We recently brought you a Byrdie-approved list of 15 healthy foods to always have stocked. To balance the kitchen equation, we’re giving you a list of 15 items you should pretty much never keep around. From the more obvious offenders (like popcorn loaded with trans fats), to items that masquerade as being healthy (we’re looking at you, granola bars!), there are certain foods you’d do best to avoid whenever possible. Keep reading for the scoop on what to skip the next time you shop!
They’re addictive, we know, which is why you probably don't want a bag of them in your kitchen. Your average chips are calorie-dense and high in fat. What's more, they're not exactly conducive to portion control (finishing half the bag is more likely than stopping at just a handful of chips). When eating two servings of classic potato chips, for example, you’re looking at about 20 grams of fat.
Sure, grocery stores offer “healthier” chip options. But while a bag of organic blue corn chips is less unhealthy than, say, a bag of Doritos, it's still an inferior snack compared to something like crisp veggies with edamame hummus.
Coffee creamer is one of those foods that falls in the “small but mighty” category. It’s dispensed as “just a splash,” so you might think its nutritional profile is irrelevant, but the amount you’re consuming could add up if you're a serious coffee drinker. Try a healthier alternative to creamer like almond, lowfat, or skim milk.
Even when they’re portioned out in those cute (and tempting) little 100-calorie pouches, packaged cookies are something you simply don’t want to keep in your cupboards. The USDA recommends not exceeding 40 grams of added sugar per day, and some of these single-pack treats contain a quarter of that amount.
They’re touted as being essential for hydrating and replenishing (and even delivering your daily dose of vitamins), but unless you’re a professional athlete, energy drinks don’t need a place in your kitchen. Many of them contain a high amount of sugar, so stick to water flavored with citrus fruit, or a refreshing glass of iced green tea if you need a caffeine boost.
If you’re a fro-yo fanatic, keep your relationship outside the home and indulge if you must. Having a tub of frozen yogurt in your freezer can present a problem if you’re eating it after dinner every night. Although it contains less fat (and, therefore, feels “healthier”) than ice cream, it's still loaded with sugar. A serving of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Fro Yo (a ½ cup), for example, has 25 grams of sugar.
Traditional boxed granola bars are a bit like wolves in sheeps' clothing. They seem like a healthy snack option compared to more obvious junk food—especially with words like "fiber," "natural," and "protein" on their packaging—but they're often loaded with hydrogenated oils and sugar.
Try swapping them for a piece of whole fruit and a handful of nuts. Otherwise, if the convenience of a bar is too much to give up, then reach for something like a Luna Bar or KIND Bar—they still have sugar, but not the long list of processed ingredients.
Sadly for ketchup-lovers who dip just about anything in the versatile condiment (that would be us), it’s surprisingly sugary. Sure, it’s made with tomatoes (sort of), but high fructose corn syrup is one of its primary ingredients. Just one tablespoon contains 4 grams of the sweet stuff.
Margarine has the worst kind of fat there is: trans fat. Trans fat affects cholesterol levels and overall heart health negatively, so avoid foods that have it to be safe.
Pancake mix seems like a nice thing to have on hand for impromptu weekend brunches, but it’s literally nothing more than a box of refined flour, which you then top with fat and sugar (via the butter and syrup). Instead, keep frozen protein waffles on hand—if you get a nostalgic breakfast craving, you can indulge without completely derailing your diet.
Many a microwave popcorn contains alarming amounts of sodium, fat, and calories in the form of butter and other flavoring. Air popped is a much better option.
It’s easy to convince yourself that cereal can’t be all that bad—it’s a breakfast food after all. But some cereals are no different than a candy bar in their sugar content. You wouldn’t wake up and have a Milky Way for breakfast, so don’t keep candy masquerading as cereal in your pantry. Always check the nutrition label for sugar content and stay away from anything with more then eight grams per serving.
The subject of many studies over the last few years, artificial sweeteners (like the kind in diet soda) may actually make you hungrier, leading you to consume more calories. Skip the fake substitutes so you don’t potentially incite your appetite.
Vegetable oil is nothing more than unhealthy and processed fat in a jar. There are plenty of healthier substitutes for both cooking and baking. Try macadamia nut oil when you're cooking at a high heat, and coconut oil in baking.
Just say no to ever having white bread in your kitchen. Refined white flour has almost no nutritional value compared to its whole grain counterpart. What it does have are processed ingredients you can’t pronounce, and loads of sugar.
What unhealthy foods are an unequivocal "no" when it comes to bringing them into your kitchen? Tell us below, and join our 30-day healthy eating challenge, #TheByrdie30, by tagging your Instagram photos of healthy meals with that hashtag!