We are confronted with food choices at every point in the day. Sometimes it’s easy to focus on eating healthy and then some days you want to treat yourself. I’ve mentioned before that it’s fine consuming some of your favorite foods on the weekend as long as you eat healthy during the week. Regardless of what you choose, always eat items that are as close to the natural form as possible. What does this mean? Try to stay away from foods that are processed or unnatural. Instead, enjoy foods that are whole or in their original state. For example, try an orange instead of drinking orange juice. When deciding between butter or margarine, pick butter since it’s a natural product. Margarine is a highly processed food. Don’t be fooled if something contains more fat or less calories, always eat foods that are natural since there are more benefits.

There are a few ingredients that I always avoid. Please do not buy products if they contain any of the contents below. If you stop, it will send a message to food producers to not use them. There’s a reason why the country is battling an obesity problem and below are the main contributors.

High Fructose Corn Syrup
This product is the rocket fuel of sweeteners. It delivers more sugar than the body can handle. Unlike natural sugar, the body does not know how to break it down and will instead turn it into fat. The long-term effects show that it can also lead to diabetes, obesity and cancer. This product was invented as a way to provide a low-cost sweetener without consideration for the health benefits to the consumer. The foods that contain this product include soda, juice cocktails, breakfast cereal, yogurt, salad dressings and candy.

I know there’s a debate on whether to drink soda with high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweetener. Even though the majority of soda options use high fructose corn syrup, I gravitate to the ones that uses artificial sweetener. My reasoning is that if I’m going to eat something that’s artificial, I might as well consume the one that doesn’t have calories. Even though water should always be your first option, there are a lot of nice options out there that still provide flavor without any sugars. You may be paying a little more, but it’s reassuring knowing that it’s a natural product.

Hydrogenated Oils
This is another toxic ingredient that I can’t believe is put into food. These are vegetable oils that have been chemically altered. The body doesn’t know how to break them down and studies have shown that it increases swelling and hurts cholesterol levels. The foods that contain this product the most are packaged foods like pies, and cookies. One doughnut contains 5 grams, which is almost THREE times the amount of trans fat allowed per day.

Bleached or Enriched Flour
White flour is where the grain has been stripped of bran and germ, which basically means they lost all of their nutrients. What makes bleached flour even worse is that it’s been chemically treated. Don’t think it’s healthy if it’s enriched with vitamins and minerals, it’s still an unnatural product. It also lacks the protein and fiber of whole grains that are essential for staying healthy. I’m relieved that some cereal producers have switched to whole grains, but there are others that have not. You would be surprised that some still use bleached or enriched flour in their foods like breads, baked goods, pastas and pizza.

Please check the labels before eating anything. If it has a lot of unrecognizable ingredients, you need to stay away from these foods. I love ice cream and cookies and I was horrified by reading some of the labels. I then made a mission to only buy brands that have the least amount of ingredients. I love ice cream so much that I now have an ice cream maker. The benefits are not only having delicious ice cream, but I can also control the ingredients that are added. I make sure to only use heavy cream, milk, pure cane sugar, and vanilla—that’s it! These four ingredients make a delicious dessert. And since I don’t like my ice cream so sugary, I put in less than what the recipe calls for. This just proves that you can still enjoy the delicious food as long as you’re eating them in their natural state.