What will they think of next?
When it comes to trends, some fads are over in the blink of an eye, while others withstand the test of time. Here's hoping that these culinary crazes meet the same fate as sky-high shoulder pads and teased bangs—forever in the past. Our health depends on it.
Gross-ery store staples
As far as pizza toppings go, there's one ingredient that no one likes to see on their pie—and no, we're not talking about anchovies. We're referring to phthalates. Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston recently examined 72 supermarket staples and discovered traces of the chemical in several groceries, including prepackaged pizza, meats, and beverages.
While the levels of the toxins still fall under what the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe, scientists are alarmed that this toxic compound is making its way into our diet at all. How did these chemicals leech into our dinner in the first place? Lead investigator, Dr. Arnold Schecter, believes plastic packaging could be the culprit.
Buck the trend: The winners of our 100 Cleanest Packaged Food Awards are the healthiest, cleanest boxed and bagged foods on the market. Specifically, they're all low in sugar and sodium, and free of BPA and GMOs.
Imagine this: You pop in a rental DVD and halfway through your Friday night rom com, you suddenly get the craving for a hot, fresh pizza. In fact, you can smell pizza. No, it's not your imagination—Domino's has teamed up with DVD rental stores in Brazil to make discs that release the scent of a fresh pie as the movie goes on. How? The discs are printed with ink that emit smells of cheese, sauce, and dough when it reaches a certain temperature inside the player. The thermal ink even changes color: By the time you eject the flick, an image of a pie is front and center on the DVD.
Do we smell a worldwide trend? While Domino's is the first company to hop on this scent-sation, we don't think it'll take long for other companies to follow suit.
Buck the trend: Make a no-food-in-front-of-the-TV rule. In fact, if you save those Scandal episodes for when you're running on the treadmill, it will make exercise more entertaining, says Prevention's fitness expert Chris Freytag. And you'll be less likely to call your delivery guy while you're getting your sweat on.
S.O.S. (Save our sauce)
Because the chemical preservative Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) has been linked to stomach tumors in rat studies, the National Toxicology Program put this chemical on its naughty list. But that didn’t necessarily mean that it was eliminated from the shelves. In fact, the potential carcinogen is still in some foods like the ranch dressing at Carl’s Jr. (makes you a little less happy you opted for the salad, eh?). But the story doesn’t end there. Since the preservative used to be commonly used in everyday items like potato chips, cereal, and chewing gum, there is a chance that more BHA is lurking in some of our go-to foods.
Buck the trend: Be sure to check ingredient labels for BHA. Better yet, whip up your own ranch dressing for both salads and sandwiches.
Caffeine gone crazy
The caffeine craze goes beyond energy drinks and venti Starbucks cups. Now you can get a jolt from everyday foods like waffles, syrup, jelly beans, and gum. For example, two squares of the newly-invented Wired Waffles contain more caffeine than the typical cup of joe. Pour on some of the company's caffeinated syrup and pair it with a mug of coffee, and you've got one hyped up day on your shaky hands.
And believe us, there is too much of a good thing. According to the Mayo Clinic, an overdose of caffeine could cause insomnia, muscle tremors, and abnormally fast heartbeat.
Buck the trend: You don't need to turn to caffeine for an energy fix. These all-day energy foods from Karen Ansel, will help keep your energy up all day long, naturally.
The uncomfortable side of comfort food
Walk into any fast-food restaurant and it’s apparent that comfort food is back...with a vengeance. Many chains are embracing lard-laden menu items that pack on cheese, processed meats, and carbs. Case in point: Pizza Hut's Cheesy Crust Pizza, which features the world’s first “cheese pockets” in the crust. Each slice of their Meat Lover's pizza weighs in at a whopping 460 calories and tallies 1090 mg of sodium. Another biggie? Sonic’s brand new Cheesy Bacon Pretzel Dog. Just one dog with all the fixings accounts for 42 percent of your daily fat intake and over half of your day’s recommended sodium.
Buck the trend: Cutting your cheese cravings off at 400 calories can be what you need to indulge and still lose weight.
You know the phrase, “Fake it 'til you make it?" Well, that doesn’t apply to fruit. When it comes to getting your vitamin C and antioxidants, it doesn’t pay to cut corners and take the easy route by opting for baked goods, like WhoNu treats or Girl Scout cookies. The Girl Scout’s Mango Cookies with Nutrifusion, for example, boast a hearty helping of essential vitamins thanks to the "whole food concentrate powder" found at the bottom of the ingredient list. Closer to the top of that list are some ingredients that don’t rank high on vitamin levels, however: namely sugar, dextrose, and corn syrup. Sorry, Scouts, these cookies lost our honor.
Buck the trend: For sweet, sinless desserts, bake any (or all!) of these healthy fruit desserts. And if you go for the Blackberry-Peach Tart, be sure and save us a slice.
The fat that won't budge
When research surfaced that trans fats were wreaking havoc on heart health, several chains and packaged food companies were practically forced to rid their recipes of partially hydrogenated oil. In the years to follow, several supermarket staples touted "No Trans Fats" on the front of the box and many restaurants switched out their deep-fry oils. But could there be a sneaky resurgence of the cholesterol king? Maybe. The dirty little secret behind Pop Secret's Movie Style popcorn, for instance, is 4.5 grams of trans fats. Plus, just one slice of Marie Callendar's Lattice Apple Pie contains 3 grams of the fat. And let's be honest—who can stick to just one slice of pie?
Buck the trend: Skip bad fat for good fat, such as monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAS)—plant-based fats found in avocado, nuts and seeds, oils, olives, and even dark chocolate. Studies show that these good-for-you fats enhance heart health and protect against chronic disease. Plus, MUFAs target stubborn belly fat.
Vending machine delicacies
When it comes to getting food on the go, it’s no secret that convenience is king. And while we applaud companies for trying to add more healthy offerings to vending machines, we're not so thrilled with Cupcake ATMs as spotted in Beverly Hills, Washington DC’s hot dog vending machines, or mashed potatoes coming from convenience store dispensers, as seen in Singapore. Hearing gravy squirt from a machine doesn’t exactly get the appetite juices flowing.
Buck the trend: Who needs empty calories when you can easily prepare these 17 Snacks That Power Up Weight Loss?
Sour news about sweet milk
Got sugar? In an effort to boost milk sales in schools, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation have filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration to change what’s called the "standards of identity” for milk and 17 other dairy products. This would allow manufacturers to add sweeteners like aspartame to our moo juice—and not disclaim it anywhere it on the carton. And if you thought that adding fake sugars to our children’s milk was something new, think again. Right now, many cafeteria pints are riddled with aspartame, which has been linked to leukemia and lymphoma in certain animal studies.
Buck the trend: Almond milk, like Diamond Breeze's Original Unsweetened Almond Milk, is a rich, creamy alternative to the sketchier stuff. With fewer calories than fat-free milk, you can get 20 percent of your calcium and 50 percent of your recommended intake of vitamin E per serving.
Red alert on red meat
Put down that burger. For the past few years, researchers from the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System have been examining grocery store ground meat, and their findings might make you sick...literally. They discovered that over half of beef samples had traces of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, like Salmonella, which can cause acute illness and lead to chronic arthritis. The worst part? The germs weren’t limited to just ground beef. Scientists found these microbes in 81 percent of the turkey they tested, 69 percent of the pork, and 39 percent of the chicken.
Buck the trend: Opt for grass-fed meat. It's higher in healthy omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, and it's lower in saturated fat and calories.