Avoid These 5 Common Office Snack Foods That Could Harm Your Health

You know you shouldn't eat many sweets, but these products contain questionable ingredients that should make you think twice before chomping down.

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By Vani Hari

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Eating right is critical to your performance, so it's really important to make the right food choices throughout the day.

Although some offices provide free snacks and lunches for their employees, you need to evaluate whether those choices will enhance or sabotage your health. Just because it's free doesn't mean you should eat it!

Related: Nestle Candy Products Will Get Slightly Less Junky This Year

Here are the top five foods to keep out of your desk drawer for good:

1. Microwave popcorn

When it comes to microwave popcorn, everything from the bag, the oil and the corn is bad news. Don't believe for a second that the delicious popcorn smell wafting through your office signals a good thing!

Food companies might not want to publicize all the details about "artificial flavors," but some emit possibly toxic fumes. The flavoring ingredient diacetyl, which some major manufacturers have eliminated from their products, has been linked to research showing lung disease among employees at popcorn and flavoring production facilities.

We don't know what the manufacturers have substituted diacetyl with and there is the possibility that some brands still use it. That's because "artificial flavors" are a secret concoction of ingredients that are not required to be disclosed, so you don't know what's really in them. A possible substitute for diacetyl is 2,3-pentanedione, which is linked to lung damage in animal studies.

The bottom line is, you don't know what you are ingesting when it comes to "artificial flavors," so it's a good idea to avoid them.

Some brands still use partially hydrogenated soybean oil, a major source of artificial trans fat that is associated with up to 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths a year, according to the CDC. The preservative propyl gallate is on the Environmental Working Group's list of the worst food additives because it's associated with tumors in rats and estrogenic activity. The bag may be lined with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical linked to cancer and the popcorn itself may contain harmful pesticide residues.

What to eat instead: Try homemade "Superfood Popcorn" with only three amazing ingredients: coconut oil, hemp seeds and red palm oil. Get the recipe here and put it in a reusable bag to bring to the office.

2. Doughnuts

No one thinks doughnuts are healthy, but this treat is super popular at meetings and I used to get excited when someone brought these in.

That was until I found out that commercially made doughnuts contain a lot more than just carbs and fat -- they're loaded with harmful additives too. Donuts may contain partially hydrogenated oils (PHO), an ingredient the FDA is reviewing the safety of, along with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a slew of preservatives, emulsifiers, fake flavors and colors.

Some doughnuts even contain butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), a preservative that's linked to cancer. It's not worth sabotaging your health with these unnecessary ingredients.

What to eat instead: Bring trail mix (made with raw nuts, coconut and dried fruit) or fresh fruit to your meetings so you don't feel tempted if a donut box arrives. If you want to treat your co-workers, bring in some delicious homemade cookies such as these.

Related: Your Poor Eating Habits Are Hurting Business

3. Diet soda

A calorie isn't a calorie when it's made up of additives that affect how much you eat and the way your body metabolizes those chemicals. Low calorie beverages will not fight obesity,and if anything, the reliance on chemical-filled drinks just perpetuates the problem.

Despite what you might have heard, artificial sweeteners have been shown to stimulate your appetite, increase sugar cravings, and thereby promote fat storage and weight gain.

What to eat instead: Brew some energizing green tea or sip on lemon water at your desk. If you crave the fizz, try packing some of my Real Ginger Ale or an organic store-bought Kombucha.

4. Supermarket birthday cakes

The ingredient list on most store-bought cakes is so long I literally have trouble keeping count – but I've seen close to 80 ingredients!

The majority of the ingredients are fake chemical fillers and substances that are obviously not real food, and it's nearly impossible to find one without artificial colors and partially hydrogenated oils. Most cake manufacturers use no real cane sugar at all and the whole cake is sweetened with genetically modified sugar beets (which will just say "sugar" in the ingredients) or high fructose corn syrup. Some cakes also contain paraben ingredients, such as propyl paraben, which is believed to be an endocrine disruptor linked to cancer.

What to eat instead: It's ridiculously easy to make a cake from scratch, decorating it with organic candies, dried fruit, chocolate sauce and/or natural food colorings yourself. Get my recipe here.

5. Processed frozen lunch entrees

Just because they're quick and low calorie doesn't mean you should eat it. The vast majority of these meals contain a shocking number of potentially harmful additives, and I've seen some with well over 40 ingredients!

Common ingredients in these meals are sodium phosphate, partially hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup and caramel coloring. None of the ingredients are organic or non-GMO verified and it's full of sugar and corn-derived ingredients.

What to eat instead: When you cook dinner, make it a point to make enough so that you have leftovers. Pack it up for lunch the next day and freeze the rest in lunch-size portions to use later.

Related: Keep a Close Eye on These 6 Calorie-Trap Foods

Vani Hari

Food Activist, Food Babe

Vani Hari is an activist that lives in North Carolina and the author of the new book, The Food Babe Way, that provides guidance on 21 essential habits she taught herself to take control of her health. To learn more about her, visit Foodbabe.com.

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