9 Processed Foods to Ditch Right Now

These packaged eats are bad for your waistline and your health. Shelve them, and substitute in these nutritious swaps. By Holly Corbett, REDBOOK.

Flavored yogurt
A typical container container of flavored yogurt can easily contain 24 to 30 grams of sugar, as much as the entire recommended daily allowance for most women. Buy it plain to cut down on sugar and cost.
Healthier swap: Flavor plain Greek yogurt, which has more protein than the regular kind, with honey, cinnamon and sliced bananas.

Cookies with added fiber
Though fiber counts may look the same on nutrition labels, not all fiber is created equal. Getting fiber from packaged foods like yogurt and cookies probably won't offer the same health-boosting benefits as eating the unprocessed, intact kind found in whole grains, beans, and produce. That's because most processed fibers don't have the gummy texture or bulk that helps non-processed fiber slow digestion, lower cholesterol, and keep you regular.
Healthier swap: To satisfy your sweet tooth and get a fiber fix naturally, choose packaged cookies made with whole grains. We like Kashi Oatmeal Raisin Flax Cookies, which boast 4 grams of fiber from natural ingredients such as raisins, sunflower seeds, cranberries, shredded coconut, and nuts.

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Fat-free potato chips
Many fat-free chips are made with Olestra, an ingredient whose side effects include diarrhea - and that's no fun. Plus, chips are low in fiber, so one measly serving won't fill you up, and you'll be likely to reach for more or overeat later.
Healthier swap: For a crunchy snack, go for popcorn instead. One cup of the whole-grain clocks in at about 30 calories, less than 1 gram of fat, and is packed with filling fiber and disease-fighting antioxidants. Air-pop your own, and spritz the popped kernels with a little olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt or grated Parmesan cheese for flavor.

Diet soda
One can of diet cola packs almost as much caffeine as a shot of espresso, so a few cans a day could leave you fluctuating between feeling revved up and crashing. Besides triggering major dips in energy, soda makes it tougher to fall asleep come bedtime, and its acidity can damage tooth enamel if sipped daily.
Healthier swap: Go for flavored seltzer water for a fizz sans caffeine and chemicals. Or try adding sliced cucumbers to give plain old water a kick. Bonus: It will keep you hydrated to help ward off thirst-induced hunger binges later on.

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Instant oatmeal
Those little packets of breakfast cereal cook so quickly because they're processed, meaning they have a high glycemic index so your body also digests them quickly. Translation: You'll be reaching for a mid-morning snack to tide you over in no time.
Healthier swap: Slow-cooked oats take longer to make, but they're also less processed, have a low glycemic index, and will keep you full until lunch. To save time, whip up a batch of steel-cut oats on the weekend, and then divide them into individual-portion Tupperware packs, which will make it easy to just grab the container and heat it in the microwave. Stir in sliced apples, cinnamon, and a drizzle of maple syrup for taste.

Packaged egg whites
If you're eating egg-white omelets made with egg substitutes, you might want to think twice about ditching whole eggs with the yolks. Unlike the real stuff, egg beaters contain artificial ingredients such as "color" and maltodextrin, a sweetener also used in candy. Plus, the yolks hold about 40 percent of an egg's protein as well as lutein, which keeps eyes healthy. They're also one of the main sources of choline, a nutrient that boosts memory, keeps fat from building up in your liver, and makes up your cell membranes.
Healthier swap: For a filling, high-fiber breakfast, have a protein-rich egg made with a teaspoon of heart-healthy olive oil on a whole-wheat English muffin.

Bottled barbecue sauces and salad dressings

Flavoring your grilled chicken may make it more enjoyable, but that stuff you're slathering on it or marinating it in probably has unnecessary added sugars. High levels of the sweet stuff stoke appetite and have been linked to inflammation, and both barbecue sauce and Italian dressing, for example, could have 21 grams of sugar per 8 ounces - and the low-fat kind could have two times as much.
Healthier swap: Use a dry rub instead of sugar-heavy sauce to add flavor when grilling or broiling meat. You can make your own by mixing together 1 tbsp black pepper; 2 tsp chili powder; and 1/2 tsp each salt, cayenne and granulated garlic.

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Sugar-free bars
Sorbitol, an artificial sweetener found in many sugar-free products, is difficult for your body to break down and can cause bloating and indigestion. Plus, sugar substitute-packed foods make your body expect calories, and when it doesn't get them, you end up hungrier later on.
Healthier swap: Choose bars naturally low in sugar and with less than five ingredients. A delicious option: The Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt KIND Bar, which tastes indulgent, but has only 5 grams of sugar. Plus, it's high in filling fiber and protein.

Multigrain tortilla chips

An ounce - about six to 10 chips - is high in calories and fat, but has 2 grams of fiber or less, so it won't fill you up. It's all too easy to eat two or three servings without even realizing it.
Healthier swap: You'll get much more value for your nutritional buck if you spread salsa or guacamole on lower-calorie, higher-fiber crispbreads such as Finn Crisps. Another good bet are flatbreads such as Doctor Kracker's.

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