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Supermarket saboteurs

Supermarket saboteurs
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Not everything that comes in a box or bag is bad, but a lot of it is. We got nutrition experts to reveal 50 of the unhealthiest supermarket foods you can buy.

Citrus drinks

Citrus drinks
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“The label looks more like a complicated science experiment than a beverage,” says Lindsey Pine MS, RDN, of one citrus drink in particular. “These drinks have at most 10 percent juice, according to their ingredient lists. Not only do they have high fructose corn syrup, but they also have three different sources of artificial sweeteners in addition to artificial colours.” The grossest part? There’s oil in at least one brand of this juice! Water is obviously the best alternative, but if you need a fruit fix, Pine suggests diluting 100 percent fruit juice with water.

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Vegetable oil

Vegetable oil
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You usually get what you pay for, and that’s exactly the case with low-budget oils. “Cheap refined vegetable oils are known for their high amounts of omega-6 fatty acid content, and while we absolutely need omega-6’s to survive, our Western diets get way too much of them, possibly leading to systemic inflammation, which can lead to chronic disease,” explains Pine. “Further, the majority are made from genetically modified plants.”

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Veggie wraps

Veggie wraps
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“A basic tortilla takes about four ingredients to construct – flour, water, oil, and salt – but some brands, like one that claims to contain spinach, uses no fewer than 30 ingredients to construct these wraps, and spinach falls under the ‘2 percent or less’ portion of the ingredients statement,” says Janine Whiteson, RD. That’s not a joke! Spinach wraps with less than 2 percent spinach… So what is this wrap made of? “A lot of enriched flour and vegetable shortening, neither of which makes for a healthy sandwich.” Read labels thoroughly to be sure of what you’re getting.

Vegetable rice blends

Vegetable rice blends
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When it comes to rice mixes that tout healthful ingredients like broccoli, you can bet that there’s not much of the green stuff in there. “Neither cheese nor broccoli ranks higher than partially hydrogenated palm oil in one popular rice mix,” notes Whiteson. “This is a salt mine – by eating one small serving of this, you will have consumed a day’s worth of sodium. These products are extremely high in artery-clogging saturated fat! And really…. broccoli? I think there might be broccoli dust somewhere in there – but nowhere near enough to deem this at all healthy.”

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Boxed Mac and Cheese

Boxed Mac and Cheese
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This kid-friendly staple is a nutritional disaster. Whiteson points out that one box of a top-selling brand has more than two days’ worth of trans fats per serving and more than a day’s worth of sodium. “It also has virtually no fibre and is made with additives and chemicals that have been banned in countries around the world. While it may be a favourite for children, this dinner option is probably one of the worst supermarket buys with no nutritional value.” It’s also easy to make your own in a much more healthy way.

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Cheese-flavoured popcorn

Cheese-flavoured popcorn
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Readymade flavoured popcorn – smart? “Hardly,” says Whiteson. “One popular brand earns a heavy load of fat from oils, cheese, and buttermilk. It’s also loaded with salt – a day’s worth in just a few servings. What an adulteration to the simple, high-fibre popcorn that can actually be worked into a healthy diet! Not smart at all!”

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Noodle soup kits

Noodle soup kits
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“Noodle soup kits are among the cheapest meal solutions found in the grocery store – which is why they are known as a university student staple. Still, they are one of the worst excuses for a meal in the entire supermarket,” says Whiteson. These popular dehydrated noodles not only bring zero nutritional value to the table, but they also contain a food additive called Tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), a preservative that is a petroleum-industry byproduct (yes, it’s as gross as it sounds). “They’re also incredibly high in sodium, kilojoules and saturated fat. The containers packaging these noodles aren’t helping much either. This little brick that magically melts into noodles is a big artery clogger!”

Vanilla frosting

Vanilla frosting
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Have you ever looked at frosting nutrition labels? “They look more like a science experiment than a food,” says Pine. “They’re packed with multiple types of sugar, artificial colours, and ingredients that allow for a very long shelf life. One of the most popular brands even uses partially hydrogenated oil, which is code for trans fat, the only type of fat that you want to avoid at all costs. Trans fat increases bad cholesterol, lowers the good kind of cholesterol, and creates bodily inflammation which could lead to heart disease.” When you want to treat yourself, the better option, she says, is to make your own buttercream frosting using real ingredients like butter (you know it’s bad when the better alternative is butter!).

Bouillon cubes

Bouillon cubes
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These ones are sneaky! “Adding bouillon cubes seems like a great shortcut to enhance the flavour of homemade soups, but they’re nothing more than sugar, fat, hydrolysed soy protein, salt and often MSG,” cautions Pine. “One way to know that you’re buying a bouillon or soup base which is a better choice, is to look at the ingredient list. The first ingredient should be actual chicken, beef, seafood or veggies. Or, skip the bouillon and use reduced sodium chicken broth.”

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Reader’s Digest Magazine delayed due to coronavirus
Please be advised that due to the current lockdown in Malaysia and the Philippines, Reader’s Digest magazine will not be available at its regular on-sale date to our subscribers or through our retail channels in these regions. We hope to have the issues available around 15 April in Malaysia and around 24 April in the Philippines, but this is dependent on when the lockdown restrictions are lifted. We sincerely apologise for this inconvenience.
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