The best part about being a grown-up is having the freedom to do—and eat—whatever you want. Pizza for breakfast? Yolo. But when the muffin tops and man boobs start to appear, it can be a rude wake-up call that many foods aren’t without consequence.
Even if you don’t feel any different than you did in your teens and twenties, the body changes in ways that make it harder to lose weight and remain in good health. To help you age gracefully into a body you’ll want to flaunt no matter how many years go by, the Eat This, Not That! research team dug into the science of aging and nutrition to uncover the foods that should never pass your lips after you’ve celebrated the big 3-0. Read on to find out which foods to chuck from your pantry, and then learn how to age even more gracefully with the help of these 35 Ways To Stay Healthy After 40.
1. FLAVORED YOGURT
Even if you’ve started slathering on the wrinkle cream, no product changes the fact that your skin is beginning to age. After 30, collagen production slows and elastin—the protein that keeps skin firm—begins to break down, causing fine lines to form. Although it’s impossible to stop the aging process, it’s possible to keep your youthful complexion later into life by cutting back on sugar, a nutrient that’s been shown to accelerate wrinkling and sagging. Already cutting back on candy and cookies? Don’t assume you’re in the clear. Many sources of the sweet stuff are hiding in less obvious places like bread, ketchup, and flavored yogurts. Dannon’s Fruit on the Bottom flavored yogurt line, for example, has about 24 grams—or an entire day’s worth—of sugar in each 6-ounce container. That’s more sugar than you’d find in an entire bag of Dark Chocolate Peanut M&Ms!
Eat This! Tip
Calm your sugar cravings by snacking on a sweet piece of fruit. We’re fans of all produce, but bananas are, hands down, one of our favorites. Find out why in our exclusive report, 21 Amazing Things Bananas Do To Your Body.
2. CANNED SOUP
A cutting-edge study published in 2013 found a connection between high blood pressure and skin aging. Compared to their older-looking counterparts, female study participants with fewer wrinkles also had lower blood pressure. Although the connection between the two issues remains unclear, there’s no harm in cutting back on sodium, a mineral that’s known to raise blood pressure. Not sure how to start scaling back? Head to your pantry and take a hard look at your shelf-stable soups. U.S. guidelines call for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, but many popular cans carry 40 percent of the day’s recommended salt intake in just one serving. But that’s not the only reason you should stay away from the stuff. Many soup cans are laced with BPA, a chemical that’s been linked to cancer, infertility, and weight gain. Our suggestion: Next time you’re craving something warm and comforting, head to the kitchen and whip up one of these 20 Best-Ever Fat Burning Soups instead.
3. & 4. POP-TARTS & BREAKFAST PASTRIES
Put your hands behind your head and step away from the Pop-Tarts—and all of those sugary muffins and scones, too. You’re a grown up now; it’s time to start eating like one. Most sweet a.m. treats pack over a day’s worth of sugar into a standard sized serving that spells trouble if you want to become a parent one day and live to see your kids grow up. Sugary diets cause a slew of health problems, including insulin resistance, which can lead to PCOS, a condition that’s been linked to female infertility. And if you’re lucky enough to start a family despite your diet, your sugar habit may lower the odds you’ll live long enough to see your little one grow up. People who consume between 17 and 21 percent of their daily calories from added sugar have a 38 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared with people who consumed 8 percent or less of their calories from added sugar, according to recent findings. To stay safe, ditch the junk and kick off your day with some of these 50 Best Breakfast Foods for Weight Loss—Ranked instead.
5. SPECIAL K PROTEIN BARS
Fructose, dextrose, glycerin, sorbitol, zinc oxide, whey protein, palm oil. No, that isn’t the recipe for your niece’s Silly Putty, those are just some of the ingredients that go into Special K’s meal replacement bar. Appetizing, right? “While younger folks can get away with skipping breakfast or simply eating a starchy ‘weight loss’ cereal or bar, research suggests that eating 20 to 30 grams of protein at each meal is ideal—especially as we age,” explains Chris Mohr, former sports nutritionist for the Cincinnati Bengals. Aside from its Frankenfood ingredients and high sugar count, Special K’s not-so-special bar only packs 10 grams of protein, which won’t do much in terms of keeping you full and satisfied until lunch. If you typically reach for a bar like this, swap it out for a homemade protein shake. All of these 23 Best Protein Shake Recipes are sure to satisfy your tastebuds and help you stay lean and fit for life.
If you and your spouse are thinking about starting a family, consider soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi your archenemies. The reason? They’re laced with potentially cancer-causing dyes and are the primary source of added sugar in the American diet. And not only does sugar negatively impact ovulation, but it’s also been linked to poorer sperm motility, too. Simply put, sipping the stuff may make it more difficult for you to conceive. Wondering which foods can make it easier? Check out these 50 Best Foods for Your Penis to find out.
Whether you like Red Velvet Oreos, the Birthday Cake variety or can’t live without the Mega-Stuff, all of Nabisco’s twist n’ lick cookies have one thing in common: They’re filled with empty calories and waist-expanding fat. “When we’re younger, eating healthier seemed pointless when you could just go to the gym 24/7 to lose weight,” says
registered dietitian and founder of The NY Nutrition Group Lisa Moskovitz. “Unfortunately, as the body ages, exercise still has plenty of positive benefits, but weight loss is often not one of them.” When it comes to dropping pounds, staying away from calorie-dense, hard-to-put-down snacks like Oreos is key. In fact, Oreos are so addicting and bad for your belly, that we’ve named them one of the 40 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.
8. & 9. COCKTAILS & BEER
As we age, the body doesn’t metabolize alcohol as efficiently, and drunk junk food cravings become harder to ignore, warns registered dietitian Martha McKittrick. “It’s also increasingly difficult to get a good night’s rest with alcohol in your system. While you may have been able to get away with minimal sleep in your 20’s, that’s not the case in your 30’s and beyond. Sleepless nights lead to carb and sugar cravings the next day, which can contribute to further weight gain,” McKittrick explains. What’s more, alcohol sucks the moisture out of your skin, which temporarily makes fine lines more noticeable and, over time if you continue to booze, causes the skin to lose elasticity and form wrinkles.
10. & 11. BAGELS & WHITE BREAD
Unless your go-to bagel is made with whole grains, consider it a “Not That.” Though you may not think of the popular breakfast carb as a sweet indulgence, the body converts refined carbohydrates into sugar and then glucose, a nutrient that damages collagen and other wrinkle-fighting proteins. What’s more, when it comes to bread, bagels and even pasta, picking whole grains over refined will help keep your blood sugar levels even kneeled, aiding weight maintenance and weight loss, giving you a more youthful figure.
12. & 13. DIET MOUNTAIN DEW & FRESCA
Drinks like Mountain Dew and Fresca may look less chemical filled than cola because of their lighter hue, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead of caramel coloring—the chemical that makes Coke brown—Diet Mountain Dew and Fresca are colored with brominated vegetable oil, a chemical used in rocket fuel and flame retardants. It’s been shown to have negative effects on thyroid hormones and fertility, a primary health concern of people in their 30s. What’s the connection? “Added chemicals like BVO can contribute to internal inflammation, which has been linked to obesity, a condition that can make it harder to conceive,” explains registered dietitian Isabel Smith. Can’t kick your soda habit all together? Find out which colas are the best bet for your health and waistline in our ultimate report, The Top 32 Sodas—Ranked.
14. VEGGIE BURGERS
Finding your first gray hair is a day you’ll never forget. It’s one of those pesky reminders from Mother Nature that you’re a full-blown adult—and an unwelcome one at that. The best way to keep early graying at bay is to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin B12, a nutrient naturally abundantly beef. So unless you’re a vegetarian don’t cut the cow out of your diet. Worried about the fat and calories? Go for grass-fed. It’s naturally leaner than conventionally raised meat and packs higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce the risk of heart disease and turbocharge fat loss.
15. ICED COFFEE
Drinking a caffeinated beverage out of a straw—how most of us down our daily iced coffee—is a skin-aging double-whammy. During the day, we’re exposed to skin-stressors like UV rays, but while we sleep our cells repair themselves. However, downing too much caffeine can interfere with sleep quality, cutting into this rejuvenation time and prematurely aging the skin. What’s more, researchers have found that repetitive facial movements, like sipping through a straw, can cause fine lines and wrinkles.
Eat This! Tip
Instead of sucking down your daily iced coffee with skim, sip on hot green tea, which may ward off wrinkles by fighting inflammation and improving the skin’s elasticity. And if you’re trying to lose weight, opt for one of these 22 Best Teas for Weight Loss.