The 8 Foods Nutrition Experts Think You Should Avoid

The 8 Foods Nutrition Experts Think You Should Avoid

Diet plays a big role in health. The foods that we put into our bodies have an impact on our brains, hearts, guts, immune systems, skin, and so much more. But while some foods have a positive effect (hello, nutrient-dense plant-based whole foods), when consumed to excess, others aren’t so good. Eating too much saturated fat, salt, and sugar in processed foods and sweet treats can increase the risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

jump to the list

Right now, Americans aren’t getting enough of the good stuff, research suggests. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just one in 10 adults in the US are eating enough fruits and vegetables. And many of us are relying too much on the not-so-good stuff. The Western Pattern Diet (similar to the Standard American Diet) is high in fried foods, processed meats, and sugary beverages, for example.

Below, with the help of a few dietitians and nutritionists, we’ve listed some of the worst food offenders when it comes to health, alongside some equally delicious but more nutritious alternatives.

But one quick note before we start: This doesn’t mean that you have to start avoiding French fries or chocolate like the plague. Food isn’t just about nutrition, it’s also about joy, comfort, and tradition. We love compiling lists of our favorite candy bars and fast food options, as much as we love learning about the benefits of sweet potatoes and dark leafy greens, for example.

Just like life, food is all about balance. But it’s important to note that some foods are a little more impactful on our health than others (looking at you, processed meat). Find out more from the experts below about which foods are best avoided, at least on a regular basis.

These are 8 of the unhealthiest foods, according to the experts


1 Bacon

“Most bacon contains nitrates and nitrites, which are preservatives that bring with them risk factors that are known to form cancer-causing compounds,” says Palina Lancaster, MS, RDN, LD of Morrison Healthcare.
What to consider instead? Whole food bacon! “Shitake mushroom may be a fun alternative to bacon due to its slightly rubbery texture,” adds Lancaster. “Adding spices and maple syrup to textured vegetable protein makes a quick bacon bit alternative.”


2 All processed meats

“In general, most processed meats contain preservatives, and several studies have associated them with an increased risk of certain cancers like breast cancer and prostate cancer,” adds Lancaster. Megan Lyons, certified clinical nutritionist and founder of The Lyons’ Share Wellness, agrees. “Processed meats have directly been linked to increased incidence of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers,” she notes.
What to consider instead? “Choosing whole foods protein sources, like beans, nuts, and seeds,” says Lyons. Research also suggests that while they are not a health food, processed vegan meats tend to be healthier than animal-based alternatives (read more on this here!).


3 Commercially baked goods

“Commercially baked goods like donuts or pastries are made with hydrogenated oils, refined grains, and added sugar,” says Lyons. “These have the double whammy of creating blood sugar instability (and, over time, leading to insulin resistance if consumed regularly) and poor-quality fats that lead to LDL increases and increased risk of cardiovascular disease and inflammation.”
What to consider instead? Get baking! “A fun alternative is to make your own at home,” recommends Lyons. “You’ll use better quality ingredients, enjoy a stress-relieving activity, eat less frequently, and enjoy the consumption more.”


4 Milkshakes

“Milkshakes are high in saturated fat, which can increase your risk of heart disease,” says Alyssa Pacheco, RD of The PCOS Nutritionist Alyssa. “They’re also usually packed with added sugars, which can lead to weight gain, erratic blood sugar levels, and inflammation.”
What to consider instead? Smoothies! “Smoothies can be a healthier alternative and can provide an easy way to get a lot of nutrition into your daily routine,” adds Pacheco. “One of my favorite smoothie combinations is frozen strawberries, banana, almond milk, peanut butter, vanilla extract, and some chia seeds. You could add a plant-based protein powder to give you a protein boost too!”

5 Fast food

“Fast food has become a staple in a lot of households, and let’s face it, at times a life saver to individuals that are on the go,” says Lancaster. “However, most fast food is high in sodium, making it a threat to your cardiovascular system by elevating high blood pressure.”
What to consider instead? You can make delicious burgers and other fast food classics at home using healthier ingredients. Check out this recipe for a Vegan Copycat Whataburger Buffalo Ranch Chicken Strip Sandwich, for example. We also love this tasty Vegan Copycat Crunchwrap Supreme with Gooey Cashew Queso


6 Candy

“An excessive intake of dietary sugars can cause metabolic disorders and induce an increase in the body’s inflammatory response, including certain pro-inflammatory cytokines, which can lead to pre-diabetes or insulin resistance,” says Lancaster. “Excessive sugar is also another low-grade chronic inflammatory.”
What to consider instead? “Fruit leather is a great and fun alternative to candy available in a variety of flavors and is just plain fun to eat,” she notes. “They are easy to make at home by pureeing your favorite fruit and dehydrating it.” Homemade treats are nearly always better than processed store-bought options. Why not out our recipe for Vegan Copycat Twix Chocolate Caramel Bars?


7 Sugary cereal

“These classic breakfast cereals are low in nutrients that keep you feeling full, like fiber and protein, which makes it very easy to eat double or triple the serving size to fill yourself up,” says Pacheco. “At the same time, they have quite a bit of added sugar in a serving, so eating more than the serving size can easily have the same amount of sugar as a can of soda.”
What to consider instead? “Making your own can be a lot healthier, filling, and satisfying,” notes Pacheco. “Oats are a great whole grain to use as your cereal base that can provide you with vital nutrients such as fiber, iron, and zinc. Add some fruit, a scoop of nut butter, and some pepitas for a satisfying and balanced breakfast.”


8 French fries

“Potatoes are naturally low in salt when you bake them,” says Lancaster. “However, once fried, this adds an unhealthy amount of saturated fat, and then comes the salt, and who can eat just one?”
What to consider instead? “Making fries at home by tossing them in a little olive oil, your favorite seasonings, and baking them in the oven, is a much healthier alternative,” she recommends. You can find several delicious recipes for vegan fries here—all made without a deep frier!

For more on health, read:

Story Credits:

Facebook Twitter Google+

Leave A Comment