Could your commitment to healthy living be making you sick? Some everyday food practices that most of us do with the best of intentions could actually be undermining all your efforts to eat less fat, increase fruit and veggie intake, and prepare meals hygienically at home. Danger lurks in your kitchen, in packaged foods and even in seemingly innocent fruit. The good news is that just a few changes can get you back on track to healthy living today.
10 Everyday “Healthy” Food Practices That Could Be Making You Sick:
1) Relying on Packaged Seasoning Mixes and Sauces
Your healthy living plan is to cook more at home. But in the process, you may be eating more monosodium glutamate. This flavor-enhancer can be innocently listed as gelatin, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, yeast extract, malted barley, rice syrup and natural flavorings. The ingredients, such as broth, dried seasonings, bottled sauces and salad dressings you add to homemade soups, barbecue, chili, casseroles and marinated meats may all contain MSG. MSG is an excitotoxin that can excite your cells to the point of damage, thus acting like a poison. Some people are more sensitive to this flavor-boosting additive and may experience headaches, nausea, weakness, burning sensations in the neck and forearms, elevated heart rate and difficulty breathing.
2) Washing Chicken
An outbreak of salmonella definitely doesn’t make for healthy living. To get a lead on killing this bacteria, many people wash their raw poultry to prepare it for cutting and cooking. However, the washing process actually sprays the bacteria all over your kitchen and increases the chance of cross contamination. Not only that, but the water most people rinse their raw poultry in is likely not even hot enough to kill the bacteria anyway. As long as you cook your poultry at a temperature over 165°F, you’ll likely kill off all traces of Salmonella in the meat without having to wash it first..
3) Eating Leftovers
Doubling up a healthy dinner recipe to leave enough for lunch the next day earns you healthy living points, as long as you treat the leftovers properly. Refrigerate all food once cooled and within 2 hours of cooking. Also remember not to leave it in the fridge for more than four days or you’ll risk growing high levels of bacteria.
4) Eating Foods with Hidden Color Additives
It’s not just blue ice pops and green suckers that contain artificial colors. Some foods that appear to fit into a healthy living lifestyle may be guilty as well. Foods like fruit juices, sports drinks, flavored yogurts, crisps, cereal, bakery products, cheese and even lemonade are often colored artificially, so make sure you always read the labels first. Artificial colors can negatively affect children’s behavior and reduce IQ levels. Studies have also shown the link between food coloring and cancer.
By eating undercooked meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, you may ingest harmful bacteria that can make you sick. According to the U.S.Department of Food and Agriculture, cook meat and pork to 160°F, poultry to 165°F, fish to 145°F and leftovers to 165°F. Eggs are done when the whites and the yolk are firm.
6) Not Washing Your Melons
Cantaloupe and other melons are nutrient-rich, low-calorie additions to a healthy living diet, but they can also be culprits of illness-causing bugs. Even though you don’t eat the rind, you have to cut through it to get to the juicy, sweet flesh on the inside. When you cut through the outside, the knife can transfer harmful bugs and bacteria to the fruit, which can make you sick. To prevent the possibility of harm, wash all fruit before digging in – whether you eat the skin or not.
7) Cutting Back on Sugar
Surprised? Certainly, too much sugar is not a part of a healthy living regimen; but replacing it with lots of sugar substitutes could be even more harmful. The Center for Science in the Public Interest reports incidences of headaches and dizziness following usage of aspartame. Acesulfamine Potassium has been under -researched according to some experts, and small studies suggest it can affect the thyroid and cause cancer in animals. Sucralose may destroy healthy bacteria in your gut, leaving you vulnerable to digestive distress. Studies also link artificial sweeteners to symptoms of anemia and increased male infertility. While not everyone will experience negative symptoms from eating artificial sweeteners, the long-term consequences of many of them are still uncertain. Consider sticking to natural, whole sweeteners, and limiting them to occasional treats and desserts.
8) Assuming that “Pre-washed Greens” are Squeaky Clean
Is that expensive package of triple-washed lettuce really free of all contaminants? No, says Consumer Reports in 2010. While testing did not find deadly bacteria, such as salmonella and E. coli, it did reveal high levels of bacteria indicative of poor sanitation and fecal contamination, which could cause some stomach distress. To be certain that your greens are good, buy them as far from their use-by date as possible and wash them thoroughly, even if they say “pre-washed.”
9) Using the Same Plate for Cooked and Raw Meats
In the midst of cooking meat or poultry on a skillet or at the BBQ, timing is key, and frankly, who wants to add to the post-cooking dishes pile. But conserving time and dishware when cooking meat could seriously cost you in the health department. Placing your cooked meats on to the same plates that held the raw ones can transfer dangerous germs that can make you ill. Always wash plates and containers that contained raw meat in very hot, soapy water, and use a fresh, clean serving platters for cooked meals.
10) Inadequate Hand Washing
Healthy living isn’t just about what you put into your body; it’s about what you do to the outside as well. Your hands touch all sorts of surfaces that can harbor bacteria, which can easily be passed to your mouth throughout the day or be spread to food at any point in the food preparation process. Wash your hands thoroughly after going to the bathroom, after coming home from a public place, periodically throughout the preparation and cooking process of food, and again before sitting down for your meal. When washing, make sure that you don’t miss any of the creases or crevices between fingers, knuckles, palms, finger tips, and the tops of the hands.