8 Foods that Nutritionists Avoid: Part 1

Any nutritionist will tell you that one of the most common questions we hear is “Should I eat this?”. In fact, I was asked just that at a dinner last night, hence this article.


If a nutritionist is worth his or her salt, the reply should generally be “It depends”. It’s a very frustrating answer but it’s the truth. Whether or not you should eat a certain food depends on a whole host of different factors that are all unique to you: your age, weight, height, activity levels, your overall diet and your own genetic makeup. Basically, things that make you a special snowflake... unique.


That’s why “yes or no” answers in nutrition aren’t usually valuable for creating your own “perfect diet” (a diet you can stick to long-term). You could just give up everything that’s considered “unhealthy” but I’m pretty sure you’d end up craving the things you’re forbidden from eating and giving up on your diet. A well balanced diet that includes some of the foods you love is far more sustainable... and sustainability matters. Besides, everyone wants to be able to eat ice-cream and lose weight at the same time. Right?


I eat everything...

…but there are some foods that I tend to avoid and from a practical standpoint I advise other people to avoid them too because I know that their “regular” consumption isn’t going to do them any good.


See that word “regular”? It’s highlighted because it’s important. Eating a doughnut once in a blue moon isn’t going to do you any harm but eating 2 or 3 doughnuts a day, everyday is just not a good idea.


So I do eat everything and I don’t prohibit my own clients from eating specific foods BUT there definitely are some foods that I recommend people avoid or at least reduce considerably in their DAILY diets. This is based on both what I’ve learned from my own research and what I’ve learned through the experience of managing diets for both myself and my clients.


Foods I Avoid (or reduce) as a Nutritionist

1. Deep Fried foods

Doughnuts, French Fries or anything deep fried in oil is bad news for a couple of reasons. Firstly deep frying increases the calories of a given food ENORMOUSLY. A cup of boiled potatoes has only 136 calories, whereas a similar quantity of french fried potatoes has 240 calories*, all from the added oil (it's worth noting that that amount of french fries is considered a small serving).


Secondly, oil used for deep frying is generally used multiple times, meaning it is repeatedly and  constantly heated to high temperatures which both oxidizes the oil {1} and can result in the formation of trans-fatty acids which can have serious long-term health effects if their levels are consistently high in your diet {2-4}.


These days, if I ever order a hamburger I always ask for a salad instead of the fries... that’s right, I consider a hamburger to be a smarter food option than french fries!


*Values taken from the USDA Food Database


2. Sugar Sweetened drinks

The most efficient way to get a lot of calories into your body in very little time and with very little effort, is to drink them.


There is nothing wrong with a little sugar in your diet, especially if you’re particularly active and can burn the calories. The problem is when you take in more calories than you need {5,6}. This is why HIGH consumption of sweetened soft-drinks is associated with higher levels of obesity and diabetes {7}.


The fact of the matter is that drinking sugar-sweetened soft-drinks regularly, makes it easy to take in more calories than you need (that’s why I sometimes recommend drinking calories to my clients who have difficulty gaining weight; it makes getting the calories they need much easier). Liquid calories don't make you feel full and this leads you to drink excessively without noticing {8}. (You can learn more about how to feel full on your diet here).


Fruit juices are just as bad (or maybe worse because people believe them to be healthy). They’re just sugar water with only slightly higher levels of vitamins and fiber compared to sodas. Whole-fruit smoothies are modestly better because they contain all the fiber of the fruit but they can still be easily over-consumed.


Portion size and calories matter so if you're trying to lose weight, DON’T DRINK YOUR CALORIES.


3. Hydrogenated Oils & trans fats

Hydrogenation is a process that turns liquid oils into solid fats, making them more suitable as an ingredient in the commercial food industry. The problem with hydrogenation is that it results in the formation of trans-fats, which, as I mentioned above, can lead to serious conditions like cardiovascular disease in later life (3,4,9).


Hydrogenated vegetable oils (sometimes referred to as partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils or hardened vegetable oils) are frequently found in commercial food products especially baked goods like pastries & cakes, margarines, deep-fried foods, some ice-creams etc.


If I see it listed in the ingredients of a product (especially if it appears early in the list, meaning it’s a main ingredient) I just make it my policy to put it back on the shelf. As I mentioned before, a little, now and then probably won’t hurt but don’t make these oils  a regular part of your diet.


4. Bacon, Processed & Burned meats

It pains me to take sides against my beloved bacon. Despite the fact that bacon tastes like a crispy gift from the gods I have to admit that EATING IT REGULARLY is "probably" not a good idea from a health perspective.


High-fat processed meats are pretty consistently associated with higher death rates from a whole host of conditions especially cardiovascular disease and cancer {10,11} although I do think that the warning against meat released by the World Health Organization last year was seriously exaggerated {12}.


On top of that, overly browned or burned meats or meats cooked at high temperatures (think about the deliciously crispy/charred parts of baked, fried or barbecued meats) are high in substances called heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons {13,14} that are pretty well accepted as being a significant risk factor for certain cancers {15}. Avoiding foods cooked at very high temperatures or foods that are burned/charred is another decent policy to follow.


If I do consume processed meats (hams, sausages, chorizos etc) I generally do it infrequently and I go for lower fat versions, which I do feel will reduce some of the negative effects (I have a lot more to say on this but I’ll leave it for another article).


Avoiding excess is one of the most important concepts in nutrition and that’s why I still, unashamedly, enjoy a little bacon every now and then. I mean, come on... it’s bacon!!!


There’s more to come

I still have a few foods I’d like to discuss but this article is already long enough so I’ll leave everything else for Part 2 of the article, which you can find by clicking here.


Eat well folks.



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  12. Bouvard V, Loomis D, Guyton KZ, Grosse Y, Ghissassi FE l, Benbrahim-Tallaa L, et al. Carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat. The Lancet. Oncology. 2015. p. 1599–600.
  13. Lijinsky W. The formation and occurrence of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons associated with food. Mutat Res Toxicol. 1991;259(3–4):251–61.
  14. Kim S, Lee K-G. Effects of cooking variables on formation of heterocyclic amines (HCA) in roasted pork and mackerel. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2010;73(21–22):1599–609.
  15. Daniel CR, Schwartz KL, Colt JS, Dong LM, Ruterbusch JJ, Purdue MP, et al. Meat-cooking mutagens and risk of renal cell carcinoma. Br J Cancer. 2011;105(7):1096–104. 

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