Raw Food Dangers – 2021 Healthy Weight Loss Strategies
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Raw Food Dangers

Raw Food Dangers

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Food and Health: Raw Food Dangers

These Errors Can Affect Your Weight

A woman having trouble buttoning her jeans because they are too tight.

If your favorite pair of jeans won’t fit, the scale seems stuck, or your weight drops off only to bounce back up, there’s a chance you could be making one of these 10 weight loss mistakes.

1. Relying on Crash Diets

But when you eat so few calories, you train your metabolism to slow down.

Determined to lose 10 pounds fast, you turn to a crash diet. Perhaps your plan calls for nothing but grapefruit or cabbage soup each day. You slash your daily calories to fewer than 1,000, and sure enough, the pounds melt away. But when you eat so few calories, you train your metabolism to slow down. Once the diet is over, you have a body that burns calories more slowly, and you usually regain the weight.

2. Skipping Breakfast

A bowl of cereal with sliced strawberries and apples.

Skipping breakfast seems like a simple way to cut calories, but it can make you hungry the rest of the day. This may lead to unplanned snacking at work and eating a supersized portion at lunch, making calorie counts soar. But breakfasts that are high in protein and fiber can curb hunger throughout the day. In fact, studies show people who eat breakfast every morning are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.

3. Losing Track of Your Snacks

A chocolate doughnut with a bite taken out of it.

Maybe you count calories at every meal, but what about all those nibbles in between? There’s the bag of pretzels at your desk, the little slice of cake at a party, the taste of your son’s ice cream cone. All of this mindless munching adds up and could sabotage an otherwise well-planned diet. If you’re serious about counting calories, you may want to use your smartphone or a notebook to keep track of each bite.

4. Not Snacking at All

Snacking helps keep your metabolism in high gear, especially if the snacks are protein-rich.

While mindless snacking can pad your waistline, thoughtful snacking may do just the opposite. People who eat several small meals and snacks a day are more likely to control hunger and lose weight. Snacking helps keep your metabolism in high gear, especially if the snacks are protein-rich. Having a few nuts is a good, high-protein choice, and research suggests people who snack on nuts tend to be slimmer than those who don’t.

5. Loading Up on Low-Fat

Low-fat products can play an important role in your diet.

Low-fat products can play an important role in your diet. Just remember that low-fat isn’t the same as low-calorie, and it’s not a license to take second and third helpings. If you pile your plate with low-fat cake, you may end up eating more calories than if you had a smaller slice of regular cake. The best way to know how much fat, sugar, and calories you’re getting is to check the nutritional label.

6. Sipping Too Many Calories

When counting calories, many of us tend to overlook what's in our drinks.

When counting calories, many of us tend to overlook what’s in our drinks. This is a big mistake when you consider that some fancy coffees and alcoholic beverages have more than 500 calories. Even the calories in fruit juice and soda can add up quickly.

7. Drinking Too Little Water

Water is essential for burning calories.

This is one of the simplest diet mistakes to fix. Water is essential for burning calories. If you let yourself get dehydrated, your metabolism drags, and that means slower weight loss. So try adding a glass of water to every meal and snack.

8. Ditching Dairy

An assortment of different cheeses, milk, butter, and yogurt.

Full-fat milk, cheese, and ice cream are taboo for many dieters, but ditching dairy foods may be counterproductive. Some research suggests the body burns more fat when it gets enough calcium and produces more fat when it’s calcium-deprived. Calcium supplements do not appear to yield the same benefits, so dairy may have other things going for it, too. Stick to nonfat or low-fat dairy options.

9. Going Drive-Thru Too Often

A woman picking up her food at a drive-thru window.

The drive-thru is convenient after a hectic day, and you can always order the salad or other healthier option. But once you’re there, can you resist that milkshake or other treat? And if you allow yourself the ease of fast food once, it could become a habit. According to one long-term study, people who ate fast food more than twice a week gained 10 more pounds than those who had it less than once a week.

10. Setting Unrealistic Goals

A woman being fitted into a tight dress.

Telling yourself you’ll lose 20 pounds your first week is probably setting yourself up for failure. If you know you won’t be able to do it, you may never start your diet in the first place. If you diet and lose 5 pounds in a week, instead of celebrating, you may feel discouraged that you didn’t reach your goal. A realistic goal is vital to successful dieting. If you’re not sure what your goal should be, talk to a dietitian.

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The Best Diet Tips Ever

Reviewed on 10/14/2020

Water for Weight Loss

Drink a glass of water before you dive in to a calorie-laden snack.

Here’s a weight loss tip anyone can follow. Drink a glass of water before you dive into a calorie-laden snack. Sometimes thirst can be confused with hunger, so if you drink water first you may feel less hungry. Herbal tea (unsweetened) and flavored sparking water are good options if you’re craving more than plain water.

Be Choosy About Bed Time Snacks

After dinner is the most common time to indulge in mindless eating.

After dinner is the most common time to indulge in mindless eating. Sitting in front of the TV, you don’t pay attention to the number of calories you consume. Try forbidding nighttime snacking, or plan for a low-calorie snack (such as half a cup of low-fat ice cream or a 100-calorie pack of cookies) at a certain time.

Enjoy Your Favorite Foods (in Moderation)

Moderation is the key to enjoying rich foods.

Moderation is the key to enjoying rich foods. You don’t have to eliminate them completely, but you can try buying only a small portion of candy instead of a bag or buying one fresh bakery cookie rather than a full box.

Try Eating Less, More

It's hard to cut calories when you're always hungry.

It’s hard to cut calories when you’re always hungry. People who eat four to five small meals a day report less hunger and are better equipped to control their weight. Divide your daily food consumption into small meals and snacks and spread them throughout the day. Try to eat more, earlier; make dinner the last time you eat in the day.

Protein for All Meals

Protein is more satisfying than carbohydrates or fats, plus, it keeps you feeling full for a longer time.

Protein is more satisfying than carbohydrates or fats. Plus, it keeps you feeling full for a longer time. Protein is also important for maintenance of muscle mass. Choose healthy proteins such as lean meats, seafood, egg whites, soy, nuts, beans, or yogurt and low-fat dairy products.

Spice It Up

Flavorful foods can also help you feel satisfied and full.

Flavorful foods can also help you feel satisfied and full. You may not eat as much if the food is full of flavor. Spices or chilies can help season your food, or try eating a red-hot fireball candy if you’re craving a sweet.

Keep Easy, Healthy Foods

Stock up your kitchen with healthy snacks and ingredients in advance.

Stock up your kitchen with healthy snacks and ingredients in advance. If you know you have the makings of a quick, healthy meal at home, you can avoid the fast-food line. Some good staples to keep on hand include whole-grain pasta and breads, frozen vegetables, low-fat cheese, canned beans and tomatoes, salad greens, and pre-cooked chicken breasts.

Dining Out? Try Kid Portions

Ordering children's portions in restaurants is a popular way to keep consumption to a reasonable level.

Ordering children’s portions in restaurants is a popular way to keep consumption to a reasonable level. Using smaller plates to make your portions appear bigger is a similar tactic. You’re more likely to feel satisfied when your plate looks full.

Swap Pasta for Veggies

Swapping one portion of starch (about a cup) for vegetables saves about 100-200 calories.

Swapping one portion of starch (about a cup) for vegetables saves about 100-200 calories. Doing this for a year can lead to a full drop in dress or pants size.

Enjoy Breakfast for Weight Loss

Skipping breakfast is a bad idea for those seeking to lose weight.

Skipping breakfast is a bad idea for those seeking to lose weight. Some studies show that skipping breakfast makes weight loss more difficult, since it leads to hunger and potential overeating later on in the day. Healthy breakfast choices include high-fiber grain cereals, low-fat milk and dairy products, and fruit.

Fiber for Dieting

Most Americans don't consume enough fiber.

Most Americans don’t consume enough fiber. It’s recommended that women get about 25 grams a day, while men should consume about 38 grams. Fiber has a range of health benefits. It assists with digestion, lowers cholesterol levels, and prevents constipation. Fiber can also help those on a weight-loss plan by making you feel fuller. Dietary sources of fiber include beans, whole grains, and oatmeal, as well as vegetables and fruits.

Clean the Cupboards

Weight loss is even harder when you are faced with the presence of forbidden or unhealthy foods.

Weight loss is even harder when you are faced with the presence of forbidden or unhealthy foods. Clear your pantry of fattening foods, and if you want an occasional treat, pick it up on your daily walk.

Slow Weight Loss Is Healthy

A realistic weight-loss goal is to lose about 1-2 pounds a week.

A realistic weight-loss goal is to lose about 1-2 pounds a week. Just as it takes time to put on weight, it also takes time to take it off. Don’t expect instant or overly fast results. Elevated expectations can only set you up for disappointment and giving up. Health benefits begin when you’ve lost just 5%-10% of your body weight.

Scales Matter

Those who weigh themselves regularly tend to do better with weight loss, but don't weigh yourself every day.

Those who weigh themselves regularly tend to do better with weight loss, but don’t weigh yourself every day. Daily fluctuations can lead to discouragement. Weigh yourself once a week at the same time of day, ideally in the same type of clothing and on the same scale.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep deprivation causes hormonal imbalance that can make weight loss more difficult.

Sleep deprivation causes hormonal imbalance that can make weight loss more difficult. Specifically, lack of sleep leads to high levels of ghrelin, which stimulates the appetite. Likewise, leptin (a hormone that signals when you are full) is produced in low levels when sleep is lacking. You’ll feel healthier — and fuller — if you get adequate sleep.

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables. If you eat more of these nutritious foods, you will feel full because they are high in water and fiber. This is one instance in which eating more food can help with weight loss.

Limit Alcohol to Weekends

Limit your alcohol intake.

Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol is known as a source of “empty calories” because it provides calories without nutritional benefit. A bottle of beer has around 153 calories; a glass of wine has around 125. Enjoy alcoholic drinks on weekends only, with one daily drink for women and no more than two for men.

Chew Sugarless Gum

Chewing sugar-free gum can help with cravings and help reduce hunger.

Chewing sugar-free gum can help with cravings and help reduce hunger. Fresh breath is an added benefit. Sugar-free gum shouldn’t replace your regular healthy food choices though — and don’t overdo it. Sorbitol, a sugar alcohol sometimes used to make sugar-free gum, can cause diarrhea in some cases.

Keep a Food Diary

The act of recording -- in writing -- what you eat makes you more aware of what, how much, and when you are eating.

The act of recording — in writing — what you eat makes you more aware of what, how much, and when you are eating. The result is usually a reduced caloric intake due to heightened awareness. Studies also show that regularly keeping a food diary can lead to greater weight loss than that observed in people who did not keep a diary.

Understand Portion Sizes

Use measuring cups and a kitchen scale to measure your portion sizes for the first couple of weeks.

Forget the supersize mindset. Use measuring cups and a kitchen scale to measure your portion sizes for the first couple of weeks. Using smaller plates and glasses can make it easier to limit yourself to realistic portion sizes. Restaurant meals can be split into two portions, and snack foods should be portioned out in advance. Never snack directly from a large container of food.

Celebrate Success in New Ways

Treat yourself when you hit milestones and goals.

Treat yourself when you hit milestones and goals. Set small, attainable goals, and reward yourself for meeting them. Reward yourself with a purchase or activity, but don’t succumb to the temptation to reward yourself with food.

Get Help from Family and Friends

Encourage your family and loved ones to help you lose weight.

Encourage your family and loved ones to help you lose weight. They may be able to join you in adopting a healthier lifestyle. They can also cheer you on when you feel discouraged and talk you out of giving up.

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Worst Meals in Restaurants

  • Reviewed By: Christine Mikstas, RD, LD

Reviewed on 8/21/2018

Buffalo Chicken Salad

Fried meat, oily sauce, and cheese push the calories in this meal through the roof at one popular restaurant.

The Count:1,130 calories, 74 grams fat, 3,290 milligrams sodium

“Salad” is stretching it! Fried meat, oily sauce, and cheese push the calories in this meal through the roof at one popular restaurant. It has about as many as a whole pint of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. The salad also packs nearly 25% more fat.

French Toast and Bacon

Want to use up a good chunk of your day's calories before noon? Eat this for breakfast.

The Count: 810 calories, 16 grams saturated fat, 1,180 milligrams sodium

Want to use up a good chunk of your day’s calories before noon? Eat this for breakfast. Better make it brunch, or you won’t have many calories left to spare for dinner. This dish has almost an entire day’s worth of saturated fat.

Vegetarian Fried Rice

Vegetarian fried rice can pack an unhealthy wallop.

The Count: 910 calories, 16 grams fat, 1,360 milligrams sodium

Getting Chinese takeout? Don’t assume the veggie options are the healthiest. Vegetarian fried rice can pack an unhealthy wallop. Instead, go for steamed dishes with lots of veggies and brown rice if it’s on the menu. Keep the rice to a half-cup — that’s about half the size of a baseball. Always ask for sauce on the side.

Pasta in Carbonara Sauce

A plate of pasta with shrimp and chicken in carbonara can creep up to unhealthy levels.

The Count: 1,590 calories, 114 grams fat, 2,410 milligrams sodium

Grilled chicken and shrimp can be good choices. But if they’re drenched in carbonara sauce, not so much. A plate of pasta with shrimp and chicken in carbonara can creep up to unhealthy levels. It also has more fat than you’d get from eating a half-dozen glazed doughnuts.

Deep Dish Pizza With Sausage

Deep dish pizza can be deep trouble.

The Count: 2,800 calories, 120 grams fat, 4,880 milligrams sodium

Deep dish pizza can be deep trouble. One “individual” sausage pizza serves up more calories than most people should eat in a whole day. It also packs double the daily limit of fat. Want to make it better? Skip the sausage and opt for thin crust.

Club Sandwich

Even with lean turkey or chicken, they can serve up a ton of calories and a whole day’s worth of saturated fat. Where is it all hiding?

The Count: 1060 calories, 52 grams saturated fat, 3390 milligrams sodium

Club sandwiches are sneaky. Even with lean turkey or chicken, they can serve up a ton of calories and a whole day’s worth of saturated fat. Where is it all hiding? In the bacon, extra slice of giant bread, and mayo. Opt for a single-decker turkey sandwich instead. Choose plenty of veggies and add a few avocado slices for flavor.

Large Fries

In a pinch, you might think that just one order of fries -- and nothing else -- would be OK.

The Count: 1,314 calories, 57 grams fat, 1,327 milligrams sodium

In a pinch, you might think that just one order of fries — and nothing else — would be OK. Not really. Large fries can have more calories than a whole loaf of white bread, with an extra bonus of unhealthy saturated fat. If you’re jonesing for fries, just get a small. You’ll save 788 calories.

Sliders

A plate of 3 sliders at lunch will account for almost half of your daily calorie allotment.

The Count: (3 sliders) 930 calories, 55.5 grams fat, 3345 milligrams sodium

How bad can those cute little burgers be? If you eat the whole order, pretty bad. A plate of 3 sliders at lunch will account for almost half of your daily calorie allotment. Solution? Don’t eat the whole order. Pack up one or two in a doggie bag and have them tomorrow.

Eat Better: Find Hidden Calories

You can skip the most fattening restaurant meals by reading the menu closely.

You can skip the most fattening restaurant meals by reading the menu closely. Look for clues. Words like pan-fried, sautéed, battered, breaded, au gratin, cheesy, creamy, buttered, deep-fried, béarnaise, or crispy are usually signs of extra fat and calories. “Crisp” items are often deep-fried in oil.

Eat Better: Ask How It’s Cooked

Baking fish -- with herbs, veggies, and lemon juice -- adds very few calories or fat to the dish.

Preparation makes a big difference. Baking fish — with herbs, veggies, and lemon juice — adds very few calories or fat to the dish. Other healthy cooking methods include:

  • Grilled
  • Broiled
  • Toasted
  • Baked
  • Poached
  • Steamed

Eat Better: Go á la Carte

Skip the jumbo portions and rich sides that come with restaurant entrees.

Skip the jumbo portions and rich sides that come with restaurant entrees. Instead, go for small plates that you can share, or choose side orders for your meal. In a Mexican restaurant, try one corn taco of grilled meats, a cup of chicken-tortilla soup, a side salad, and a fruit dessert. You get exactly what you want and a fraction of the calories.

Eat Better: Downsize

When only a hamburger will do, or a drive-through is your only option, think small.

When only a hamburger will do, or a drive-through is your only option, think small. Go for the child’s meal or a junior burger. Try this switch to get your fast-food fix with fewer calories:

  • Skip: The mega burger, large fries, large soda –1,480 calories
  • Choose: Cheeseburger, kid’s fries, extra-small soda — 605 calories

Eat Better: Hide Temptations

Restaurants like to give you a sense that there’s plenty on the table.

Restaurants like to give you a sense that there’s plenty on the table. It starts with an overflowing basket of bread or chips. Don’t mindlessly devour a few hundred calories before your main meal. Ask the waiter to take away the basket of carbs before you’ve touched it — or after you take a small portion.

Eat Better: Pasta

Pasta swimming in cream sauce can be an unhealthy choice.

Pasta swimming in cream sauce can be an unhealthy choice. It’s packed with fat, calories, and cholesterol. Instead, eat a small portion of whole-grain pasta topped with better sauces, such as:

  • Red clam sauce
  • Marinara sauce without meat
  • Primavera sauce without cream
  • Marsala sauce with wine, not butter

Eat Better: Pizza

Pizzerias are used to getting special orders.

Pizzerias are used to getting special orders. A few simple changes can slash the calories and fat in your pie:

  • Pile on veggies and skip the meat.
  • Ask for extra sauce and half the cheese.
  • After a slice or two, take the rest home.

Eat Better: Dessert

Fresh fruit is available at many restaurants now, even fast-food chains, thanks to demand from health-conscious diners.

Fresh fruit is available at many restaurants now, even fast-food chains, thanks to demand from health-conscious diners. If it’s not listed with the desserts, check the side dishes — or ask for a special order.

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Food and Nutrition: What’s Really in Your Fast Food

  • Reviewed By: Christine Mikstas, RD, LD

Reviewed on 8/14/2018

French Fries

Fast-food fries often have more than 15 ingredients, including sugar and artificial coloring.

The humble potato, fried in a vat of simmering oil, and finished with a sprinkling of salt. What could be simpler? Apparently, quite a lot. Fast-food fries often have more than 15 ingredients, including sugar and artificial coloring. They also have preservatives like sodium acid pyrophosphate and tert-butylhydroquinone, which in high doses has been linked to vision problems.

Hamburgers

Ground beef, right? Sure -- but there also may be growth hormones and antibiotics, which can end up in your system.

Ground beef, right? Sure — but there also may be growth hormones and antibiotics, which can end up in your system. And in one study, some burgers had over 100 calories more per serving than the fast-food places said they did.

Soda

A large soda at a typical fast-food place is about 32 ounces and has about 270 calories.

It’s the same soda you buy at the grocery store. But when you get it at a fast-food chain, you get more calories because the drink sizes are so large. And we’re not talking “supersize.” A large soda at a typical fast-food place is about 32 ounces and has about 270 calories. Studies show that if you order it, you’ll drink it.

Breakfast Sandwich

Some of the ingredients listed for what one national outlet calls a

Some of the ingredients listed for what one national outlet calls a “fried egg” include modified corn starch, soybean oil, medium chain triglycerides, propylene glycol, artificial flavor, citric acid, xanthan gum, and — oh yeah — egg whites and yolks (listed separately). If you didn’t bargain for all of that, ask for the propylene glycol (also used in fog machines and to make polyester) on the side.

Hot Dog

They're also loaded with salt and saturated fat (which most Americans get too much of) and with nitrates, a preservative linked to diabetes and cancer.

What’s in them? Let’s just say they make full use of the animals that supply the meat. They’re also loaded with salt and saturated fat (which most Americans get too much of) and with nitrates, a preservative linked to diabetes and cancer.

Chicken Nuggets

A piece of chicken breast battered and fried to golden perfection? Not exactly.

A piece of chicken breast battered and fried to golden perfection? Not exactly. There’s meat in there, but there are also bones, blood vessels, nerves, connective tissue, and skin. And they have loads of salt and fat, which are linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Strawberry Milkshake

Besides milk and sugar, one leading fast-food outlet also adds high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives like sodium benzoate, and artificial flavors and colors to this drinkable dessert.

Besides milk and sugar, one leading fast-food outlet also adds high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives like sodium benzoate, and artificial flavors and colors to this drinkable dessert. One thing that appears to be missing: actual strawberries.

Sauces

The first ingredient listed for almost any sauce served at a fast-food restaurant is sugar.

The first ingredient listed for almost any sauce served at a fast-food restaurant is sugar. It may be called sucrose, dextrose, maltose, rice syrup, barley malt, high-fructose corn syrup, or any number of other things, but the end result is the same: quick delivery of lots of calories with almost zero nutritional value.

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A Healthier Fast Food Diet

Reviewed on 7/27/2016

Healthy Eating on the Run

Cars line up at a fast food drive-through.

People are busier than ever, and when crunched for time, fast food is the go-to meal for many. It’s easy, cheap, and fast, but often not healthy. While it’s always healthier to prepare your own food at home, with a little forethought and planning you can avoid some of the worst foods and make healthier choices at fast food restaurants.

1. Watch Portion Sizes

An almost finished container of fast-food fries.

Usually a small size is enough to satisfy your cravings. A small order of fries can be up to 100 calories less than its super-sized counterpart. A small sandwich or half a sandwich is often filling and will curb your hunger. You can even ask for the kid’s meal to ensure smaller portions.

2. Go Deli-Style

A grilled Caesar chicken wrap on whole wheat tortillas.

Deli-style fast food restaurants offer many options that are lower in fat and calories. Choose whole wheat bread or a wrap, and add lots of veggies for a flavorful and filling sandwich. But skip the mayo!

3. Pick the Better Side

Side order bowls of fresh fruit.

Forget the standard french fry side order – try fresh fruit or a salad. Most fast food chains offer these healthier options.

4. Add a Salad

A fresh side salad made of mixed lettuce and cherry tomatoes.

Even if you do want those salty fries or that fried chicken, order a side salad as well. Fill up on greens and veggies to get fiber and vitamins. You may even feel more full and eat less of the unhealthy fast food.

5. Grilled Is Best

Fresh grilled chicken sandwich on whole wheat bun.

Even though chicken is a lean meat, many fried or breaded chicken options can have more fat and calories than a hamburger. Always choose grilled chicken over breaded or fried.

6. Snack Before Hitting the Road

A woman eats an apple.

You are more likely to give into temptation and stop in at a fast food joint if you are hungry. Before you go out, fill up on a healthy snack such as a piece of fruit, some veggies and hummus, cereal with skim or non-dairy milk, or low-fat yogurt.

7. Curb the Cravings

A man sits on his car with an apple and bottle of water.

Be prepared for cravings and keep healthy snacks ready and available. Keep them in your car or in your desk at the office so you can ward off cravings and stay away from the fast food. Drinking plenty of water will also keep you feeling more full and less likely to give into temptation.

8. Hit the Supermarket

A businesswoman buys a fruit salad at the supermarket.

Instead of a fast food chain, take your lunch in a local supermarket. You can find pre-cut fruit and veggie options, along with snacks such as low fat string cheese or yogurt. Many supermarkets also have salad and sushi bars, or other ready-made healthy foods.

9. Hold the Mayo!

A spoonful of mayonnaise.

Whatever you order in a fast food restaurant, hold the mayo! Mayo is full of fat and just one tablespoon contains nearly 100 calories! Try mustard instead for a low-calorie, low-fat condiment.

10. Water Your Thirst

Sandwich, fries, and a glass of water.

Water is the best way to quench your thirst. Don’t add empty calories and sugar from sodas and other soft drinks to your meal. Water will help you feel full without adding calories to your diet.

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Best and Worst Appetizers

  • Reviewed By: Christine Mikstas, RD, LD

Reviewed on 6/1/2020

WORST: Onion Blossom

Photo of an onion blossom.

It may be your waistline that blossoms if you’re a fan of fried onions. The onion blossom at one popular restaurant has 1,950 calories, 155 grams (g) of fat, and 3,840 milligrams (mg) of sodium — more than double the daily sodium limit for healthy adults.

BEST: Vegetable Kabobs

Photo of a veggie kabob.

Grilled vegetable kebabs are a great low-calorie alternative to fried onions. If this isn’t on the menu, ask for a side of grilled vegetables as your appetizer. Veggie kabobs are also easy to make: Skewer onions, red and green bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, and zucchini. Brush with a lower-fat garlic and herb marinade. Two large kebabs will have about 75 calories.

WORST: Spinach Artichoke Dip

Photo of spinach artichoke dip and tortilla chips.

Don’t let the word “spinach” fool you. Traditional spinach artichoke dip is not a healthy starter. A typical order has about 1,600 calories, 100 grams of fat, and 2,500 milligrams of sodium. The trouble is the cream base, which is loaded with saturated fat. If you make this dip at home, use a base of nonfat Greek yogurt instead.

BEST: Spinach Salad

Photo of spinach salad.

The best appetizers are low in calories, but satisfying enough to curb how much you eat during the rest of your meal. Salads made with spinach or other leafy greens do this very well. Studies suggest you’ll eat about 10% less during a meal if you start off with salad. A cup of fresh spinach with a tablespoon of vinaigrette has about 80 calories.

WORST: Cheese Fries

Photo of cheese fries topped with scallions.

Cheese fries are french fries with melted cheese on top. Variations may include bacon bits or ranch dressing. A full order packs up to 2,000 calories, 134 grams of fat, and 2,800 milligrams of sodium, which is more sodium than you should eat in a whole day.

BEST: Crab Cakes

Photo of crab cakes.

Use appetizers to add healthy foods you might be eating too little of. Seared crab cakes — pan fried, not deep fried — offer an appealing way to get more seafood into your diet. Served with chili sauce, a typical crab cake has about 300 calories, 20 g of fat, and 960 mg sodium.

WORST: Cheeseburger Sliders

Photo of cheeseburger sliders.

They’re small, but sliders pack in a lot of calories. A typical restaurant order includes three mini-burgers with cheese and sauce, totaling 1,270 calories, 82 g of fat, and 2,310 mg of sodium.

BEST: Beef Skewers

Photo of beef skewer.

When you’re craving a meaty appetizer, opt for beef skewers. In Asian restaurants, this may be listed as beef satay: skewers of beef with peanut sauce. At home, you can grill skewers of lean beef with onions, garlic, and hoisin, soy, and barbecue sauces. A quarter-pound serving has about 130 calories, 5 g of fat, and 803 mg sodium.

WORST: Loaded Potato Skins

Photo of loaded potato skins.

Potato skins filled with melted cheese, meats, and sour cream are as fattening as they are tempting. At more than 150 calories a pop, the trick to enjoying these is to have just one. Devour a whole plateful, and you’ll take in about 1,340 calories, 94 g of fat, and 1,850 mg of sodium.

BEST: Stuffed Mushrooms

Photo of stuffed mushrooms.

Stuffing mushrooms instead of potato skins helps keep the portion size down. Mushroom caps filled with cheese and breadcrumbs have less than 50 calories each. That means you can eat half a dozen and still keep your appetizer under 300 calories, along with 19 grams of fat, and 720 mg of sodium.

WORST: Fried Calamari

Photo of fried calamari.

Like many types of seafood, squid can be a good choice. But not when it’s breaded, fried, and drenched in calories and fat. A typical restaurant portion contains about 900 calories, 54 g of fat, and 2,300 mg of sodium, not including any sauce.

BEST: Shrimp Cocktail

Photo of shrimp cocktail.

Shrimp cocktail is very low in saturated fat and calories. It’s also a good source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. To keep the calorie count low, stick to tomato-based sauce. A serving of shrimp with cocktail sauce has about 140 calories.

WORST: New England Clam Chowder

Photo of clam chowder.

Clam chowder sounds like it should be healthy, especially as a way to take in some extra seafood. Unfortunately, the New England variety is made with a fattening cream base. A 12-ounce bowl has about 630 calories, 54 g of fat, and 890 mg of sodium.

BEST: Vegetable Soup

Photo of tomato soup.

Having a bowl of soup can curb how much you eat during the rest of the meal. The key is choosing a low-calorie option, such as a tomato-based vegetable soup. A 12-ounce bowl has about 160 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, and 1,240 mg sodium. Stay away from cream-based vegetable soups, which are higher in calories and saturated fats. When buying canned soup, look for those marked “low in sodium.”

WORST: Chicken Wings

Photo of chicken wings

A typical appetizer portion of buffalo chicken wings has more than 700 calories and 40 g of fat. Ranch sauce adds another 200 calories and 20 g of fat. That’s 900 calories and 60 g of fat, plus more than 2,000 mg of sodium, before you even get to your main meal.

BEST: Lettuce Wraps

Photo of chicken lettuce wraps.

If you’re craving spicy chicken, skip the wings and try lettuce wraps. You can make these at home by wrapping diced spicy chicken and vegetables in a lettuce leaf. Each wrap has 160 calories and 7 g of fat. If you order this appetizer at a restaurant, share them. A plate of four wraps has 640 calories, 28 g of fat, and 650 mg sodium.

WORST: Mozzarella Sticks

Photo of fried mozzarella cheese sticks.

There’s something about a stick of warm, gooey cheese that’s hard to resist, until you know the nutritional facts. A typical order has 930 calories, 48 g of fat, and 2,640 mg of sodium. That puts mozzarella sticks pretty much on par with chicken wings.

BEST: Edamame

Photo of edamame.

These green pods, known as edamame, are a popular appetizer in Asian restaurants. It’s fun to open the pods and pop the young soybeans into your mouth. One serving has 122 calories and 5 grams of fat.

WORST: Chili Cheese Nachos

Photo of chili cheese nachos.

They may be a festive way to start an evening out, but nachos and cheese dip are among the least healthy appetizer choices. Eat an entire order yourself, and you’ll take in 1,680 calories, 107 g of fat, and 4,270 mg of sodium, which may be nearly twice as much sodium as you should get in a day.

BEST: Sliced Peppers with Salsa

Photo of salsa and veggies.

For a homemade alternative to chips and dip, cut up red and green bell peppers, or other veggies, and use them like chips for dipping in salsa. This is a fun way to sneak more vegetables into your diet. You can dip a whole pepper’s worth of “chips” and stay under 50 calories.

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Scientific Tips to Keep Your Produce Fresher Longer

Reviewed on 6/27/2020

Tomato + Cucumber = Faster Spoilage

Certain foods emit ethylene which encourages spoilage of other types of produce.

The reason is ethylene, a gas from some fruits and vegetables that speeds ripening. It’s a big reason for food waste. So store ethylene-emitting foods away from those that are sensitive to it.

Ethylene producers:

  • Apple
  • Cantaloupe
  • Avocado
  • Pear
  • Tomato
  • Pepper
  • Banana

Ethylene sensitive:

  • Mango
  • Asparagus
  • Peach
  • Onion
  • Eggplant
  • Grape
  • Cucumber

Wash Your Greens

Rinse and dry your greens before putting them in the fridge.

Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and bibb, romaine, red leaf, and other types of lettuce will stay fresher longer if you rinse them in cool water before refrigerating. Toss out any wilted or discolored leaves. Dry the greens in a salad spinner or shake off the water and wrap them loosely in paper towels. Seal them in a plastic bag or container.

Leave the Wax On

A waxy covering on some kinds of produce help protect it.

Many fruits and vegetables, especially those grown in warm climates, have a natural waxy outer layer to prevent shrinking. Some crops get a coating of artificial wax. Wash it off only just before you’re ready to eat. That helps prevent bruising and premature rotting. Coated produce includes apples, lemons, nectarines, oranges, cucumbers, bell peppers, potatoes, and eggplants.

Trim Carrots

Trim the green tops off of carrots before you store them in the fridge.

Those green tops may be pretty. But they wick nutrients and freshness from the rest of the carrot. Slice off the green tops before storing. Refrigerate trimmed carrots loosely in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer. They should keep for several weeks. Pro tip: Save the greens to make pesto, chimichurri, or salad topping.

Keep Bananas Cool

A humid, sunny kitchen may make tropical fruits spoil more quickly.

Your sunny kitchen may be one of the worst places to keep these tropical fruits. Humid, warm air will speed up the browning. Keep them away from other produce. Once they’ve ripened to your liking, refrigerate bananas to extend their shelf life by a couple of days. The skin may turn mottled, but the inside should stay tasty.

Freeze Ginger

Ginger can be stored in your freezer for at least 3 months.

Love the pungent flavor of fresh ginger but never use it quickly enough before it turns gnarly or moldy? Ginger, also called ginger root, can last in your fridge for a few weeks. To keep it longer, toss it in your freezer. Chop, grate, or slice the ginger (no need to peel it). Wrap tightly with foil or a freezer bag to keep out air. It’ll keep fresh for at least 3 months.

Let Onions Breathe

Good air circulation helps onions stay fresher longer.

Good air circulation is key to keeping decay at bay. Store onions without plastic wrap in a cool, dry spot. If they’re sold in a mesh bag, you can hang in on a hook in your pantry. Or make your own ventilated storage with an old, clean pair of pantyhose. Drop an onion in one leg and push it down to the toe. Then tie a knot above it, and drop another onion. Cut onions will keep for several days in the refrigerator.

Chill Berries

Keep berries in the fridge and wash them just before you eat them.

Strawberries are among the sweetest harvests of summer. But these tender fruits actually are cold hardy. In fact, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries should be refrigerated below 40 F, or even as cold as 32 F. That lengthens their shelf life. Moisture will turn them mushy or moldy quicker, so wash berries only at the last minute.

Wrap Celery in Foil

Cover celery before storing it in the crisper drawer of the fridge.

Like most vegetables, celery is almost all water. It’s also sensitive to ethylene, the ripening gas. Help keep your celery from going limp by tightly covering it in foil and storing it in the crisper drawer. Or you can wrap it in a dry paper towel and put it into a plastic sleeve. The celery should last several weeks.

Bag Your Lemons

Citrus fruits last longer when they are stored in the fridge.

A bright yellow pile of citrus can brighten up any kitchen counter. That’s also an ideal place to dry out your lemons and limes into hard orbs. But you can keep them juicy for up to a month. Seal the lemons tightly in a plastic storage bag with all the air out and put them in the fridge.

Keep Your Herbs Vertical

Many fresh herbs last longer when the ends are trimmed and placed in jars of water in the fridge.

Treat cilantro, parsley, and mint like cut flowers. Place them in jars with water and then refrigerate. Bouquets of other soft-stemmed herbs like basil may prefer the warmer temperature on your counter. Or try this: Place fresh dry herbs in a plastic produce bag and blow into it like a balloon. The carbon monoxide from your breath is a known food preservative and can help keep the greens perky.

Vent Your Mushrooms

Mushrooms are best kept cool and in a well-ventilated area.

They’re not a fruit or vegetable, but fungi. Mushrooms like to be kept cool and well-ventilated. A porous paper bag is a good choice. Free the mushrooms from their plastic-wrapped grocery container, which can trap moisture. They may keep in the fridge for up to a week. Run them under cool water just before you cook with them.

Deep-Clean Your Fridge

Keeping your fridge clean can help food stay fresher, longer.

Several things affect how quickly your food spoils. They include light, air, temperature, and time. One you can control is microorganisms like bacteria, mold, and yeast. So wipe down the insides of your refrigerator regularly. White vinegar or soapy water work. Avoid packing too much food on the shelves and drawers so that air can circulate.

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Food and Health: Best Ways to Store Foods for Freshness

  • Reviewed By: Christine Mikstas, RD, LD

Reviewed on 10/21/2019

Eggs

Keep eggs on the shelf instead of the refrigerator door so they stay fresher longer.

Time to crack down! Eggs are among the foods we throw out most often. It’s best to keep them in their original carton. The handy caddy that came with your fridge lets odors seep through the thousands of tiny pores that cover the shell. Eggs also stay fresh longer on the shelf than your refrigerator door, where the temperature dips and rises.

Berries

Store unwashed berries in the fridge in a container lined with paper towels to keep them fresh.

Resist the urge to wash the dusty carton of berries when you get home from the farmers market. Instead, rinse them quickly under the faucet just before use, or enjoy them right away. Store the rest in the fridge in a container lined with paper towels to absorb moisture. If you wash them first, the dampness will spoil the fruit more quickly.

Flour

Store flour in airtight containers to keep pests away.

Fun fact: An insect called the confused flour beetle may be lurking in your pantry. Along with moths and weevils, this bug loves to infest your flour, cereal, and pasta. To keep your grains pest-free, toss the packaging and move them to airtight containers. They can stay in your cabinet or freezer.

Oils

Store oils away from heat and light so they do not get rancid.

Air, light, and temperature are three big culprits behind food spoilage. Rancid oil may look fine, but it smells and tastes terrible. It may be convenient to keep olive, canola, and other cooking oils next to the stove. But they last longer when they’re far from heat and light.

Mushrooms

Store mushrooms unwashed in a brown paper bag in the fridge.

If you’ve ever washed a mushroom, you know this fungus acts like a sponge. That’s why it turns slimy in your fridge. Whether you buy them loose or packed and wrapped, transfer the mushrooms to a brown paper bag to keep away moisture. Refrigeration is key. At room temperature, mushrooms lose color and flavor quicker.

Asparagus

It is best to store asparagus with the ends trimmed standing in a glass of water.

Ever feel like the tender stalks dry out halfway between the grocer and your kitchen? Treat them like you would a bouquet of fresh flowers. Trim the ends and stand the spears in a glass with just enough water to cover the bottom. Wrap the tips in a moist towel or cover with a plastic bag and refrigerate for 2-3 days.

Coffee

Keep coffee beans in a cool, dark cabinet in a food-safe container to keep them fresh.

As green coffee beans darken during roasting, they release an oil called caffeol. It’s what gives coffee its familiar taste and smell. But exposure to air, moisture, heat, and light weakens all those earthy flavors. Pick a food-safe canister you can’t see through and keep your beans in a cool, dark cabinet. Experts disagree whether it’s a good idea to freeze or refrigerate coffee. But they do agree that any container must be airtight.

Bread

Eat fresh bread within a week or freeze it so it does not go stale.

Baked loaves taste best if you keep them somewhere cool and eat them within a week. Anything longer than a few days tends to suck out the moisture and lead to stale bread. Keep it in its original bag and store in the fridge. Bread — sliced or whole — also freezes well. Just make sure to wrap it airtight.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are best enjoyed right after you bring them home.

These summer crops are tricky. Tomatoes taste best when you leave them on the counter. Yet they also turn moldy sooner at room temperature. They last longer in the fridge but become mealy and flavorless. Limit their stay in the refrigerator to a day or two. Tuck tomatoes in a crisper drawer in a paper or plastic bag with a few slits to keep it from drying out. Better yet, just savor the juicy orbs soon after you get them home.

Nuts

Nuts last the longest when kept in the freezer.

You might think that bulk bag of walnuts or cashews might keep forever. But oil in nuts goes rancid if they stay too warm for too long. If your pantry is cool and dry, they should be fine in an airtight container for 3 months. You also can leave shelled or unshelled nuts in the refrigerator for 6 months or in the freezer for a year.

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens last longer when you wrap them in a paper towel and stash them in the crisper drawer of the fridge.

Spinach, lettuce, watercress, and similar veggies often come in plastic clamshells. Or you might bring them home in plastic produce bags. Don’t stash them straight away in your fridge drawer. First, wrap the leaves in a paper towel to keep them from getting damp and slimy.

Meats

Eat processed meats soon after you bring them home or wrap them in foil and freeze them.

Processed meats like pepperoni, salami, and lunchmeat aren’t the healthiest choices. But one upside is that all the salt, sugar, nitrates, and other preservatives help lock in the taste for a week or longer. Refrigerate in their original packaging or in an airtight container to keep them from drying out. As for beef or chicken sold in trays, double wrap with foil any portions you won’t eat right away. Write the date on top and stick it in the freezer. You can ditch the tray or not.

Fresh Herbs

Trim the ends of herbs and keep them in a vase in the fridge covered loosely with plastic to keep them fresh.

It seems you can never use up dill, basil, or parsley quickly enough before they shrivel or lose their delicate flavor. The best way to store them for a few hours is in the fridge wrapped in a perforated plastic bag that lets the herbs breathe. To keep them for days, trim the stems, arrange them in a glass or small vase, cover loosely with a plastic bag, and refrigerate. Swap out the water every day. Herbs like thyme and rosemary also dry well.

Always Refrigerate

Milk and other perishables should always be refrigerated to stop the growth of bacteia.

Milk is pasteurized with heat to give it a long shelf life. But if you don’t keep it at 40 degrees or below, bacteria can grow back. Other foods to always refrigerate include seafood, cheese, produce you’ve already sliced, baby formula, and opened maple syrup.

Don’t Refrigerate

Onions, garlic, honey, pumpkin, and squash are best stored in cool, but not cold environments.

Onions, garlic, honey, pumpkin, and other varieties of squash like it cool but not cold. Store them somewhere dark and away from heat. The same goes for all kinds of potatoes. Cool temperatures can raise their sugar levels. That in turn may allow more of a possible cancer-causing chemical called acrylamide to form when you fry, bake, or roast the potatoes.

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Food and Health: Raw Food Dangers

Reviewed on 1/23/2019

Sushi

Sushi can have bacteria and parasites like anisakiasis.

Made with lean fish, vegetables, and avocado, sushi can be a good way to get vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. But sushi can have bacteria and parasites like anisakiasis, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain.

Small children, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and people with immune issues should skip raw or undercooked fish. Everyone should also avoid fish that could be high in mercury, like swordfish, bigeye tuna, and shark.

Pork

Raw or undercooked pork can have bacteria like salmonella, E. coli, and listeria.

Raw or undercooked pork can have bacteria like salmonella, E. coli, and listeria. You can get sick from eating pork that hasn’t been cooked enough or from cutting boards, countertops, or utensils that touched raw pork. Pork has to be cooked to at least 145 degrees F, then allowed to rest for at least 3 minutes before you serve it.

Oysters

They can carry viruses and bacteria from the water where they live.

They can carry viruses and bacteria from the water where they live. If they aren’t well-cooked, they can infect the people who eat them. Oysters can spread an infection called vibriosis, which can make you very sick. They can also spread hepatitis A, a virus that causes liver disease. Fully cook oysters before you eat them.

Ceviche

Ceviche is raw seafood marinated in lime or lemon juice.

Ceviche is raw seafood marinated in lime or lemon juice. Like sushi, there’s a chance it can have bacteria and parasites that can cause food poisoning. Skip undercooked or raw fish, especially if you are in a high-risk group, like if you’re pregnant, nursing, or have immune problems. Cook seafood to 145 F. Leftover seafood needs to get to 165 F.

Meat Tartare

It's OK if you don't like your meat well done, but it's not safe to go to the other extreme.

It’s OK if you don’t like your meat well done, but it’s not safe to go to the other extreme. Steak or chicken tartare is meat eaten uncooked. Raw meat and poultry are most likely to cause food poisoning. They can have all sorts of bacteria from E. coli to salmonella, which can make you very sick. To stay safe, be sure meats are properly cooked.

Raw Eggs

Fresh eggs can carry salmonella, which can cause food poisoning.

Fresh eggs can carry salmonella, which can cause food poisoning. The best way to avoid getting sick is to make sure you cook eggs until the white and the yolk are firm. Refrigerate eggs or foods that have eggs right after you cook them. For recipes that call for raw eggs, like Caesar dressing or hollandaise sauce, use only pasteurized eggs.

Flour and Dough

It can be tempting to have a taste of batter when you make cookies, but anything with uncooked flour can make you sick.

It can be tempting to have a taste of batter when you make cookies, but anything with uncooked flour can make you sick. The flour can have bacteria like E. coli. Don’t taste raw dough or batter, and don’t add flour to foods that won’t be cooked. Kids shouldn’t play with flour or dough, either.

When you’re done using flour, don’t forget to wash your hands thoroughly.

Raw Potatoes

What do you do with a potato that's turned green?

What do you do with a potato that’s turned green? The green part of a potato has solanine, a bitter substance that can make you sick. It can cause diarrhea, fever, headache, and vomiting. Cut off that green part along with the eyes and wash your potatoes before you prepare them. Once you start, cook them completely and never eat them raw.

Kidney Beans

Eating as few as four or five raw kidney beans can make you very sick.

Eating as few as four or five raw kidney beans can make you very sick. The beans — especially red ones — have a protein called bean lectin or PHA. It’s usually destroyed during cooking. Soak your raw kidney beans for at least 5 hours, drain them, then boil them for at least 30 minutes.

Don’t use a slow cooker. It won’t get the beans hot enough to kill the toxin.

Canned beans are safe. They’ve already been cooked.

Lima Beans

The poison cyanide is naturally in some foods and plants, including lima beans.

The poison cyanide is naturally in some foods and plants, including lima beans. Ones sold in the U.S. have very little cyanide. (You’d have to eat about a pound of lima beans for each pound you weigh to get really sick.) Wild lima beans can have a lot of cyanide. To be safe, soak your lima beans overnight, then simmer them for at least 2 hours before you eat them.

Bitter Almond

Like lima beans, bitter almonds also have cyanide.

Like lima beans, bitter almonds also have cyanide. Eating just a handful of them can make you sick. Bitter almonds aren’t supposed to be sold in the U.S. The almonds you get in stores are sweet almonds, which are safe to eat.

Wild Mushrooms

Some wild mushrooms have toxins like agaritine and amatoxin.

Some wild mushrooms have toxins like agaritine and amatoxin. These compounds can damage your liver and cause other serious health problems. Even raw mushrooms or spoiled mushrooms that don’t have these toxins can cause things like vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain if they’re not scrubbed before you eat them.

Taro

This should only be eaten cooked.

This should only be eaten cooked. Raw taro has compounds called oxalates that can cause swelling and irritation in your lips, mouth, and throat. Cooking taro — especially with milk — helps lower the effect of these toxins.

Castor Beans

If you chew and swallow castor beans, you can be exposed to a poison called ricin.

If you chew and swallow castor beans, you can be exposed to a poison called ricin. Just a tiny bit of it can be fatal. If just the seed is swallowed and not chewed, there’s a chance your body won’t take in the ricin.

Cassava

Like bitter almonds and lima beans, raw cassava has traces of cyanide.

Like bitter almonds and lima beans, raw cassava has traces of cyanide. If the roots are peeled and well-cooked, they are safe to eat. But if they are eaten raw or undercooked, they can lead to things like diarrhea, stomach pain, and vomiting.

Rhubarb Leaves

The fleshy, celery-like stalks of rhubarb are often used to make pies and are safe to eat.

The fleshy, celery-like stalks of rhubarb are often used to make pies and are safe to eat. But the plant’s leaves have oxalic acid, a toxic compound. Eating them can cause burning in your mouth, trouble breathing, diarrhea, and stomach

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RAKILAH HAYES