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Guess what? There are bad foods. I’m not one of those nutritionists who is going to say, “There are no bad foods” and “Everything in moderation” is OK.
I will tell you that eating anything every once in a while will not completely disrupt your health. But that doesn’t mean fried Oreos aren’t bad. That also doesn’t mean you’re a bad person for eating them. Aside from those random times when we all succumb to “bad” foods, are there foods that nutritionists, like myself, steer clear of all the time? You bet. Here are my top five:
1. Hot dogs
Processed meats in general are just one of the worst things you can put into your body. They're high in sodium and saturated fats (not the good kind, like those found in coconut) and filled with sodium nitrite (a commonly used preservative that adds color and flavor to meats) and often other chemicals and dyes.
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Consumption of processed meats, but not red meats, is associated with higher incidence of coronary heart disease and diabetes mellitus. High intake of red and processed meat is associated with significant increased risk of colorectal, colon and rectal cancers. If you want to reduce your risk of cancer, ditch the dogs.
Pretzels were the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing type of food. I mean, who didn’t pound them years ago while watching "Friends," thinking they were “fat free”? Talk about a food 180. Pretzels are all refined carbs. In other words, you might as well be throwing back jelly beans.
They have no fiber, no protein and no healthy fat to keep you satisfied or add health benefits to the calories you’re consuming. Instead, go for a small handful of nuts or other snacks full of fiber. Data indicates diets rich in high-fiber whole grains are associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and type 2 diabetes. It’s also been shown that people who consume whole grains versus refined have better lipid profiles and glycemic control.
3. Diet soda
Just because something is calorie free doesn’t mean it’s chemical free. You wouldn’t drink Drano would you? Artificial sweeteners found in diet soda are known to trigger insulin, which sends your body into fat storage mode and may lead to weight gain, even though the soda contains no calories itself.
Diet soda has also been linked to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, when compared to regular soda. No, I'm not telling you to go grab a Sprite or regular Coke. Swap out the diet soda for club soda bubbles instead.
4. Processed pastries
Long shelf life and a long list of ingredients is a sure bet that you should place that package back on the shelf. Processed pastries are made with refined sugar, refined wheat flour, hydrogenated oils (unhealthy trans fats) and a whole bunch of other chemicals and artificial ingredients. Trans fat has been associated with coronary heart disease, sudden death from cardiac causes and diabetes.
If you just have to have a sweet to go along with your milk, please make it homemade and take the ingredients up a notch. Bonus, your home will smell good too.
5. Fluorescent orange snacks
These crunchy old school lunch box go-tos are full of salt, chemicals and artificial coloring. They may taste good going down, but they are the ultimate junk with a capital J food.
Some grocery stores won’t even sell foods with artificial colors. Let’s applaud those stores and jump on the bandwagon and refuse to serve them in our homes too. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory spice that can give your fave crunchy snack like air popped (and GMO-free of course) popcorn a similar orange color if you’re feeling nostalgic.