We are constantly bombarded with food lists that detail items we should and shouldn’t be eating. It can be hard to know what’s right, what’s wrong, and whether you’re giving your body the nutrients it needs. One list we can trust? One that has a nutritionist’s stamp of approval. If you’re looking for a list of foods you shouldn’t be eating, check out these eight items. Nutritionists won’t even consider eating these unhealthy everyday foods, and they suggest you avoid them, too.
1. Hot dogs, bacon, and sausages
Bonnie Taub-Dix, author of Read It Before You Eat It, says she avoids these three processed foods like the plague. What’s so bad about them? A diet that’s high in processed meats like bacon and sausage can increase your risk of dying from cancer or cardiovascular disease, according to Everyday Health. In addition, the World Health Organization labeled processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans” not too long ago.
If you can’t live without your processed goodies, save pepperoni, hot dogs, sausages, bacon, and deli meats for a day at the ballpark or the occasional party. You can also try swapping out pork hot dogs and sausages for chicken dog/sausage alternatives, Taub-Dix suggests.
2. Fat-free salad dressing
Fat-free salad dressing sounds great, but it isn’t. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Salad dressing (not the fat-free kind) is a combination of vinegar, which regulates blood sugar, and plant oils, which contain fatty acids and antioxidants. In other words, it’s good for you.
However, people have developed an irrational fear of fat, prompting companies to create fat-free concoctions, according to The Week. To rid the dressing of fat, companies started using sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial ingredients, and other unknowns to maintain the taste without the fat. It’s all artificial, though, making it anything but good for you. Don’t be scared of a full-fat dressing in moderation — it’s much better than the fat-free alternative.
3. Canned tomatoes
Stay away from these, Frederick vom Saal, an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri, tells Prevention. The problem with canned tomatoes involves the resin linings of tin cans, which contain “bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.”
Tomatoes are known for their acidity, a trait that causes BPA to leak into your food. Studies say the BPA in most people exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals.
“You can get 50 mcg of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that’s a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young,” said vom Saal to the publication. “I won’t go near canned tomatoes.” Rather than reaching for canned tomatoes, choose tomatoes in glass bottles (they don’t have resin linings). If your recipe calls for canned tomatoes, substitute for bottled pasta sauce instead.
Patricia Bannan, author of Eat Right When Time Is Tight, told The Huffington Post to always say no to soda. “Not only does it taste overly sweet, it’s such a waste of calories. A 12-ounce can of soda has almost 40 grams of sugar, and research shows excess sugar can lead to excess pounds and a myriad of health issues. If you do love a soda, limit it to once or twice a month, and get used to other options like citrus-infused water or non-sugared ice tea.”
Looking for proof that sodas are bad? Rodale’s Organic Life writes a few of soda’s disturbing side effects include an increase in body fat, a higher risk of developing cancer, and accelerated aging.
5. Microwave popcorn
Chemicals in the lining of microwavable popcorn bags make it a major no-no, Olga Naidenko, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, said to Prevention. These chemicals are linked to infertility, and in animal testing the chemicals have caused liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. The microwaving process causes the chemicals in the bag to vaporize and work their way into your snack.
The chemicals don’t just go away, either. They actually stay in the body for years and accumulate there, according to Naidenko, which is causing researchers to worry that levels within the body could eventually approach cancerous levels. Many manufacturers have promised to get rid of PFOA (the chemical responsible for this all), but until then, try to avoid microwavable popcorn! The plus side is that it’s easy to replace. Simply pick up popcorn kernels and make your own; it’s a simple and cheap swap.
6. Boxed cereal
It’s hard to find a boxed cereal that doesn’t contain at least one form of sugar, making it a terrible go-to for breakfast. You know the fun shapes (O’s, flakes, or puffs) that your cereal comes in? In order to get those shapes, food has to be put through a lot of processing, often stripping the wheat of nutrients.
“Even without sugar, they’re just a box of highly-processed carbohydrates,” Michelle Pfennighaus, a nutrition and health coach from FindYourBalanceHealth.com, told She Knows. “This is not something you can do in your kitchen. This is a product of the industrial food system.”
7. Stick margarines
Avoid trans fats: They can raise your heart disease risk by boosting levels of bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) and can lower levels of good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein). The American Heart Association suggests limiting your trans fat intake to less than 1% of your daily total calories, meaning if you stick to 2,000 calories per day, only 20 of those should be from trans fats.
Because small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in animal products (meat and dairy), you’re probably already getting those 20 calories. Piling factory-produced trans fats on top of that is a recipe for disaster. When you’re using a recipe that calls for fat, opt for butter instead of margarine, says Everyday Health.
8. Rice cakes
Once part of the low-calorie, fat-free diet craze, Livestrong.com writes three cakes have a very high glycemic index of 100, meaning it’s the kind of carb that can send your blood sugar skyrocketing. Simply put, it’s bad for your health and weight loss.
MyFitnessPal’s blog writes that if you take a look at a rice cake’s label, you’ll see how bad these snacks really are. There’s no fat, no fiber, and very few vitamins and minerals. A rice cake won’t nourish your body or provide fuel to help get you through the day. It’s just a refined carb sprinkled with salt and drizzled with artificial flavoring.