When you were a kid, did you think 40-year-olds were ancient? Maybe it didn’t occur to you that one day, you too would be over the hill. Or, maybe you knew it would come, but you imagined it with grey hair and a rocking chair.
Well, here you are. Forty years old or over. And guess what? You’re still full of life! No rocking chairs in sight. The only thing that’s slowed down a bit is your metabolism, but we can help with that. It’s all about staying active, fueling your body with good nutrition, and keeping clear of extra sugars and unhealthy fats.
On that note, here are 12 foods and drinks that you should avoid – or keep to a minimum – to stay fit after 40:
1. Fruit Juices
Fruit juices look so healthy, don’t they? But don’t be fooled. Most fruit juices are just as high in sugar and calories as your favorite sodas. While your body can use some of this sugar for energy, anything above and beyond what you need will get stored as fat. Since many people equate the word “fruit” with “healthy,” they’ll drink more than the recommended serving, thus leading to more sugar and calories consumed. Meanwhile, fruit juice does a double whammy to your diet by being low in fiber. Anyone looking to lose weight or maintain overall health should seek nutrition that’s higher in fiber, as it can help you feel full so you don’t over-snack. If you want a taste of fruit without sabotaging your goals, add some fruit slices to your water instead.
2. White Bread & Pasta
What do these foods have to offer, really? Sure, they taste great. But they’ve also been stripped of their fiber and other healthy nutrients. What you’re left with is a bunch of empty, highly processed carbs. They also rank high on the glycemic index, which sounds impressive but is far from it. High-glycemic foods can cause your blood sugar levels to spike rapidly, giving you an instant surge of energy that leads to a steep crash soon after. And because you’re missing out on fiber, your stomach will be growling again before you know it. You’ll be reaching for another processed snack to fill the gap that white bread and pasta simply couldn’t fill.
3. Low-Fat Foods
If you grew up in the 80s during the low-fat and fat-free craze, then you may still have a soft spot for these foods. You might even think that if a food doesn’t contain fat, it can’t make you fat.
The truth is that many low-fat foods can lead to weight gain and poor health. Why? Because when stripping out the fat, food manufacturers will often add in more sugar, flour, thickeners, or salt to enhance the flavor. This can be true of low-fat yogurts, low-fat cereals, low-fat drinks … The list goes on.
The next time you’re at the grocery store, do your research. Check the Nutrition Facts panel to see if that low-fat food you’re eying up is also high in sugar and additives. Many times, the low-fat version has more calories than the regular version.
4. Powdered Coffee Creamer
You often see this product at the workplace, where sluggish employees reach for their morning and mid-day coffees. While powdered coffee creamer seems harmless enough, it contains questionable ingredients like corn syrup solids, vegetable oil solids, artificial flavors, and sodium aluminosilicate (which is used as an “anti-caking” agent and is also found in detergent).
A healthier alternative is to pour some Lean Body® RTD into your coffee. You’ll get rich, creamy flavor with zero trans fat, sugar, or gluten. It’s also a great way to squeeze in some high-quality protein, vitamins, and minerals into your day with a single splash!
This culprit is on our list for two reasons: It’s bad for your waistline and your health. On the weight-loss front, margarine is full of calories. While you can find lower-calorie options, these products often give people a fall sense of security. You’ll be tempted to slather your baked potato with more than the recommended serving size (typically one tablespoon), because, after all, it’s low-calorie.
Margarine is also high in trans fats, which get stored in your body as fatty tissue. These trans fats (usually about 3 grams per tablespoon) help keep the oil-based ingredients in margarine hard at room temperate, and they’re horrible for your health. Margarine also packs a host of artificial ingredients and synthetic vitamins that do little for your well-being. While butter once had a bad rap, most health experts agree that it’s the better option of the two.
6. Frozen Dinners
How many times have you come home from work and opted for a frozen dinner instead of cooking? Or packed a frozen dinner in your lunch to save money? Sure, these products are super convenient, but at what cost to your health? Many are jam-packed with sodium, saturated fats, preservatives, and calories. Meanwhile, you’ll be lucky to get adequate protein, vitamins, or minerals. (You know the feeling … Opening that Chicken Fettuccine to find three meager pieces of chicken. What’s up with that?).
If you just can’t break your frozen dinner habit, look for options that contain at least 10 grams of protein per serving along with veggies and whole grains. Or, go the meal-replacement powder (MRP) route instead. For example, Lean Body Meal Replacement Packets let you quickly whip up a delicious shake that’s packed with flavor, protein, vitamins, and minerals. You get a nutrient-dense meal in seconds – no prep required.
Your favorite candy probably seems so insignificant. How could something so small have such a big impact on your weight-loss efforts?
8. Canned Soup
Here we have yet another time-saver for busy families. Just heat and eat! And think about all those lazy days when you’re at home sick. That can of chicken noodle soup is practically calling your name!
Before you soup it up, consider this: According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the average canned soup contains up to 1,000 milligrams of sodium per serving. Meanwhile, the American Heart Association recommends an ideal limit of 1,500 milligrams per day. So in just one small meal, you’ve eaten almost an entire day’s worth of sodium! When over-consumed, sodium can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
You don’t have to give up soup altogether. Simply look for low-sodium options, and seek products that contain at least three grams of fiber and five grams of protein. You can also kick up the nutrition by adding chunks of chicken breasts or extra veggies.
9. Processed Meats
When you think “meat,” you probably think “protein.” And protein is good, right? We’ve all be told to include dietary protein in our routine if we want to build muscle and lose fat. Unfortunately, processed meats aren’t in this esteemed protein category. In fact, they’ve been linked to long-term weight gain and a host of health issues.
The meats on this naughty list are things like cold cuts, hot dogs, bacon, and sausage. They’re high in fat, low in protein, and often packed with nitrites and nitrates, which help to preserve food at room temperature. While fresh meat will go bad if you leave it out on your countertop, processed meats won’t immediately spoil. Doesn’t that tell you something? It’s all “thanks” to the added chemicals. For a healthier protein source, stick with things like lean chicken breasts, tuna, or whey protein shakes instead.
10. Sugary Cocktails
Ah, sweet, sweet cocktails. They can take you to the tropics in a second. But beware of your favorite piña coladas and daiquiris, as they’re loaded with sugar and calories. Also, don’t be surprised if you have a hard time getting a good night’s sleep after you’ve indulged. While drinking alcohol in your 20s and even your 30s can barely put a dent in your sleep cycle, it gets harder and harder to brush off a heavy night of drinking in your 40s. The more sugar you consume with your alcohol, the longer it’s going to take to break down.
Then, when you wake up the next day, look out! Since sugar and alcohol both cause dehydration, those cocktails can lead to some pretty bad hangovers. You may also find yourself craving more carbs and sugar since poor sleep can promote more food cravings, and in turn, more weight gain.
11. Salad Dressing
Have you ever given yourself a mental pat on the back for ordering a salad while out for dinner? Greens are always a great option, but salad dressing isn’t always your friend if you’re trying to lose weight and stay healthy. For one, it’s high in saturated fats and sometimes even trans fats. It also boasts a high amount of sodium, which can leave you feeling bloated and puffy looking. And, like the other items on this list, it’s high in added sugar, such as high-fructose corn syrup.
The role of portion control applies here too. A tablespoon of salad dressing might not be so bad, but how many of us measure what we use? There’s also the reward effect. Admit it: How many times have you celebrated your dietary victory of choosing a salad by ordering a dessert immediately afterwards? Yep, we’ve all done it. Instead, ask your server to put the dressing on the side so you can only use what’s needed. Or, ask for a mix of balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil, which won’t have the high sugar content as regular dressings.
12. Gluten-Free Foods
For a few years now, gluten-free foods have been having their moment. You might be tempted to jump on the bandwagon, but a word to the wise: Only do so if you truly have a gluten sensitivity, intolerance, or suffer from Celiac Disease. Unless you fall into one of these categories, you don’t need to eliminate wheat products from your diet. By cutting out whole grains, you’re also cutting out fiber – which can help keep you regular, keep you full in between meals, and help flush out toxins from your body. A study published in the British Medical Journal also found that adults who follow a gluten-free diet without having Celiac Disease may experience an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.*
If you’re also striving to lose weight, don’t get trapped into thinking that gluten-free foods are your ticket to a leaner body. Many gluten-free foods (like chips, candies, crackers, condiments, and more), come loaded with sugar to improve the flavor. They may be out with gluten, but they’re certainly in with extras.
They say 40 is the new 30, right? Proceed with caution with the items listed above, and over the hill can be fitter than ever!
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.