The Saboteurs in your refrigerator

Those extra 15 pounds aren’t budging. Perhaps your cholesterol and blood pressure are still a bit high. Or is it your blood sugar?

Time to clean the fridge? If you check the sugar

Time to clean the fridge? If you check the sugar

Those extra 15 pounds aren’t budging.

Perhaps your cholesterol and blood pressure are still a bit high. Or is it your blood sugar?

You try to exercise and eat well. So why are you struggling to feel great?

Check your refrigerator.

Here are some fridge favourites — and how overeating them may be sabotaging your health.

Barbecue sauce — It may seem like a saucy but innocent essential for your grilled steaks and chops, but it’s not so harmless, says Gina Sunderland, a registered dietitian who works for Cancer Care Manitoba.

“Barbecue sauce is one of those things that’s kind of sneaky because it has a lot of sodium in it and it has a lot of sugar in it,” says Sunderland.

A mere 30 ml (2 tbsp) of the prepared condiment contains about 12 grams of sugar, 330 milligrams of sodium and 60 calories. Considering you probably use much more than two tablespoons of the stuff for your dinner, you could be getting walloped with enough sugar and sodium to send your blood sugar and blood pressure levels soaring. Look for an alternative.

“Balsamic vinegar and olive oil make a beautiful marinade. So does a nice dry rub of herbs and some dry mustard powder,” says Sunderland.

Regular pop — When you reach into your fridge for that cold, bubbly soft drink, you’re doing more than quenching your thirst. You’re loading your body with sugar and 150 empty calories, says registered dietitian Lorna Shaw-Hoeppner, noting that one can of pop has the equivalent of about 45 ml (9 tsp) of sugar.

Another bombshell: If you opt for a regular cola, you could be getting 36 to 50 milligrams of caffeine — the same amount in a cup of percolated coffee. “That’s a concern if you’re giving it to children,” says the Access River East dietitian.

More bad news: Soft drinks are high in tooth-decaying acid — even the sugar-free ones. “We call it an acid attack. For every sip you take, it’s a 20-minute acid attack on your teeth.” If you must have pop in your life, keep it to a minimum. And go for the diet version — which is free of sugar and calories.

Note: Drinking one can of regular pop daily for a year in addition to what you usually eat will result in a 15-pound weight gain, says Shaw-Hoeppner.

Soy sauce — It’s a flavour-enhancing favourite for your stir-fries and sushi, but according to registered dietitian Jorie Janzen, “it’s basically a salt sauce.” Not only is soy sauce high in heart-unhealthy sodium, it also contains gluten, which is off limits to anyone with celiac disease.

Janzen, who is president of president of the Sport Medicine and Science Council of Manitoba, advises her clients to opt for the reduced-sodium soy sauce. She also asks them to use it with a light touch, if at all. “Season food with the soy sauce, but learn to enjoy what the food really tastes like.”

Pepperoni — It’s one of your favourite sandwich meats. In stick form, it’s a small, tasty portable snack. But it also contains dangerous amounts of fat, sodium (to flavour and preserve the meat) and cholesterol, “even though it may not seem like a huge serving,” says Jennifer Wojcik, a registered dietitian with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba.

Wojcik says all processed meats such as cold cuts are high in sodium, but some have less fat than others. Roasted turkey, says Wojcik, has less fat and calories than salami or bologna. Better yet, eat real meat — roasted chicken or turkey straight from your oven.

Whipped topping — It resembles whipped cream, only with less fat. However, it also comes with unhealthy additives such as high-fructose corn syrup (there is also a sugar-free version without this additive), oil, wax and chemical flavourings.

“I don’t like the fact that it’s an edible oil product with a lot of artificial ingredients,” says Sunderland, who recommends that consumers, instead, go for homemade whipped cream in small quantities of 15 to 30 ml (1 to 2 tbsp).

“That’s usually enough to top some angel food cake, top some fresh berries or add a nice little topping to a hot chocolate treat.”

Sunderland says that whipping fresh cream results in a product with less fat and fewer calories than most people would think. For example, 30 ml (2 tbsp) of whipped cream after you whip it contains about 50 calories and five grams of fat. Yes, it’s saturated fat, but at least it’s real.

Bottled salad dressing — You may think it’s convenient. But it’s often full of fat, preservatives, sodium and sugar. Instead, Janzen recommends making your own salad dressing.

It could be fat-free — with lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and a dash of freshly ground pepper. Or you could make your own one-minute concoction with olive oil, which is high in heart-healthy fats.

“Do your olive oil, vinegar, shake it up and away you go. If you store it in the fridge it can last for a number of days. You can add different herbs and seasonings to make different flavours,” says Janzen, who advises using just 15 ml (1 tbsp) or so of this oil-based mixture on your salad. “It tastes better. It’s fresh. And you know what’s in there.”

Whole milk — It’s nutritious and wholesome — high in calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D. But 250 ml (1 cup) of this cow juice can clog your arteries with eight grams of saturated fat, not to mention add 155 calories to your meal.

Unless you are a young child or someone who desperately needs the extra calories and fat, Wojcik says whole milk is not the best beverage choice.

Instead, opt for skim or one per cent milk. All contain the same amounts of vitamins and minerals as whole milk, just less fat and calories. (Skim milk has 88 calories and no fat for every cup, one per cent milk packs 108 calories and three grams of fat per cup while two per cent milk contains 129 calories and eight grams of fat.)

Think lower-fat milk won’t taste good? Wojcik suggests switching to a lower-fat milk gradually; ease yourself from whole milk to two per cent milk and then eventually to one per cent or skim. “You have to get used to different tastes.”

Note: If you’ve tried skim milk and hate its watery consistency, try one per cent. It contains a bit of fat — enough to make it closer to the creamy milk you’re used to.

Cream cheese

It’s a tasty spread for your whole-grain bagel and at only 100 calories for every 30 ml (2 tbsp), most people can afford to fit a serving into their diets every now and then. The problem? The average person uses much more than two tablespoons at a time.

“And sometimes they use butter or margarine plus the cream cheese,” says Janzen, noting that this can add up to hundreds of extra calories, enough to equal a meal — one high in saturated fat.

Janzen recommends that people measure their cream cheese until they are comfortable enough to know by heart what constitutes a reasonable serving size. Better yet, opt for light cream cheese, which contains about 70 calories in a serving.