Do you make that quick stop every morning on your way to work for your favorite Starbucks Frappuccino?
Do you look forward to that afternoon coffee break when you can relax with a cold brew filled with sugar and cream?
How about after work when you join friends for a couple of cold beers before heading home?
Do you have a bottle of wine every night with dinner?
Do you rely on energy drinks to keep you going throughout the day?
The calories are easy to ignore when you are drinking unhealthy drinks because they taste so good. But those extra calories could be the reason you aren’t losing the pounds you want to lose — and the drinks are damaging your health, putting you at risk for serious problems especially as you get older.
If you are addicted to your favorite drink, what I’m going to say may not make a difference, but I hope you will at least consider the facts. Who knows, maybe your drink isn’t one of the seven
7 Unhealthy Drinks to Avoid
To get your diet and/or your healthy habits back on track, limit your consumption of the following seven types of drinks — or better yet, avoid them altogether.
1. Sweetened Sodas
One 12-ounce regular soda will contain a minimum of 140 calories.
High levels of sugar place stress on the pancreas, potentially leaving it unable to keep up with the body’s need for insulin. Drinking one or two sugary drinks per day increases the risk for type 2 diabetes by 25%.
People drink sodas to quench thirst, but they do just the opposite — they cause dehydration. They also make it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients, they can cause constipation, and the caramel coloring in sodas has been linked to several cancers including leukemia and vascular/heart issues.
2. Diet Sodas
Even though the negative health effects of diet drinks and artificial sweeteners are controversial, you should be aware of them.
In my opinion, they are as bad (or worse) than regular sodas.
They contain little nutritional value. They are a mixture of carbonated water, artificial sweeteners (e.g. aspartame, cyclamate, saccharin, acesulfame-k, or sucralose), food coloring, added artificial flavor, acids, preservatives, and often caffeine, plus other food additives.
A Harvard Medical Schoolstudy of 3,318 women, found that diet cola is linked with a two-fold increased risk for kidney decline.
“Several observational studies have found that using artificial sweeteners and drinking high amounts of diet soda is associated with an increased risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome.”
This one is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and one of the unhealthy drinks that can be so tempting for people trying to control their weight, but should be avoided.
4. Energy Drinks
These may be the worst of the lot!
The popular brands of energy drinks contain high amounts of added sugars and caffeine, which many believe can cause serious delayed heart problems that show up as you age. They also contain questionable ingredients such as taurine, tyrosine, and beta alanine.
They deliver on the promised benefits of increased brain function and helping you function when you’re tired or sleep deprived. However, the health concerns outweigh the benefits.
Image by jorge-franganillE@Unsplash
They are even more dangerous when mixed with alcohol – as Healthline reports:
“The stimulating effects of caffeine in energy drinks can override the depressive effects of alcohol. This can leave you feeling less intoxicated while still experiencing alcohol-related impairments.
This combination can be very troubling. People who ingest energy drinks with alcohol tend to report heavier alcohol consumption. They’re also more likely to drink and drive, and suffer from alcohol-related injuries.”
4. Bottled Fruit Juice
Juice was considered a healthy drink choice for years and still is when freshly prepared. However, packaged fruit juices are not healthy. They are essentially flavored sugar water that lacks the fiber and nutrition associated with real fruit.
They can trigger a blood sugar spike that does not happen with freshly squeezed juices.
If you want a healthy glass of fruit juice, get a juicer or squeeze it by hand.
Alcohol is not diet-friendly. A full-flavored beer or small size glass of wine will contain 140–200 calories.
Bourbon, scotch, vodka, etc. are lower in calories than beer or wine when served over ice. But. as mixed drinks, the calorie count can be significant. If you do choose to drink hard liquor, drink it straight or mixed with seltzer water to minimize calories. But, the best choice is to avoid alcohol completely!
6. Frappuccino’s and Specialty Drinks
These great-tasting drinks seem harmless. They are just coffee with a little flavoring — right? Yes and No. The biggest problem is that the most popular drinks are loaded with caffeine, sugar, and fat. A Frappuccino usually starts at 500 calories and goes up from there.
In other words, you are eating a full-meal calorie count in one drink, which contains practically no nutrients, except the milk. It may satisfy you for a while, but you will probably still eat a full lunch or dinner — adding more calories to your daily total.
It is easy to see how one Frappuccino a day can quickly push your diet into the ditch — and leave you wondering why you are not losing weight. Plus, the excessive amount of sugar and fat create many health risks, e.g., diabetes and heart disease.
7. Coffee Flavorings
Black coffee has minimal calories, but by adding flavored creamers, syrups, or sugar you add calories. The answer is — learn to drink coffee black or with a dollop of heavy cream and Stevia for sweetener to limit the calorie intake. And it is wise to limit your coffee intake to two cups daily.
Helpful Hint: Cold-brewed coffee is generally less bitter. This is one choice that may make it easier to drink your coffee black.
Maybe it’s time to ask if your drink choices are sabotaging your diet. How many extra calories are you “drinking” that may be the culprit that is stalling your effort to lose weight?
And . . . do your drink choices have the potential of harming your health – if not now, what about the long-term?
Keep only healthy desserts and snacks in your pantry and fridge.
Children (and adults) love a tasty snack after school (or work).
Keep a freezer full of frozen snacks such as fruit juice popsicles and frozen fruit – blueberries and grapes are especially good.
Always have a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter (or in the fridge) – ready for kids to grab, peel and eat.
Place a bowl in the fridge of sliced fresh fruit or vegetables – with a dip. Low-fat sour cream and powdered sugar ready for sprinkling (or vanilla Greek yogurt) are great for fruit; and guacamole or hummus for the veggies.
Have cans or bags of nuts available for little hands to grab and eat.
Offer string cheese to nibble on. This provides quick protein for energy and calms the appetite until dinner.
Buy lean meats – Leaner cuts of meat are the best choice. Always cook a little more than your family will eat and use leftovers for healthier lunches and to create new dishes for an easy weekend meal.
Use healthier oils – My preference is olive oil, which is great for making salad dressings and also for cooking (but not for baking) – use pure canola oil for baking, when required.
If you are watching calories try scrambling eggs or sautéing foods, with cooking sprays. (My preference is PAM® Cooking Spray.) But, having said that, a little butter goes a long way and is much tastier.
There you have it – five simple guidelines for a healthy diet.
All you have to do is choose to follow them, and you will be on your way to a healthier, happier life.
You will look forward to each day with greater enthusiasm, you will have the energy to meet the demands of your busy life, and you will enjoy a wonderful sense of well-being.
The next post will include more specific suggestions on types of foods to fill your pantry that will make eating healthy easier.
For the first 60 years of my life weight loss was never my problem. I had a completely different challenge.
At 14, I reached my full height of 5 ft. 8 in., which made me taller than all my friends and all the boys.
I thought of myself as a tall, plain, and unattractive Amazon who towered above the rest of the world. It was a constant source of agony until I entered college, where there were other girls up in the stratosphere with me. That was enough to ease the pain a little.
Finally, when I entered the exciting world of young adulthood, I began to appreciate the amazing gift I had received at birth. I had won the lottery with my gene pool, which included a tall, slender frame, high energy, and extremely good health.
Almost without conscious thought, I made choices that nurtured my body (no caffeine or alcohol, no smoking, and no drugs) and I reaped the rewards of those choices.
When I married and started a family, good health practices continued. Making sure my children had well-balanced, nutritious meals was high on my list. I also found ways to exercise, either jogging with friends or participating in aerobics or Jazzercize.
Then, Things Changed
My healthy lifestyle had served me well over the years. Unfortunately, after my divorce at age 42, it seemed to fall apart. Little by little, things began to change.
My new way of eating included multiple cans of coke daily – or more explicitly – TAB (so a double hit on my body – caffeine and artificial sweetener). Fast food became a regular part of my diet, and eventually, I began smoking and started drinking wine.
Fortunately, my exercise regimen remained constant – aerobics, Jazzercize, and social swing dancing were regular activities. Plus, when I moved to Manhattan, walking was also part of my daily routine.
So, where was the problem? Simple – my other healthy practices were inconsistent. My focus was on taking care of four children as a single mom, running my interior design business, and socializing.
I was a young, reasonably good-looking single woman who didn’t want to be alone for the rest of my life. Finding someone to love was a major goal. It seemed important to put myself “out there” and look good in the process (which was the driver for the exercise).
When you throw into the mix the problem that I am a stress eater of very unhealthy foods (favorites are ice cream, pastries, chocolate, Coca Cola, and Frappuccinos), my healthy lifestyle deteriorated rapidly.
For the first time in my life, I gained a little weight and began yo-yo dieting. My weight which had been between 130 – 140 pounds on my 5’ 9” frame for most of my life began to increase. I would realize the gain, lose the weight for a while, then, gain it back, plus more.
I started with Atkins, which my body doesn’t tolerate well. Eventually, I tried all the fad diets of the time: Grapefruit Diet, Cabbage Soup Diet, appetite suppressants (Ayds, Dexetrim, and Ephedra – all three were eventually taken off the market), SlimFast, Scarsdale Diet, and, of course, Weight Watchers.
They all worked for a while, but they were not sustainable and none gave me the lifelong change I needed. The weight continued to yo-yo.
In 2010, some personal challenges took all my focus and energy with nothing left for self-care and healthy eating. In December, 2012, my son died and the stress eating flew out of control. I stopped exercising and started to gain weight – pound after pound.
The unhealthy eating and weight gain continued for the next five years because I was in too much mental and emotional pain to pay attention.
Reality Stopped Me Cold
One morning in early January 2018, I stepped on the scales and saw 203.8 pounds – almost 64 lbs. over my lifetime standard of 140 lbs. That was it! The unhealthy eating had to stop!
I did not want to live my life overweight and at risk for serious health problems. Not only was I extremely overweight (borderline obese), my mother had developed Type 2 diabetes in her 70s. I could see myself following in her footsteps. The choice was clear, I had to change the way I had been living for the past eight years.
The irony in this story is that I had been writing a blog for over two years that focused on clean eating and good health, which has always been my passion. I believed everything I had written; but, I had not been following my own advice.
I did a lot of research for my blog and was aware of the harmful choices I was making. I knew exactly what I needed to change in order to create the lifestyle I wanted for the rest of my life. BUT . . . I wasn’t doing any of it. Anger, overwhelming grief, sadness, frustration, and more were ruling my life.
Change Was the Only Option
When I saw “203.8 lbs.” on the scale, I freaked out. Help was needed, and needed NOW! I opted for Nutrisystem as a starting point.
It worked! In the first month, 10 lbs. came off; but, one month was all I could tolerate. The food grew tiresome very quickly; and, much to my disappointment, there were a lot of additives in the food that I did not like putting into my body. Plus, it was expensive; so, that path was no longer an option.
Nutrisystem was a great kickstart for losing weight. It launched the weight-loss process and taught me a valuable lesson – portion control.
When I received my first shipment and started eating the meals, the portion sizes were a surprise. They were so small – and yet, they were enough. I was never hungry and started losing weight because I carefully followed the instructions. In other words, I worked the program – and it worked for me.
I knew Nutrisystem was no longer an option, but neither was giving up an option. Determined to stay on track and to get back to a healthy weight, it was clear that I had to find another way.
I finally accepted that reaching my goal wasn’t going to be fast or easy. It would take as long as it would take. Even though the realization didn’t thrill me, I made my peace with it and continued to move forward.
Another Twist to the Story
I started Nutrisystem on January 29. Four weeks later as I was finishing up the first month of my “diet,” I began suffering from agonizing back pain. After two weeks of misdiagnoses, I ended up in the E.R. with the diagnosis of a cracked vertebrae.
I was immediately hospitalized. The first thing they did (after administering morphine for the pain) was to put me in a body brace. Four days later they transferred me to a skilled nursing facility for 3½ weeks where I was given more pain pills than I care to think about, and struggled through daily rehab to get back on my feet and walking again.
This was the perfect excuse to forget about losing weight and eat whatever I wanted. But, to my amazement, I chose not to do that. I was committed to my journey back to eating well and living well.
In a way, it solved my dilemma about what to do next. The facility had an excellent meal service (with good food). Taking what I had learned from Nutrisystem, I practiced portion control and continued to count calories. It worked perfectly.
It not only worked, it set the path that I would follow from that point on.
Which brings us to the present – one year later.
I have recovered completely from my injury and returned to work. My stamina is increasing because of a dedicated walking routine. In the beginning it was only a few steps a day, and gradually increased to 4000+ steps a day. Fourteen months later and 44 pounds lighter, I am still losing – moving slowly toward my goal of 150 lbs. A frustrating reality is that the last 10 pounds are always the hardest to lose.
Yes, it has been a long, slow process, but that’s OK for several reasons:
It has allowed my body to adjust to the change and I feel great.
I will be able to keep the weight off because I have a completely new way of eating.
There is no flabby loose skin that often results from extreme, fast weight loss.
I started the journey knowing it would take time – my expectations were set appropriately from the beginning.
A New Book Tells the Story
I have just launched a new book on Amazon,WOW! You Look Fantastic. My goal for the book was to share everything I had learned during my journey so others could
benefit from my experience. If you are struggling with your weight, your frustrations, and your lifestyle, this is the book for you. It will show you that healthy weight loss is possible.
I can promise you, from personal experience, that this is the way to reach your ideal weight and to live well for the rest of your life. The solutions are simple, but not necessarily easy.
You must be completely committed to making the necessary changes. You cannot let anything deter you from reaching your goal. If you want the results bad enough, you will make them happen.
There are few things in life over which we have control. But, one thing over which we have complete control is that we choose what we eat. Every day we decide which foods we put into our bodies.
There is a vast assortment of rich, natural, fresh foods that take some thought and preparation. Or, the second possibility is a variety of unhealthy foods that are easy and convenient. Sadly, the price you may pay for the second choice is to be plagued with poor health and to die before your time.
Eating healthy is a popular trend today. It is my hope that it will become a common American lifestyle than will last for generations – rather than just a passing fad.
You would have to live in a cave to be unaware that you should be eating healthy foods. Yet, despite the abundance of information promoting healthy food, unhealthy foods still make up a large portion of many diets.
Fast food or junk food is a generic term for all kinds of foods which are rich in energy, because they contain a lot of fat and sugar, as well as salt, but are relatively low in other important nutrients such as protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Bad Decisions Made by Busy People
It is common knowledge that fast foods, junk food, and processed quick meals are not healthy. The challenge for most Americans is that their lives are busy, too busy. They work 12-hour days, seven days a week, and rarely take time off for fun. Eating has become a necessity and not a pleasure.
Time is at a premium for busy people. They will do anything to find more time, including eating whatever is the easiest and most convenient, without considering the nutrient value of their food choices. It stops the hunger pangs and that is enough. However, it is difficult to understand why they ignore the fact that their choices do not provide enough nutrients to sustain good health.
Fast foods, junk foods, and highly processed foods are loaded with calories because of the high sugar and fat content. Another frightening fact provided by WebMD is, “These types of foods are very addictive.” Once you are hooked, it is a tough habit to break.
A steady diet of unhealthy foods can do serious damage to your health. It will eventually take a heavy toll on your physical and mental well-being. It can also contribute to a much shorter lifespan than you would like to have. As the title says, don’t choose to die before your time.
8 Health Threats from an Unhealthy Diet
Let’s look at some ways that an unhealthy diet hurts your mind, your body, and is a danger to your children.
Weight Gain Is Inevitable
This is practically guaranteed. Eating foods loaded with calories may taste good and satisfy some unhealthy cravings for fat and sugar; but they don’t satisfy the needs of your body. The foods you eat must provide the nutrients required for good health, or you will face the consequences. Plus, the body will store the excess calories as fat, and you will gain weight.
For example, a McDonald’s Big Mac contains 540 calories. A homemade whole grain chicken salad sandwich of the same size is much more filling and contains only 320 calories.
By eating at McDonalds for only one of your daily meals, you add an extra 220 low-nutrient calories per day. If you do this every day of the week, you add 1,540 calories for the week. Add an order of fries with the hamburger at 230 calories each, and you pick up an additional 1,610 calories per week. totaling 3,150 calories extra per week. If you do this for a few weeks, you will pile on the pounds quickly.
Science Daily reports that an unhealthy diet filled with these types of foods is one of the leading causes of obesity, which also increases your risk of developing diabetes.
Mental Health Issues
There have been concerns for years about the impact of junk food on mental health. My son took his own life because of bipolar disorder. Since then I have closely followed the studies on this. I think his condition was exacerbated by his steady diet of junk food and energy drinks.There was nothing I could do to convince him to change his diet. He refused with dire consequences.
California adults who consumed more unhealthy food were also more likely to report symptoms of either moderate or severe psychological distress than their peers who consume a healthier diet.
Jim E. Banta, PhD, MPH, associate professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health and lead author of the study, said the results are similar to previous studies in other countries that have found a link between mental illness and unhealthy diet choices. Increased sugar consumption has been found to be associated with bipolar disorder, for example, and consumption of foods that have been fried or contain high amounts of sugar and processed grains have been linked with depression
Bad diets have also been linked to memory loss and dementia due to high blood pressure and cholesterol disrupting the blood supply to the brain.
Ask yourself, “Is the convenience or instant gratification received from eating fast food and junk food worth endangering yourself with the possibility of mental illness?”
Poor-quality food deprives your vital organs of the nutrients needed to do their jobs. If deprived long enough, damage can occur, which can lead to eventual organ failure.
For example: Healthy carbohydrates support the central nervous system, brain, and immune system. Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals that support the heart. Without these nutrients, the blood vessels in and around your heart can be damaged, and you increase the risk of a heart attack.
Your organs will not remain heathy and continue to do what they are meant to do without a steady diet of nutritious-rich foods,
Food with high levels of unhealthy fats, processed sugar and white flour, and little or no proteins is dangerous. Some favored snacks like chocolate, chips, donuts, cookies, sodas, and energy drinks contain no protein.
Even fast food hamburgers and sausages don’t contain much protein. The meat is mostly fat, unlike fish, chicken, and lean meat, which are loaded with protein. Plus, the sodium content in fast-food sandwiches is dreadfully high and creates its own set of health issues – specifically high blood pressure.
Protein fuels body maintenance. It is needed to build new cells and to maintain and repair existing cells. If the foods eaten do not provide adequate protein, the body will take it from existing muscle cells. Then, the muscles shrink and become weak.
Unsightly Skin Problems
The skin is the largest organ of the body, and the one that other people see. It is nourished by the foods we eat just like all the other organs. Eating unhealthy foods that do not contain adequate nutrients is a sure path to several nasty skin problems.
Vitamins and minerals from fresh fruits and vegetables will keep your skin smooth and clear with a healthy glow. When your diet short-changes your body on vitamins, your skin can become dry and scaly. It can also lead to the development of unsightly age spots and skin rashes. Not ingesting enough minerals will cause premature wrinkles and skin sores.
There have been studies done that have found a possible connection between fast foods and acne. There is no empirical evidence of the connection, but it is highly probable. This is a condition that you do not want. The chance that it causes acne makes fast foods unacceptable as part of your regular diet.
It is important to take good care of our skin since it plays a major part in “our” presentation to the world.
Unstable Blood Sugar Levels
One of the main tenants of eating well is to limit your intake of “added sugars.” This means processed sugar of any kind including granulated sugar (AKA sucrose). There are many others that you commonly see on food labels such as: lactose, dextrose, maltose, high fructose corn syrup, etc. (there is a long list).
An unhealthy diet does only the opposite. It floods your body with added sugars (AKA simple sugars). Most junk foods are filled with them. Every time you eat a donut, a candy bar, your favorite Frappuccino, an ice cream cone, a Ho-Ho, a packaged fruit pie, or a Big Gulp, you are flooding your body with sugar.
Simple sugars (processed or added sugars) are dangerous is because they digest quickly and enter your blood stream immediately. The sugar creates a short surge of energy that feels good, but quickly crashes, leaving you feeling drained.
When you are continually eating sugary snacks, you create frequent surges and drops in blood sugar. Your concentration and performance are compromised, which can affect your productivity. The surges can also damage your blood vessels and increase your risk of contracting diabetes. You can recognize the surges and drops by your fluctuating energy levels.
Added sugars have also been associated with rising levels of obesity, heart disease, and increased cancer risk.
Higher Risk for Chronic Disease
Added sugars, along with unhealthy fats, and sodium, make up the trifecta of dangerous ingredients in unhealthy foods. In addition to the trifecta, most junk foods are filled with additives – chemicals, preservatives, and trans fats.
Unfortunately, the medical world and food manufacturers have known about the dangers of these additives for some time. There is a lot of information that has built consensus among the experts regarding the connection of additives and chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Additives were found extremely toxic for the kidneys, creating problems like renal failure.
The recommendation on foods that contain additives is to consume them at your own risk. Keep in mind that the main purpose of additives is to increase the shelf life of a product, to make it more addictive, and/or to make it taste better. The effect on health is not a factor in deciding whether to use them, or not.
A Threat to Your Children
This is most the serious problem. Your eating habits influence your children in the way eat now and how they will eat in the future. Children learn eating habits from their parents. If you eat fast foods and junk foods regularly, or – if you are unconcerned about eating a healthy diet or ensuring that your children eat healthy foods, you will be establishing habits that will be almost impossible to break. You will set them on a path that may bring serious health problems and early death long before you are ready to let them go.
Fast food intake more than three times a week is associated with greater odds of atopic disorder [in children] such as asthma, eczema or rhinitis, while asthma severity is almost 40% higher in teenagers and more than 25% in younger children.
Eating junk food 4-6 times a week leads to lower math and reading skills compared with the children who did not eat so much junk food.
Make Eating Well a Priority
There are other statistics I could quote, but I think you get the idea. Make eating well a priority. Take care of yourself and your children. Eat well – stay well – live well (for a long time).
Eating healthy may not seem like it should be a priority when you are extremely busy. But . . . remember, your health is your most valuable asset. Make it a priority and join the trend of eating healthy. Then, take it a big step further and make it your lifestyle.
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be time consuming. A healthy omelet with a side salad can be prepared in less than 15 minutes. A pot roast with all the trimmings can be put together in the crock pot in 15 to 20 minutes. A healthy breakfast of a piece of fruit and hearty wheat toast with peanut butter can be ready in 5 minutes.
There Are Books to Help You
There are many books available to help you with the learning curve, which may be involved if healthy eating is new to you. Go to Amazon.com and type in “healthy eating” or “healthy eating cookbooks.” Check out any of the “Mediterranean Diet” books if you prefer a structured eating plan to help you establish this new pattern without making you crazy,
Healthy Foods like those described above are quick and easy once you get past the learning curve.
Hopefully, you will be more willing to make different food choices now that you are more aware of what can happen if you don’t. No one wants to die before your time. You have it within your power to ensure that you, and those you love, live long and healthy lives.
Choose to eat healthy. Protect your life and the lives of your children from the dangers discussed in this article.
Thanks for joining us today. Hope to see you next time.