arteries and lead to inflammation. Inflammation can lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

If you want a healthier butter option, opt for grass-fed butter. Earth Balance is a butter alternative that contains oils that aren’t as processed. Coconut oil is also an ingredient you can bake with that’s healthier than butter and margarine.

Condensed Milk Is Full Of Sugar

GettyImages-171690122 The New York Condensed Milk Company produced this ad card circa 1880 in New York City.
Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images
Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

Condensed milk is an ingredient that’s often used in dessert recipes. Dulce de leche is a caramel made from condensed milk. Some cakes and puddings also call for condensed milk as a main ingredient.

One 100 gram serving of sweetened condensed milk (which is around a quarter of a small can of the product) contains 54 grams of sugar and 127 mg of sodium. It’s best to just skip this ingredient altogether and stick to dessert recipes with more nutritional value.

Seasoned Coating Blends Are Easy, But Are They Healthy?

GettyImages-635712154 Shake'n Bake display inside Shaw's grocery store.
Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

It’s super easy to open a box of Kraft’s Shake ‘N Bake, dump it in a plastic bag, and shake some chicken around in it. The problem is, these bread crumb coatings are full of partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose syrup, and other food additives.

You don’t have to give up on breaded chicken entirely, though. Make your own bread crumb coating by crushing up a healthy cereal and adding spices, or by using panko breadcrumbs or whole grain flour.

Cured Meats Are Full Of Sodium

GettyImages-79101974 Different types of traditional German sausage, ham, salami and other meat products lie on display at a butcher's stand
Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Look, I get it. Cured meats are delicious. Italian sausage is good on its own or in pasta sauce recipes and bacon is, well, bacon. The thing is, these cured meats can contain nitrates which aren’t very good for you, plus they’re full of sodium.

Even turkey bacon, which many people believe is healthier than pork bacon, has its issues. Turkey bacon is actually higher in saturated fat and sodium than pork bacon. It has 2,285 mg of sodium per 100 gram serving.

Homemade Is Better Than Pre-Made When It Comes To Pie Crust

GettyImages-72669358 PMince pies wait to be eaten before the Wookey Hole Big Eat Mince Pie Eating Contest,
Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

When you bake all of the elements of a recipe yourself, you know exactly what’s in the whole finished product. Many pre-made pie crusts contain processed oils, corn syrup, sugar, and artificial flavors. You can easily make your own pie crust at home using whole grain flour and grass-fed butter.

Alternatively, you could make a crumble instead of a pie. Just put your pie filling in an oven-safe dish and top with a blend of oats, whole grain flour, butter and a bit of sugar and salt.

Boxed Gravy Contains Way Too Much Sugar And Salt

GettyImages-693825830 Brown roux is basis for sauces such as those for chicken potpie or beef gravy
Photo by Amy Brothers/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Photo by Amy Brothers/The Denver Post via Getty Images

You can easily make brown gravy from the juices that run out of whatever meat you’re cooking. Just add a thickening agent like cornstarch, and reduce a little bit of wine in there if you’re feeling fancy. Boxed gravy contains corn syrup, hydrolyzed soy, and caramel color.

Also, just one serving of prepared boxed gravy can contain 340 mg of sodium. Not only is homemade gravy healthier than boxed gravy, but it also tastes better. It really is worth the extra effort to make it yourself.

Powdered Dip Mixes

GettyImages-490764404 Baby carrots, celery sticks and a bowl full of delicious ranch sauce placed in a brown plate against a black background.
Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

There are plenty of ways to spice up some veggies without using powdered mixes and seasonings. Hidden Valley’s Ranch Dressing Seasoning Mix contains a bunch of artificial colors and flavors. There is nothing whole or real on its ingredients list and all of the ingredients are pretty difficult to pronounce.

Make your own dips at home so you know exactly what’s going into them. You can whip up a quick spinach dip with sour cream, spinach, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes.

Not All Yogurts Are Created Equal

GettyImages-491220537 Dairy products for sale in a Beijing supermarket
Photo by Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

When a yogurt is marked as low fat or reduced fat, that doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. Many low fat yogurts replace fat with sugar. One container of flavored yogurt can have more sugar in it than a candy bar.

You’re better off with all natural plain yogurt. Then you can add your own natural sweeteners and toppings at home. Honey, fresh fruit, and chopped nuts all taste great in a homemade parfait. Stay away from syrupy fruit bottoms.

Pancake Syrup Is Not Maple Syrup

GettyImages-493006533 Maple Syrup gets poured over pancakes during Maine Maple Sunday at Harris Farm in Dayton
Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Maple syrup isn’t the healthiest breakfast item in the world, but if used sparingly, it can add a lot of flavor. Maple syrup is basically sugar, so keep that in mind when you’re pouring it into your oatmeal. Pancake syrup is not maple syrup. It’s an imposter made out of corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and caramel coloring.

Aunt Jemima’s Original Syrup has 32 grams of sugar per serving. Real maple syrup contains a similar amount of sugar, but it also contains nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium.

Canned Fruit Is No Match For The Fresh Stuff

GettyImages-994405048 This photo taken on July 8, 2018 shows a worker sorting canned peaches for export at a factory in Xiayi in China's central Henan province
Photo by AFP/Getty Images
Photo by AFP/Getty Images

Canned fruit may seem healthy, but this stuff is literally packed in sugar. There can be more than 20 grams of sugar in a can of peaches. Canned fruit also contains artificial sweeteners and additives.

If you want fruit that’s going to last in your pantry for a long time, you can make your own compote and store it in airtight glass jars. Still, the healthiest fruit option is fresh fruit. Fresh fruit that’s been frozen is also great (and great to blend into smoothies).