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33 Foods Men Over 40 Should Avoid

Reading nutrition labels will help you make smarter food choices.
33 Foods Men Over 40 Should Avoid

In your 20s, you could consume an entire pizza pie after a late night of partying and not gain a single ounce. And in your 30s, you were hitting the gym at least three times a week but solidly maintaining your burger habit. But in your 40s? If you treated yourself to a meatball sub more than once a week, you’d see the number on the scale go up. Not to mention, achieving a chiseled physique versus a dad bod gets harder.

That’s why it’s so important to keep track of your diet and avoid foods that not only add pounds to your frame but put you at risk for serious health conditions, like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. The good news is that you don’t have to sacrifice the foods you love for your health. In fact, there are plenty of healthy swaps you can make to your diet to help slow down the aging process. To help ensure you’re aging in reverse, we put together a list of the worst foods for men over 40. After you’ve gone through this list, read up on 40 Ways to Lose Weight When You’re Over 40.



Margarine stick Shutterstock

Most margarine tubs contain artery-clogging saturated fats and are loaded with processed oils. As if that isn’t bad enough, many margarine brands use propylene glycol, a synthetic compound, which research has shown to increase cholesterol levels and cause weight gain. For a healthier alternative, swap in grass-fed butter or substitute with healthy oils such as extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil.


Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners Shutterstock

While artificial sweeteners don’t add calories to your diet, they can increase your cravings for more sugar. In fact, research shows that aspartame, sucralose, and stevioside can actually lead to weight gain, diabetes, and other health conditions. If you want to sweeten your baked goods smartly, replace sugar with maple syrup, raw honey, or unsweetened applesauce.



Soda glass Shutterstock

Choosing soda over H2O is a bad decision, but exactly makes the caramel-colored soft drink so bad for you? Sugary drinks like soda has toxic chemicals. A 2014 study from Consumer Reports and Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future showed that the chemical 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) could increase your risk of developing cancer. Check out these other disturbing facts about soda.


Food Coloring

Food coloring Shutterstock

The artificial food dyes you see in many baked goods, candies and other processed foods could cause serious side effects to your health. Despite being approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these dyes may contain cancer-causing contaminants. If you want to add a pop of color in your food, go for natural sources, like beet juice, green cold-pressed juices, or paprika.


Sugary Cocktails

cocktails Shutterstock

It might have sounded like a good idea to double fist two Jack and Cokes in your 20s, but in your 30s and beyond, it’s important to keep alcohol intake to a minimum. The CDC recommends men limit their daily alcohol consumption to two drinks daily. If you’re out with co-workers to enjoy a post-work happy hour, cut your tab off after your first order. This is a mindful reminder that you’ve already had one drink.


Fruit Juice

Man drinking juice Shutterstock

If you’re over 40 and trying to lose weight, the last thing you want to do is guzzle down some OJ at breakfast. Fructose, which is the main sugar in fruit juice, has been linked to abdominal fat. Belly fat has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and other metabolic diseases. Want to kick your sugar cravings? Get a copy of The 14-Day No Sugar Diet—it’s filled with healthy swaps, dining out guides, recipes, and much more!

7 & 8

Muffins & Cupcakes

Bran muffin Shutterstock

There’s no harm in treating yourself once in a while, but once you hit your 40s, you want to actively avoid eating sweets. Packaged muffins and cupcakes could easily contain a full day’s worth of added sugar and fat. Too much of the sweet stuff could also literally age you. Developing acne around the chin area and having premature wrinkles are both signs that you might be eating too much sugar.


Deli Meats

Turkey slices cheese Shutterstock

We hate to break it to you, but the deli meat in your sandwiches might not be all that it seems. A closer look at the ingredients label reveals sky-high levels of belly-bloating sodium, nitrate preservatives, modified corn starch, and carrageenan. So the next time you’re craving a sub, be sure to consult our list of the best and worst deli meats and enjoy uncured meats sparingly.


Charred Meats

Chicken grilling in cast iron skillet Ivana Cajina/Unsplash

Grilling is one of the quickest and easiest ways to prepare your dishes, but if you’re concerned about your health, you want to keep barbecues to a minimum. Scorching steaks and other proteins at high temps over an open flame can produce heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These chemicals have been found to alter the DNA and increase your risk of cancer.


Nacho Cheese Dips

Nacho cheese Shutterstock

Cheese dips for nachos are littered with artificial colors and flavorings, in addition to food additives. Make your own dip at home with real cheese and your choice of spices and herbs for a boost of flavor.


Chinese Takeout

Dumplings chicken soy sauce Shutterstock

The high levels of sodium and sugar in dishes like General Tso’s and chicken lo mein are a solid reason to stay away from Chinese takeout, but monosodium glutamate (MSG) should be at the top of your list. The flavor-enhancing food additive has been linked to a slew of side effects including headaches, flushing, tingling or burning, chest pain, nausea, and weakness.


Turkey Bacon

Turkey bacon Shutterstock

If you think you’re making the healthy choice by opting for turkey bacon, think again. Although turkey bacon has about 13 fewer calories per slice, it’s higher in saturated fat and sodium—not great news if you have high blood pressure.

14 & 15

White Pasta & White Bread

Cooking pasta Shutterstock

Refined grains are stripped of fiber and other nutrients in order to render a soft, pillowy texture. However, refined and processed grains are also high-glycemic, which means that they cause your blood sugar levels to rise and fall quickly. Consuming too many of these refined foods can lead to metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity. To meet your daily intake of gut-healthy fiber and nourish your body with the nutrients it needs, skip the white spaghetti and bagels and opt for whole-wheat or bean-based pasta and sprouted bread.


Fat-Free Dressing

Bottled salad dressing Shutterstock

Low- or non-fat salad dressings make up for the absence of fat with a bucket of sugar, salt, and food additives. As a healthier alternative, prepare your own at home with these 8 Go-To Salad Dressings.


Fat-Free Dairy Products

Dairy Shutterstock

Fat-free dairy products such as cheese, cream cheese, and cottage cheese tend to be less satisfying than the real thing, which can spur on cravings for seconds or thirds. Plus, seemingly healthier low-fat foods pack in added sugar to make up for the lack of fat. Looking for the best full-fat foods? Check out these 20 Best Full-Fat Foods for Weight Loss!


Flavored Yogurt

Flavored yogurt Shutterstock

Unlike Greek yogurt, which is packed with satiating protein and is low in sugar, flavored yogurts are loaded with added sugars. If you’re want to add some flavor, fiber, and texture to your Greek yogurt, top it with some fiber-rich fruit, chia or hemp seeds, and nuts.


Canned Fruit

Canned fruit peaches Shutterstock

Canned fruit might seem like a great shortcut, but it’s just a quick route to belly fat. Packed with syrup, artificial flavorings, and other nasty additives, you’re basically opening a can of waist-widening worms. Even unsweetened varieties are missing the crucial fiber, and vitamin content might be degraded in the canning process.


Pancake Syrup

Pancakes and syrup Shutterstock

If you’re not careful, the syrup that you choose to drizzle your hotcakes with might spell trouble for your tummy. Maple-flavored syrups like Log Cabin’s and Aunt Jemima’s are made with high fructose corn syrup, a sugar that has been linked to metabolic syndrome and increased belly fat. Instead, stick to real maple syrup, which contains trace minerals.


Whipped Toppings

Whipped cream berries Shutterstock

We’re looking at you, Cool Whip! Whipped topping doesn’t actually have any cream. Instead, you’ll find sketchy ingredients such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and high fructose corn syrup—two culprits your diet could definitely do without.


Fast Foods

fast food drive thru Shutterstock

In a 15-year study consisting of 3,000 adults, it was found that those who ate fast food more than twice a week developed insulin resistance at twice the rate than those who didn’t consume fast food. Insulin resistance increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.


Canned Soup

Canned soup Shutterstock

Many canned soups pack in a half day’s worth of sodium as well as additives such as appetite-spiking MSG. For a healthier alternative, meal prep your own soup at home with grass-fed bone broth and store leftovers for easy use. Bone broth is also chock-full-of collagen, which helps turn back the clock on our skin.


Pasta Sauce

Marinara pasta sauce Shutterstock

To clarify, we’re not saying that all pasta sauces are bad for you—just some. Processed pasta sauces may contain tomatoes or tomato paste as the first ingredient, but oftentimes, these sneaky saboteurs also contain loads of inflammatory oils, added sugar, and salt.


Processed Peanut Butter

Peanut butter in jar Shutterstock

Many processed peanut butter have added sugars and hydrogenated and processed vegetable oils that can raise cholesterol levels. Shopping around for a jar? Check out our list of The 36 Top Peanut Butters—Ranked!


Vegetable Oils

Vegetable oil Shutterstock

Soybean, corn, and cottonseed oil are highly processed and have high levels of essential omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. While omega-6 fatty acids can be good for your heart if they’re eaten in moderation, consuming too much of it can cause a negative imbalance with omega-3 fatty acids. To ensure you get both, swap in avocado or extra-virgin olive oil.


Boxed Mac and Cheese

Mac n chese Shutterstock

Mac and cheese was probably your favorite dish as a young kid, but that doesn’t mean you should continue to indulge. Many commercial boxes contain up to 30 percent of your daily recommended intake of sodium as well as blood-sugar-spiking empty carbs coming from the white shells.


Bottled Coffees

Bottled coffee Shutterstock

Some cold java can boost your metabolism, but many bottled varieties can do just the opposite. Take Gold Peak’s salted caramel and almond toffee cold brew flavors. Both pack in 270 calories and a whopping 53 grams of sugar! Excess sugar can increase your risk of diabetes and wreak havoc on your hormones.


Toaster Waffles

Toaster waffle Shutterstock

You may have enjoyed Eggos for breakfast as a child, but there’s no reason for you to enjoy some for your a.m. meal when you’re over 40. They barely contain any gut-loving fiber or muscle-maintaining protein to keep you full.


Diet Soda

Sugary soda Shutterstock

Zero-calorie artificial sweeteners found in sugar-free drinks such as Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi can leave you craving more of the sweet stuff. Artificial sweeteners are 200 to 600 times sweeter than real sugar, so it can signal an insulin release from the pancreas.


Gluten-Free Foods

Gluten free foods Shutterstock

Unless you have a gluten sensitivity or have celiac disease, there’s no reason for you to eliminate wheat products from your diet. Many whole-grains contain waist-whittling fiber that helps level blood sugar, keeps you regular, and supports good bacteria in the gut.


Farmed Fish

Salmon Shutterstock

Unlike wild-caught, farmed fish contains higher levels of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. To keep your omega-3 and omega-6 levels balanced, opt for wild over farmed to gain anti-inflammatory and other healthful benefits.


Commercial Protein Shakes

Protein shake Shutterstock

Many store-bought bottles are littered with artificial additives, added sugar, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, and more calories than you’d typically eat in a meal. In other words, this combo a recipe for weight gain.

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