17 Foods That You Should Avoid at ALL Cost!
1. Sugary Drinks
Added sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet. However, some sources of sugar are worse than others, and sugary drinks are the absolute worst. When people drink sugar calories, the brain doesn’t “register” them as food. For this reason, people don’t automatically compensate by eating less of other foods and they end up drastically increasing their total calorie intake.
Sugar, when consumed in large amounts, can drive insulin resistance in the body and is strongly linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It is also associated with various serious diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Sugary drinks are also THE most fattening aspect of the modern diet, and drinking them in large amounts can drive fat gain and obesity.
Alternatives: Drink water, soda water, coffee or tea instead. Adding a slice of lemon, fruit, or spice to water or soda water can add some taste if you don’t like it plain. Check out this article from my blog for some great water recipes!
2. Most Pizzas
Pizza is one of the world’s most popular junk foods. This is not surprising, given that it tastes awesome and is incredibly convenient to eat! The problem is that most commercially prepared pizzas are made with seriously unhealthy ingredients. The dough is made from highly refined wheat flour, and the meats on them are usually processed. Pizza is also extremely high in calories! Just leave it alone!
Alternatives: Some pizza places use healthier ingredients. Homemade pizzas can also be very healthy, as long as you choose wholesome ingredients. Check out this recipe for cauliflower crust pizza!
3. White Bread
Bread is generally made from wheat, which contains the protein gluten. For this reason, all wheat-based breads are a bad idea for people who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. However, most commercial breads are unhealthy, even for people who do tolerate gluten.
This is because the great majority of them are made from refined wheat, which is low in essential nutrients (empty calories) and leads to rapid spikes in blood sugar.
Alternatives: For people who can tolerate gluten, ezekiel bread is an excellent choice. Whole grain bread is also definitely better (or “less bad”) than white bread. My personal favorite substitute is a whole wheat or corn tortilla!
4. Most Fruit Juices
Fruit juice is often assumed to be healthy, but this is a BIG mistake! Many fruit juices are actually little more than fruit-flavored sugar water. It is true that the juice contains some antioxidants and vitamin C, but this must be weighed against the large amount of liquid sugar. In fact, fruit juice contains just as much sugar as a sugary drink like Coke or Pepsi, and sometimes even more! Who knew?
Alternatives: There are some fruit juices that have been shown to have health benefits despite the sugar content, such as pomegrenate juice and blueberry juice. However, these should be considered as supplements, not something you drink every day to quench thirst. Drink water instead!
5. Industrial Vegetable Oils
In the last 100 years or so, people have increased their consumption of added fats. However, this is entirely explained by a drastic increase in the consumption of refined vegetable oils, such as soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil and canola oil. These oils are very high in omega-6 fatty acids, which humans never consumed in such large amounts before. Our bodies do not know how to metabolize these trans fats, so we store them inside fat cells. There are many serious concerns with these oils. They are highly sensitive to oxidation and cause increased oxidative stress in the body. They have also been linked to increased risk of cancer.
Alternatives: Use healthier fats like coconut oil, real butter, extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil instead.
Margarine used to be considered a healthy alternative to butter. Fortunately, most people have now realized that this is far from being true. Margarine is a highly processed pseudo-food that has been engineered to look and taste like butter. It is loaded with artificial ingredients, and is usually made with industrial vegetable oils that have been hydrogenated to make them more solid. This increases their trans fat content significantly. Keep in mind that manufacturers are allowed to label their products with “no trans fat” as long as it contains less than 0.5 grams per serving, which is still a significant amount.
Alternatives: Use real butter instead, preferably from grass-fed cows.
7. Pastries, Cookies and Cakes
Most pastries, cookies and cakes are extremely unhealthy. They are generally made with refined sugar, refined wheat flour and added fats, which are often disturbingly unhealthy fats like shortening (high in trans fats).
These tasty treats are literally some of the worst things that you can put into your body. Almost no essential nutrients, but tons of calories and unhealthy ingredients.
Alternatives: Treats made with one ingredient whole foods and fruits. Check out these two recipes for healthy alternative and 21 Day Fix approved sweet treats. Fudgy Avocado Brownies and Frozen Blueberry Bites
8. French Fries and Potato Chips
Whole, white potatoes are actually very healthy for you!
However, the same can NOT be said of the products that are made from them, such as french fries and potato chips. These foods are very high in calories, and it is easy to eat excessive amounts. Several studies link consumption of french fries and potato chips with weight gain. These foods may also contain large amounts of acrylamides, carcinogenic substances that form when potatoes are fried, baked or roasted.
Alternatives: Potatoes are best consumed boiled, not fried. If you need something crunchy to replace potato chips, try baby carrots or nuts.
9. Agave nectar
Agave nectar is a sweetener that is often marketed as healthy. However, agave nectar is not as healthy as some people think. It is a highly refined sweetener that is extremely high in fructose. High amounts of fructose from added sweeteners (not whole fruit) can be absolutely disastrous for health. The truth is, agave is even higher in fructose than other sugars. Whereas table sugar contains 50% fructose, and high fructose corn syrup around 55%, agave nectar is 85% fructose.
Alternatives: Stevia is a healthy, natural and calorie free sweetener. Honey is also a good choice.
10. Low-Fat Yogurt
Yogurt can be incredibly healthy. Unfortunately, most yogurts found in the grocery store are extremely bad for you. They are frequently low in fat, but loaded with sugar to make up for the lack of taste that the fats provided.
Put simply, the yogurt has had the healthy, natural dairy fats removed, only to be replaced with something much, much worse. Additionally, many yogurts don’t actually contain probiotic bacteria, as generally believed. They have often been pasteurized after fermentation, which kills all the bacteria.
Alternatives: Choose regular, full-fat yogurt that contains live or active cultures (probiotics). If you can get your hands on it, choose yogurt from grass-fed cows. Greek yogurt is a great choice too because you get more bang for your "calorie" due to the higher protein content in Greek yogurt.
11. Low-Carb Junk Foods
Low-carb diets are very popular these days, and have been for several decades. There are plenty of real foods that you can eat on a low-carb diet, most of which are very healthy. However, this is not true of processed low-carb replacement products, such as low-carb candy bars and meal replacements. These are generally highly processed foods that contain very little actual nutrition, just a bunch of artificial ingredients mixed together and then sold as food.
Alternatives: If you’re on a low-carb diet, eat foods that are naturally low in carbs. Remember, Low-carb junk food is still junk food.
12. Processed Meat
Even though unprocessed meat can be healthy and nutritious, the same is NOT true for processed meats.
Studies show that people who eat processed meats have a higher risk of many serious diseases, including colon cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Most of these studies are observational in nature, so they can not prove that the processed meat caused the diseases.
However, the statistical link is strong and consistent among studies, so I do believe there is something to it.
Alternatives: If you want to eat bacon, sausages, pepperoni and other “processed” meats, then choose wisely and try to buy them locally from sellers who don’t add a lot of unhealthy ingredients. Quality counts.
13. Processed Cheese
Regular cheese is healthy. It is loaded with nutrients, and a single slice of cheese contains all the same nutrients as an entire glass of milk. However, processed cheese products are nothing like regular cheese. They are mostly made with filler ingredients that are combined and engineered to have a similar look and texture as cheese.
Cheese is healthy, but processed cheese is not. Read labels, and make sure that the cheese you’re eating is actually cheese.
Alternatives: Eat real cheese instead!
14. Most Fast Food Meals
Generally speaking, “fast food” chains serve only junk foods. The majority of the food they offer is mass-produced, highly engineered junk food with very little nutritional value. These places are often very cheap, but keep in mind that junk food costs you twice. For every penny you save there, chances are that it’s going to cost you many times more in the future. Poor health is expensive.
Alternatives: Fortunately, all sorts of healthy fast food places have started to appear. Chipotle is one great example. Additionally, even McDonald's now has a healthy salad option. Be smart when you order!
15. High-Calorie “Coffee” Drinks
Coffee has been unfairly demonized. It is actually very healthy, and loaded with antioxidants. Studies also show that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of serious diseases, like type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s. Unfortunately, stuff is sometimes added to coffee that turns this wonderful beverage into harmful sludge. If your “coffee” has a ton of artificial creamer and sugar, then it is NOT good for you.
It is loaded with liquid, empty calories, and will be just as unhealthy as any other sugar-sweetened beverage.
Alternatives: Drink plain coffee instead. Black is best, but small amounts of heavy cream or full-fat milk are fine as well. Best option is to sweeten with Stevia and use unsweetened almond or coconut milk as a substitute for creamer. Due to the very low calorie count, unsweetened almond milk is actually considered a freebie on the 21 Day Fix meal plan!
16. Anything That is High in Sugar, Refined Grains and Vegetable Oils
One of the most important things you can do to eat healthier, is to read labels. It is important to avoid (or at least minimize) foods that contain:
Added sugar (and high fructose corn syrup); Refined grains like white flour; Industrial vegetable oils and artificial trans fats.
These are some of the unhealthiest (and most common) ingredients in the modern diet. The importance of reading labels can not be overstated, and this applies to all foods, even so-called health foods. This is going to apply to most common condiments and sauces like ketchup, barbeque sauce, spaghetti sauce, etc.
Alternatives: Eat whole, one-ingredient, clean foods. Pay attention to the label and it is much easier these days to find a healthy option in the grocery aisle for many of these condiments.
17. Most Highly Processed Foods
By far the simplest way to eat healthy and lose weight, is to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Put simply, if it looks like it was made in a factory, then it’s probably bad for you. We will learn more about this when we talk about the principles of clean eating tomorrow. A good rule to remember, is that real food doesn’t need an ingredients list, because real food IS the ingredient.
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