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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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).