So, you’ve decided to eat healthy! No more of those midnight pizzas, or meals consisting entirely of dessert. But your best intentions can often be sabotaged by hidden carbs and sodium that you never knew were there. Whether you’re on a special diet for health reasons, or simply vanity, you want to be sure all your gustatory sacrifices are producing optimal benefits. So you must educate yourself about hidden threats to your program.
Carbohydrates are everywhere, and not just in plain sight. Carbs are sugars or starches, and starches themselves are nothing more than long chains of sugar molecules. A low carb diet should consist of no more than 30 grams per day. But this may be more difficult to do when you consider all the hidden carbs waiting to enthrall you.
Flavored Greek yogurt may sound like a healthy idea, but make sure to read the label. Many brands contain a great deal of carbs from sugar, especially the supposedly healthy low-fat variety. Read the nutrition facts carefully and opt for a variety which contains less than 12 grams of sugar. That jar of applesauce may seem like a good choice, but many brands add sugar. Choose a natural variety which relies simply on the flavor of the apple.
Carbs can also be lurking in your energy drink. A can of Red Bull won’t just provide you with wings, but also 40 grams of carbs, A can of Coke is a close second with 25 grams. It should come as no surprise that cold packaged cereals can be a major source of carbohydrates, and even heart healthy Cheerios provides 77 grams per one cup serving. GoLean Crunch may be a better choice, but still delivers a whopping 20 grams. And you may want to read the labels on those health bars before you start snacking away. Each one may contain from 13 grams to 41 grams, meaning a single bar can put you over your daily maximum recommendation.
And watch out for those nuts. Some of the more popular varieties, such as peanuts, cashews, pistachios, and chestnuts. Opt for the more carb friendly varieties. Fruits are generally high in carbs, and, as such, are best avoided. But if you must indulge, reach for berries as opposed to bananas.
A lot of people may believe that simply ignoring the salt shaker is enough to cut down significantly on the sodium in their diet, but this is far from true. A healthy recommendation for salt intake is under 2300 mg per day. This is just about a teaspoon of salt. But salt may be lurking in places you may not expect. Look for it in frozen meat products. Canned food may be processed with additional salt. A single serving of Green Giant mushrooms out of a can may contain 440 mg of sodium. Deli meats usually contain additional sodium. For example, two slices of bologna contain 578mg. Cheese products may contain more sodium than you might expect, and that can of soda, which you should probably be avoiding because of the sugar/carb content, also contains more sodium than you might think. Even diet soda!
It should come as no surprise that preserved meat products contain a large amount of sodium, as witnessed by their salty taste. So put down that Slim Jim. And cut back on the condiments. Mustard and ketchup can be high in sodium. And, if you are going to opt for drinking your veggies, be careful about how you do so. V8 Spicy Hot vegetable juice contains 480 mg per 8 ounce serving.
It’s always safer to prepare your meals yourself. That chicken you grill and season at home is bound to contain less sodium than the ready to eat pre-cooked variety available at the market. And check the labels on some of those pasta sauces, Surely you can beat those numbers in your own kitchen. Just remember that the flavor you’re missing with your salt boycott can be easily made up for by the use of spices found in your cabinet, such as ginger, paprika, pepper, garlic, onion, and dry mustard. Experiment until you find what suits your personal taste. And don’t ruin a perfectly healthy salad by covering it in a sodium soaked processed dressing!
Maintaining a healthy carb and sodium restricted diet requires a bit of discipline and effort. And perhaps a bit of education. So, make up your mind, dump the salt shaker and sugar bowl, and read the labels. You’ll be eating healthy before you know it.
I’m Nick Wilkinson. I writer and radio personality who lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
With over 14 years of experience in the Behavioral Health Field, I’ve been working in close contact with kids from all walks of life.
Specializing in teenagers and young adults, I’ve been a career long supporter of “verbal de-escalation” and non-violent crisis intervention. I believe that what you say, and how you say it, are the keys to successful communication. I currently write about men’s health topics, parenting and child abuse topics, and other social issues. You can visit my blog at www.ActingNotReacting.com