Did you know that one of every three Americans (over 78.6 million people) is obese? That fact and the other Fast Facts from CNN are ludicrous to me. What’s going on America!?
In terms of BMI, there’s normal weight, overweight, and then obesity which occurs with a BMI score of 30 or more. (You can get your BMI score calculated in this post: getting fat in college.) And way too many people are checking out as obese.
Why are Americans so unhealthy you ask? There are two big reasons why and they’re the consistent big two: lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet.
A big contributing factor to this reality is a lack of cardio and muscle exercise. According to a CDC study, 80% of Americans don’t get enough exercise. Another shocking number! But at this point I shouldn’t be surprised anymore.
People need to start exercising more, standing up when working, and watching less tv for starters. Do something, anything, to be more active, please.
The second big factor that contributes to obesity is eating terrible foods. Since I’ve already discussed how to work out more and easy healthy meals for college students, for this blog post I decided to focus on the worst foods to eat on a diet or in general.
If you can stay away from the foods below, you will feel energized, limit the chance of obesity-related diseases, look sexier, and be happier. Those are all guarantees!
The categories below are broken down by unhealthy snacks, fast food, and meals.
1. Sugary cereals (Raisin Bran, Trix, Reese’s Puffs, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Flavored Cheerios, Fruit Loops, or Cap’n Crunch)
Harmful ingredients: loaded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and sodium
Healthier alternative: check out these 20 healthy cereal brands
2. Candy (Butterfinger, Snickers, Sour Patch Kids, 3 Musketeers, etc.)
Harmful ingredients: sugar, corn syrup, artificial coloring, citric acid, and sometimes GMO’s
Healthier alternative for chocolate: dark chocolate, granola bars (like KIND, or organic)
Healthier alternative for sweets: dried fruit, fresh fruit (maybe add a little Nutella), Twizzlers (but limit yourself!), small handful of animal crackers, fruit popsicles, Greek yogurt
3. Packaged snacks (potato chips or pretzels)
Harmful ingredients: excessive fat, sodium, calories, and chemicals like acrylamide
Healthier alternative: nuts (almonds, sunflower seeds), or all of these chips
4. Microwave popcorn
Harmful ingredients: the bag itself is lined with perfluorooctanoic acid which has been known to link with cancer, food is full of trans fat (which leads to high cholesterol), sodium, GMO’s, artificial flavors, and sometimes a preservative/toxic gas
Healthier alternative: make your own popcorn following these steps
Unhealthy Fast Food
5. Chicken nuggets
Harmful ingredients: trans fat and chemicals that keep the chicken from looking weird or going bad
Healthier alternative: organic meat, salmon
Harmful ingredients: saturated fats, carbohydrates (which easily turns into fat), chemicals, genetically modified foods (GMO’s), additives, and preservatives—if you’re curious, take a look at how bad McDonald’s fries are for you
Healthier alternative: homemade sweet potato fries, zucchini fries, seasoned bell pepper sticks, baked asparagus
Harmful ingredients: heavy sodium, fat, enriched flour (from the bun), sugar, additives, and preservatives
Healthier alternative: fish, salad, or eat the burger without the bun
8. Stuffed burritos
Harmful ingredients: grams of fat, calories, and sodium
Healthier alternative: chicken burrito, grilled chicken and brown rice, or make your own burrito with corn tortillas instead of flour, ground turkey, guacamole, and reduced fat cheese
9. Cinnamon rolls
Harmful ingredients: thousands of calories, high in fat and saturated fat
Healthier alternative: yogurt parfait, turkey with eggs, fruit bowl
10. Ramen noodles
Harmful ingredients: High sodium, calories, fat, hidden GMO’s, and chemicals found in the Styrofoam cups
Healthier alternative: Healthy Choice Hearty Chicken Soup (add water to dilute it, making it even better for you), zucchini ramen noodles, or homemade ramen noodles with sodium-free chicken bouillon as seasoning.
11. Frozen meals (burgers, chicken, toaster strudels, pizza/pizza rolls, single meals, etc.)
Harmful ingredients: hydrogenated oils, artificial ingredients, saturated fats, preservatives, nutrients destroyed by microwaving
Healthier alternative: veggie burgers, frozen fish, or meal prep your week with homemade meals
12. Mac and cheese
Harmful ingredients: preservatives, artificial food coloring, saturated fats, excessive sodium and calories, and chemicals
Healthier alternative: organic (gluten-free is even better!) mac and cheese, or make your own
13. Fried food
Harmful ingredients: the oil that foods are fried in is full of acrylamide (frying carbs), trans fat, toxic chemicals
Healthier alternative: foods cooked in olive or coconut oil, baked foods, or look up healthy meals on Pinterest
14. Processed lunch meat
Harmful ingredients: extra sodium, nitrates, BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), monosodium glutamate (MSG), corn syrup, and sometimes gelatin
Healthier alternative: grass-fed meats, organic meats, fresh meats from the market
15. Pizza (bagel bites, or pizza rolls)
Harmful ingredients: MSG’s (which make you crave more), modified food starch, maltodextrin, high sodium and calories, hydrogenated oil, processed meats
Healthier alternative: pita pizza, quinoa bites, chicken and spinach calzone, or make your own pizza with cauliflower crust and healthy toppings
Although this post is about worst foods to eat, I decided to add bonus content with the most unhealthy drinks. Internalizing this extra information will only help you treat your body better.
Harmful ingredients: fructose, sugar
Healthier alternative: detox water – just add fruit or lemon juice
Harmful ingredients: sugar, electrolytes (bad when not consumed properly), high fructose corn syrup, food coloring, sodium
Healthier alternative: coconut water
Sodas (even diet)
Harmful ingredients: sugar (which can lead to belly fat and diabetes), fructose phosphoric acid, sodium, and excess calories
Healthier alternative: dry soda, Zevia (zero calorie soda), sparkling mineral water, or green tea
Harmful ingredients: sugar, guarana, taurine, ginseng, and excessive caffeine (raises heart rate, blood pressure, dehydrates the body, risk of heart attack, and more). Did you know it takes over 6 gallons of water to flush out a 20 ounce energy drink?
Healthier alternative: homemade smoothies, green tea, protein shakes, water, or black coffee
Harmful ingredients: Propylene glycol alginate (E405), oxalate which contributes to kidney stones
Healthier alternative: green tea (helps melt fat)
Harmful ingredients: about 8 grams of fat per 8 ounce glass, LDL cholesterol, hormones and antibiotics (in the cow), and pesticides.
Healthier alternative: organic milk or unsweetened soymilk
Flavored coffee drinks
Harmful ingredients: extra calories, flavored syrups are mixed with a solvent called propylene glycol (found in antifreeze)
Healthier alternative: natural coffee flavoring, Walden Farms Original Creamer, So Delicious Coconut Creamer, soy milk
Harmful ingredients: high fructose, corn syrup, sugar, calories (pina colada has the most!)
Healthier alternative: red or white wine, light margarita (use lime juice instead of artificial mixers), vodka with a low calorie mixer, Guinness, whiskey, or gin.
What You Crave Chart
Eating healthy is maybe the toughest battle of willpower out there. And it doesn’t help when you have no idea how to replace unhealthy foods for healthier alternatives.
That’s why you should use the following chart to know what to eat when you’re craving something bad for you. Knowledge is power when it comes to your diet, too.
This list of the worst foods to eat can feel overwhelming if you’re not used to eating healthy. However, take solace in the fact that once you start eating and maintaining a healthy diet, junk food and soda will not be as big of a crave.
Although you probably won’t believe it now, start eating for energy and your body will naturally feel better from the healthy foods. Once your mind and body see the positive results, they won’t want to regress to shoving their face with horrible foods.
What are your personal weaknesses when it comes to eating healthy? Do you crave something not listed here? I encourage you to do some research and figure out what you can do to kick your bad habits!