Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on September 11, 2020
What’s in Your Fridge?
That moldy leftover chili may not be the only thing you should throw out. There may be secret agents in your fridge that hide empty calories, trans fats, and loads of sugar. You can help yourself make healthier choices if you keep these foods out of your fridge and freezer.
Strawberry, blueberry, vanilla -- a typical 6-ounce serving of flavored yogurt has 3 times the sugar of plain. Try some plain full-fat yogurt with fresh berries and nuts. You’ll get less sugar, more fiber, and lots more nutrients. And full-fat yogurt helps curb hunger better than nonfat yogurt-- and that may help you lose weight.
You may not think about that seemingly harmless bottle when you count the calories in your new low-sugar diet. But imagine that a quarter of it is filled with sugar -- 4 grams per tablespoon -- and that might change your view. Try a little spicy homemade marinara sauce with those eggs instead.
A tablespoon has 93.8 calories. The same amount of Dijon mustard has about 15 -- though you’d probably use far less of it. It’s too tempting to slap on a sandwich if it’s right there in the fridge, so toss the mayo. Keep the mustard.
Flavored Non-Dairy Creamer
It’s highly processed and has sugar or artificial sweeteners and artificial flavors. Ingredients can include corn syrup, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, sodium caseinate, dipotassium phosphate, mono- and diglycerides, and sodium stearoyl lactylate. Just use milk -- you know what it is.
No surprise here. It’s loaded with empty calories and has almost no nutritional value. Pitch it: You can’t drink it if it’s not there. For an alternative, try some seltzer with a little lemon for flavor.
Meat that’s been processed to make it last longer (through curing or smoking, for example) has been linked to colorectal cancer and possibly stomach cancer as well. This includes hot dogs, ham, sausage, and corned beef, among others.
The quinine that gives tonic water its unique bitter taste is sweetened to the tune of 124 calories per 12-ounce bottle -- that’s almost the same as cola. If you use it as a cocktail mixer, try some club soda and lime instead -- it works well and has far fewer calories.
Gourmet Ice Cream
You know which ones we’re talking about: small containers, crazy flavors, loads of fat and sugar -- often more than double the amount of other ice cream. The best substitute is plain yogurt with fresh berries and granola. But if you just gotta have ice cream, check the fat and sugar content and choose a brand that keeps them to a minimum.
Creamy Salad Dressing
It’s often high in fat. And when it’s low-fat, it’s usually high in sugar or salt or artificial sweeteners -- and filled with ingredients you can’t pronounce. It’s easy to dress your own salad with nothing but olive oil, sea salt, and a touch of vinegar -- simple and delicious.
Frozen French Fries
They’re tough to resist when the guy at the restaurant asks, “You want fries with that?” Don’t make it harder on yourself by having those delicious, fat-soaked, calorie-packed salt sticks in the freezer next to the frozen spinach. Let’s be honest: If the fries are there, there’s no way you’re choosing the spinach.
Most grocery store pickles are loaded with salt. But cucumbers, which pickles are made from, are good for you. They have lots of water, which can help you stay hydrated. They also have antioxidants and help curb inflammation. Why not buy them fresh? If you want a little extra zip, mix them with a bit of vinegar. You could even throw in a dash of salt, but not too much.
A typical frozen pizza is loaded with calories (1,920 in a typical “6-serving” pizza), saturated fat (30 grams), and sodium (5,040 milligrams). Keep some berries, veggies, and soup in your freezer instead: Your heart -- and your waistline -- will thank you for it.
If you like to have one beer after work, you may get some health benefits from it, so it might be worth keeping around. But if it’s too easy for you to knock back a 6-pack during a football game, then don’t tempt yourself. Besides the empty calories, that much alcohol is linked to numerous health problems. And hangovers.
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National Institutes of Health: “How Sugars and Sweeteners Affect Your Health,” “Total N-nitroso compounds and their precursors in hot dogs and in the gastrointestinal tract and feces of rats and mice: possible etiologic agents for colon cancer,” “Processed meat 'causes cancer' warns WHO report,” “Effects of Soft Drink Consumption on Nutrition and Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” “Diet Beverages and Body Weight.”
USDA Nutritional Data.
Harvard Health Publications: “Is there a link between diet soda and heart disease?”
Harvard School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source, “Ask the Expert: Healthy Fats,” “Higher risk of heart disease, diabetes from eating processed meats,” “Ask the Expert: Concerns about canola oil.”
Virginia Tech: Family Nutrition Program.
Cleveland Clinic: “Dehydrated? These 7 Foods Will Satisfy Your Thirst and Hunger.”