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More and more Americans are trying to kick their soda habit. According to a recent Gallup poll, nearly two out of every three Americans are actively trying to avoid soda. That's up from 41% in over a decade before!But we're still not at 100%. Sugar-sweetened beverages—like soda—are the number one source of added sugar in the American diet. Our high intake of added sugars is linked to everything from belly fat to increased rist of diabetes. So that soda addiction of yours? It needs to go. Even in smaller doses, soda could still be damaging your body and derailing your weight loss efforts. Maybe these surprising facts will help you cut the cola cord once and for all. And for more, don't miss these 108 Most Popular Sodas Ranked By How Toxic They Are. 1 It Builds Up Fat Around Your Organs Yep, we're talking dangerous fats that are hard to detect with the naked eye, meaning, you might not know you're in risk of certain health problems because you won't see the changes in your own body. Danish researchers conducted a study of the effects of non-diet soda by asking participants to drink either sweetened soda, milk containing the same amount of calories as the soda, diet soda, or water every day for six months. Total fat mass remained the same across all beverage-drinking groups, but the drinkers of regular soda saw a drastic increase in harmful hidden fats, like liver and skeletal fat. And we mean drastic. Liver fat numbers jumped between 132 and 142 percent and skeletal fat numbers soared to an increase of between 117 and 221 percent. That's before considering the 11 percent increase in cholesterol, compared to people who drank the other beverages.RELATED: Sign up for our newsletter to get daily recipes and food news in your inbox! 2 Switching to Diet Doesn't Help You It's a logical assumption; switching from a sugar-based soda to a non-sugar-based soda would help your health. While calorically speaking that might be true, diet sodas contain their own dangers and side effects. In a shocking study, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center monitored 475 adults for 10 years and found that the participants who drank diet soda saw a 70 percent increase in waist circumference compared with those who didn't drink any soda. So much for the idea that diet soda helps you diet. That's not all; the participants who drank more than two diet sodas per day suffered a 500 percent waist expansion! Yikes. The same researchers conducted a separate study on mice that indicates it might be the aspartame that causes the weight gain. Aspartame raises blood glucose levels to a point where the liver cannot handle it all so the excess is converted into fat. 3 It's Aging You, Quickly You're spending hundreds of dollars on anti-aging products, multi-vitamins, and a personal trainer to keep yourself young and fit, but you haven't kicked that soda habit yet even though it's one step toward anti-aging that could actually save you money! Well, get on board because here's what that sweet sip is doing to your body; An American Journal of Public Health study found that drinking 20-ounces of sugar-sweetened soda a day added an average of 4.6 additional years of aging compared with those who didn't drink soda or sugar-sweetened beverages at all.(Related: 20 Worst Eating Habits That Are Shaving Years Off Your Life.) 4 You may be draining your brainpower Having trouble keeping track of things on your to-do list? It may be linked to your soda habit. One Alzheimer's and Dementia study found that soda drinkers performed significantly worse on memory tests than those who avoided sugary beverages. The researchers also took brain scans, which revealed the greatest brain shrinkage in those who drank the most soda. 5 Your risk of cancer may increase Diet and regular sodas contain phosphoric acid to ward off the growth of bacteria and mold and give it that tang that keeps you coming back. On average, we're consuming more dietary phosphate now than we have ever before. More research needs to be done, but experts believe that it's worth being concerned about the quantities of phosphorus and food‐additive phosphate in the diets. Right now, scientists believe that there may be a correlation between phosphate intake and cancer, according to a review published in the journal Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. 6 You're more likely to have skin flare-ups Acne doesn't just affect teenagers. What you see on your skin is a direct reflection of the foods you put in your body. Case in point: A 2019 study found that the participants who frequently drank sugar-sweetened beverages like soda were more likely to have moderate-to-severe acne. Ditch your can of coke to see an improvement in your complexion, and you can also start eating these 22 Foods That Will Immediately Improve Your Skin, According to Dermatologists.
Everyone who owns a cast-iron skillet will tell you that it's a kitchen workhorse. Some people swear by it and don't even have traditional aluminum pans. If you get the non-stick patina right (which requires learning how to clean cast-iron properly), you can use a cast-iron pan to cook everything from a steak to a fried egg.Whether you've owned this heirloom cookery for years, or have picked one up for the first time, you'll find these surprising cast-iron hacks incredibly useful and inspiring. Read on, and for more, don't miss these 15 Classic American Desserts That Deserve a Comeback. 1 Use it as a sandwich press No one got you the panini press from your wedding registry? Don't worry about it! If you have a cast-iron skillet (or two) then you don't need this specialized, single-use tool taking up precious cabinet space. While your sandwich is toasting on one side, rest a cast iron skillet on top of it to press down the meat, cheese, and accouterments. Flip it when the underside is nice and crispy and do the same to the other side. If you're concerned about the cleanliness of the bottom of your pan, stick a piece of aluminum foil between it and your sandwich.RELATED: Sign up for our newsletter to get daily recipes and food news in your inbox! 2 Preheat it in the oven for a pizza stone You don't need to invest in a fancy pizza stone to upgrade your homemade pizza nights. Just grab that cast iron skillet! Throw it in the oven to preheat for about ten minutes until its nice and hot. Pull it out (don't forget to wear an oven mit!) and place your raw pizza dough right on top. The heat of the pan will help the crust get nice in crispy just in time for the cheese to melt. No more underdone crust! 3 Crush spices and nuts easily Do you ever come across a recipe that calls for crushed peanuts, whole spices, or other nuts? Don't waste your time chopping them up with a knife. Place the nuts or spices on a cutting board and simply use a cast iron pan to push down and crack 'em! 4 It can act like a flame tamer This cast-iron skillet hack is lesser-known, but you may end up using it more now that you've heard of it! A flame tamer helps to diffuse heat so that when you're simmering something long and slow, you won't have to worry about getting any scorch marks where the flames touch the pan. America's Test Kitchen recommends that you place a cast-iron skillet on top of your burner and then your saucepan on top of that. You'll be able to control the heat whenever you're making gravy, melting chocolate, cooking rice, and more. 5 Turn your grill into a makeshift smoker Not everyone has the space to have both a grill and a smoker. Luckily, you won't need two gadgets to get the perfect smoked brisket—just your trusty cast-iron skillet and a grill. After soaking your wood chips in water, simply place them in a skillet and then place that skilled on one side of your grill as close to the flames as you can get it. Place your meat of choice on the grates and let the chips do the work. 6 It's the perfect weight for 'chicken under a brick' or smashburgers Chicken under a brick is a wonderful technique to get the crispiest skin and moistest chicken meat. Unsurprisingly, this technique is achieved by weighing chicken skin-side down in a pan by resting a brick on top. But you can save those bricks for your patio, and just use a cast iron skillet instead. 7 Flatten out chicken cutlets Want to know one of the 10 Chef Secrets for How to Cook Chicken Breasts Perfectly? It's to make the chicken breast as even as possible. When you try to cook chicken as you get it, it'll often overcook on the thinner side if you want to get the thicker side to temperature. The easy solution is to either butterfly it, or pound it out. If you don't have a meat tenderizer, a cast-iron skillet will do the trick. 8 Use it for the perfect personal cobbler Not everyone has a casserole dish. And not everyone has enough mouths to feed a fresh cobbler. If you're cooking for one, why not just make your own personal serving? A small cast-iron skillet is a perfect vessel for a quick cobbler. 9 Press the water out of tofu Tofu-lovers will tell you that the most important thing you need to keep in mind when cooking tofu is that you need to press the water out if you want to get a nice crust. One of the easiest ways to do that is by resting a cast-iron skillet directly on the tofu or using it to weigh down a baking sheet that you layer on top of the tofu. Don't forget to put down paper towels to soak up all that water! 10 Reheat leftover pizza Sure you can throw leftover pizza in the oven to reheat it, but that can take more time than you're willing to wait when you want a slice of 'za. For a quick and easy reheat technique, place your slice on a cast iron skillet to get that crust nice and toasty again. Once you're reaching a level of crispiness that you're looking for, pour a bit of water in the pan, making sure it doesn't touch the pizza. Cover the pan with a lid, and allow the steam from the water heat the pizza all the way through and melt the cheese. Once you use this technique, you may never go back to your old ways. For more hacks, check out these 52 Life-Changing Kitchen Hacks That'll Make You Enjoy Cooking Again.
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Pasta is our go-to weeknight dinner because it's so easy. Dinner that comes together in less than 15 minutes — where do we sign up? But eating pasta every day can have its drawbacks, namely weight gain.It's not that pasta is inherently a fat-forming food; it's mostly that we're eating too much of it. Did you know that the recommended serving size for pasta is just 2 ounces? According to the National Pasta Association (yes, that's a real thing), Americans eat an average of 9 ounces of pasta a day. That's almost five times more than the recommended serving size!The thing is, when consumed within the context of a balanced diet, pasta can actually fit into your life without causing weight gain. We said it: it's possible to eat this Italian staple and still maintain a trim figure. For carb-lovers, hearing that bit of news feels a bit like winning the lottery.Better yet, whipping up a slimmed-down noodle dish isn't time consuming or difficult, nor does it drastically change the taste. No, this isn't an elaborate joke; you've just got to learn the tricks of the trade—which we reveal below.Simply use our time-tested tips to whip up tasty, guilt-free pasta dishes and keep shedding those extra pounds. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, you won't want to miss these 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time. 1 Pair It With A Side Salad Before jumping into all the ways you can alter the actual pasta part of your dinner, let's take a moment to talk about your side dish. Although your noodles' plate neighbor may not seem important, it can actually greatly alter the slimming effects of your meal. Eating veggies before a starchy meal like pasta can lower after-meal blood sugar levels and boost satiety, according to a Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition review. Translation: Eating a side salad with some raw carrots and some of your other favorite veggies can help ward off after-meal hunger, which can help you consume fewer calories throughout the day and subsequently aid weight loss efforts. Bonus: Add a tablespoon of dressing to your greens. A bit of fat can help the body absorb cancer-fighting and heart-healthy nutrients like lycopene and beta-carotene. Just make sure you're not using one of The Most Toxic Salad Dressing on Grocery Shelves.RELATED: Sign up for our newsletter to get daily recipes and food news in your inbox! 2 Swap Your Noodle The average American consumes 20 pounds of pasta each year—and most of it is the refined white stuff. What's the trouble with that? This type of noodle is almost completely void of fiber and protein, two vital nutrients for weight loss. To boost the belly-filling fiber and hunger-busting protein in your meal, opt for a bean-based noodle like Banza Chickpea Shells (2 oz, 190 calories, 8 g fiber, 14 g protein) or Explore Asian Black Bean Low-Carb Pasta (2 oz 180 calories, 12 g fiber, 25 g protein). Alternatively, make the switch to Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Grain Pasta (2 oz, 180 calories, 5 g fiber, 7 g protein). Eating whole grains can not only fill you up more than the refined stuff, but it also lowers blood pressure and reduce the risk of chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 3 Cut the Carbs Although pasta is technically a low-glycemic index food (meaning that it doesn't spike your blood sugar levels as much as other high-carb foods, like white rice), it's still high in carbs — 70 grams per cup. And naturally, that also means it's high in calories: 352 per cup to be precise. Cut the carbs, and the calories, by switching to low carb veggies. Spiralize zucchini, carrots, or squash to make low-carb, low-calorie spaghetti! This swap is among the 22 Genius Tips To Cut Carbs, According to Experts. 4 Chill Out Transform pasta from a diet no-no into a fat-frying champion simply by placing it in the fridge. When you cool down pasta, the drop in temperature changes its chemical structure into something called "resistant starch," which can help to decrease your body's glycemic response (helping you feel full for longer). Additionally, a Nutrition&Metabolism study found that these resistant starches can promote fat oxidation. Whip up a bowl of Italian pasta salad, Greek orzo salad, or tuna macaroni salad to reap the benefits. Or, simply eat your pasta leftovers cold! 5 Max Out On Veggies In addition to eating a side salad on pasta night, you might also want to consider adding some vegetables to your pasta dish. Those who consume main dishes that incorporate veggies consume 350 fewer calories daily than those who eat their produce as a side dish, according to Penn State researchers. The likely reason: Veggies boost the amount of satiating fiber on your plate while also adding bulk. The result: You'll likely feel satisfied while taking in fewer calories. Mixed spiralized zucchini with whole-grain spaghetti, or add chopped and sautéed broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peppers, tomatoes and onions to your penne plate. Typically add meat to your lasagna? Replace half of it with fresh spinach and slices of yellow squash and mushrooms. The options are truly endless! 6 Use Cheese As a Garnish Some pasta recipes tell you to mix the cheese right into the pasta along with the sauce. Don't do that. Most of the cheese that's added before the cooking process will likely melt away into the depths of the dish, becoming nearly invisible. As a result, you'll likely wind up adding even more to your portion once it's plated. To healthify your dinner, only sprinkle the cheese on top of the dish after it's on your plate. This ensures you'll get a bit of cheese in every bite without taking in additional "invisible" cheese calories along the way. Besides cutting back on waist-widening calories, this tactic eliminates a fair share of the artery-clogging fat, without drastically altering the taste. 7 Change Your Meat We all love indulgent dishes like spaghetti carbonara and hearty toppers like meat sauce, but they aren't exactly waist-friendly. No shocker there! Spaghetti carbonara recipes typically call for thick-cut bacon, which carries about 70 calories and 6 grams of fat in two slices. Using the same amount of prosciutto in its place can save you 40 calories and 2 grams of heart-harming fat. While that may not seem like a lot, the savings may be far more than that depending on your portion size. Plus, every calorie counts when you're fighting back against the bulge. If meat sauce is your go-to, cut calories and fat without changing the taste with two simple steps: First, buy a lean ground cut of beef (that's the obvious part), then, after browning the meat in a skillet, put it in a strainer and rinse it with hot tap water—before adding any sauces or seasonings. This helps wash away excess fat clinging to your dinner, which will help save you time at the gym burning off your meal. 8 Re-Think Your Red Sauce Speaking of sauce, a lot of the canned varieties are filled with excess calories, mounds of salt, and teaspoons of added sugar—not nutrients you want on your plate when you're looking to get lean. Making your own simple pasta topper (by combining fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, basil and black pepper over a hot skillet) is ideal. However, if you're short on time or not so skilled in the kitchen, opt for one of our favorite bottled varieties. Going with any of these options is sure to keep excess sugar, calories, and blood vessel-harming salt off of your fork. For the top options, don't miss our exclusive report: 40 Best and Worst Pasta Sauces. 9 Change Up Your Fat Fettuccine alfredo is often referred to as a heart attack on a plate—and with good reason. The Cheesecake Factory's chicken-filled take on the dish carries 2,300 calories and 103 grams of saturated fat. That's the fat equivalent of 51 Chicken McNuggets! And buying a canned alfredo sauce isn't much better. A mere half-cup of Newman's Own Alfredo has 180 calories, half a day's saturated fat and more than a third of the day's sodium. Yikes! Next time the craving for something creamy strikes, whip up Eat This, Not That's 540-calorie Loaded Alfredo with Chicken and Vegetables instead. Alternatively, make a creamy sauce by combining avocados, basil, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice in a food processor. While this sauce is also laden with fats, they're the heart-healthy kind that can help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Avocados can also quell hunger pangs and fry stubborn belly fat, which is great news if you're trying to slim down. 10 Think of your pasta as a side dish Do as the Italians do (and not what they don't… 11 Italian Foods They Won't Eat In Italy), and make pasta just one course of your dinner—not the main event. Opting for an entirely carb-based meal is just going to set you up for an inevitable carb crash and weight gain. Let's face it: carbs just aren't really that filling. Well, not in the way we'd like; a high-carb meal can cause your body to retain water, causing belly bloat and water weight gain. On the other hand, meals made with satiating macros like fiber, healthy fats, and protein, will actually curb your hunger and keep you fuller longer. If you reframe pasta night to be a "dinner with a side of pasta" night, you'll set yourself up for diet success. Make sure you're pairing your pasta with at least one digestion-slowing food. 11 Add Heat Arrabbiata sauce not only tastes great, but can also help you lose weight. What gives the classic pasta topper its better-body super powers? It's made with red chili peppers, which contain a spicy, appetite-suppressing compound called capsaicin. The compound also helps boost thermogenesis—the body's ability to burn food as energy—and keeps your metabolism going strong. Whip up a homemade version of the sauce yourself or pick up a bottle of Cucina Antica Spicy Arrabbiata. A half-cup of the stuff has 45 calories, 2 grams of fat and 3 grams of sugar—stats that put other jarred sauces to shame. If smothering all your noodles in Arrabbiata is too much for your tongue to take, try sprinkling red chili pepper flakes on your plate before digging in to reap the benefits. Spicing up your dishes just happens to be one of the 55 Best-Ever Ways to Boost Your Metabolism.
If you have multiple mouths to feed, shopping in bulk can be a lifesaver. When you know that your family will eat dozens of eggs or multiple packages of ground beef before they go bad, you can feel good knowing that you're saving money on your grocery trips.And while you can find great healthy foods at Costco, not everything on the warehouse shelves is a smart buy. Frozen vegetables and fresh fruits? Great! Frozen dinners loaded with fat and sodium? Not so much. Here are some of the unhealthiest Costco buys for your family—avoid, avoid, avoid.And for more, don't miss these 15 Classic American Desserts That Deserve a Comeback. 1 Pierre Signatures Angus Cheeseburger Per sandwich (174 g): 500 calories, 27 g fat (10 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 820 mg sodium, 40 g carbs (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 25 g protein These cheeseburgers are an easy dinner—just pop them in the microwave and go. But like so many other frozen meals, they're loaded with sodium. You're better off heating a frozen burger patty and topping it with some fresh veggies.RELATED: Sign up for our newsletter to get daily recipes and food news in your inbox! 2 Marie Callender's Chicken Pot Pies Per 1 cup (200 g): 410 calories, 22 g fat (9 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 770 mg sodium, 43 g carbs (4 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 11 g protein We get it: There's not always time to make a pot pie from scratch. But this frozen meal isn't a good alternative. It's packed with fat, sodium, and calories. Save the pot pie for a day when you have a little more time to make a homemade version—you can't go wrong with our Healthy Chicken Pot Pie Recipe.RELATED: Your ultimate restaurant and supermarket survival guide is here! 3 Kirkland Signature Pepperoni Pizza Per 1/4 pizza (135 g): 400 calories, 24 g fat (10 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 990 mg sodium, 29 g carbs (1 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 16 g protein Frozen pizzas tend to be loaded with fat and sodium, and this one is no exception. One serving of this pizza packs a whopping 990 milligrams of sodium. That's almost half of the recommended daily amount. 4 Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Milk Chocolate Almond Bars Per 1 bar (77 g): 270 calories, 19 g fat (12 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 40 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (1 g fiber, 18 g sugar), 4 g protein If you're serving your kids a frozen treat, you may not want to choose one that has 14 grams of added sugar. Instead, go for Yasso's frozen Greek yogurt bars, which you'll find in the freezers at Costco, too. 5 Panera Mac&Cheese Cups Per serving (284 g): 600 calories, 36 g fat (20 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat), 1,450 mg sodium, 48 g carbs (1 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 23 g protein Unless you're looking for a bowl of empty carbs, skip this cheesy Costco offering. Each cup contains 20 grams of saturated fat and a shocking 1,450 milligrams of sodium. Yikes! 6 Gabila's Potato Knishes Per 1 knish (128 g): 180 calories, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 428 mg sodium, 36 g carbs (2 g fiber, <1 g sugar), 4 g protein If the knish isn't homemade, we don't want it! These frozen options are loaded with empty carbs, which means they won't be a filling snack for your family. 7 El Monterey Chicken&Cheese Taquitos 2 taquitos: 250 calories, 13 g fat (3 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 340 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 10 g protein Frozen taquitos are a classic after-school snack. But you don't need us to tell you they're not the healthiest option. And if you or your kids end up eating more than two, you'll really set back your health goals. 8 Tyson Crispy Chicken Strips Per serving (84 g): 210 calories, 10 g fat (2 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 500 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 13 g protein This is another freezer-aisle after-school classic that's better left in the store. With each serving packing in 500 milligrams of sodium (and that's before any dipping sauces for that chicken, too), these chicken strips are far from being a healthy snack choice. 9 Kirkland Signature Butter Croissants Per croissant: 320 calories, 16 g fat (10 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 36 g carbs (1 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 6 g protein With everyone spending more time at home during quarantine, the idea of a leisurely breakfast spread sounds lovely. But don't make these Kirkland Signature croissants a part of the festivities. They're full of empty carbs and contain half a gram of trans fat. No, thank you! 10 Lucky Charms Per serving (27 g): 110 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 22 g carbs (2 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 2 g protein The Costco cereal aisle can be tempting! But just because something is a good deal, doesn't mean it's good for you or your kids. This cereal is high in carbs and low in fiber. And if you eat more than the serving size (who doesn't when it comes to cereal?), you'll be taking in a lot of sugar, too. 11 Kirkland Signature Sliced Turkey Breast Per 2 slices (56 g): 60 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 460 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 10 g protein Sandwiches are another classic lunch option. But steer clear of this sodium-packed turkey breast from Costco. A better option? Buy a Costco rotisserie chicken and make sandwiches with the meat! 12 Cuisine Adventures Spanakopita Spinach&Feta Phyllo Triangles Per 3 pieces (85 g): 200 calories, 11 g fat (3 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 290 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 7 g protein This Greek-style appetizer doesn't deserve a place in your freezer. It's full of empty carbs, and you'll eat a lot of sodium if you don't stick to the serving size. 13 Nutella&Go Snacks Per container: 260 calories, 123 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 130 mg sodium, 34 g carbs (2 g fiber, 23 g sugar), 4 g protein These dippable snacks are appealing—they're sort of a 21st-century version of Dunkaroos. But for 260 calories, we'd like to see more protein and fiber in this snack. 14 Kirkland Signature Chicken Bakes Per 1 sandwich (227 g): 540 calories, 19 g fat (5.99 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,370 mg sodium, 58 g carbs (2.95 g fiber, 6.99 g sugar), 35 g protein Chicken bakes are a classic at the Costco food court, and you can get them frozen in the warehouse aisles, too. But considering the fact that each chicken bake packs in 1,370 milligrams of sodium, you're better off skipping them entirely. 15 Pierre Chicken Cordon Bleu Per serving (182 g): 340 calories, 14 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 940 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 32 g protein Breaded chicken, ham, and cheese, all in the same meal? This is a recipe for disaster. You're much better off sticking with regular chicken breasts.For more, check out these 108 most popular sodas ranked by how toxic they are.
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