8 Foods that Nutritionists Avoid: Part 2

In Part 2 of this article we’ll continue learning about the foods that I, as a nutritionist, tend to avoid much more than others, mostly in order to maintain optimal health. You can find Part 1 of the article by clicking here.


Foods I Avoid (or reduce) as a Nutritionist

5. Refined Vegetable Oils

Sunflower, soy, corn, canola and a whole host of commonly used commercial “vegetable” oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids. While SOME omega-6 fats are essential to health, if you have too many over a long period of time they can cause excessive inflammation which can end up increasing your risk of heart disease amongst other not so pleasant conditions {1-3}.


On top of that, the processes used to refine vegetable oils (remove their distinctive flavor/odor and improve shelf-life) involve high temperatures which can oxidize the oils like I mentioned in Part 1 of this article {4}, which causes further problems {5-7}. "Virgin" oils are not refined and that's why "Extra Virgin Olive Oil" has such a distinct flavor and aroma. Along with the fact that olive oil is very low in Omega-6 fatty acids, you can understand why it's been hailed as such a heart-healthy oil and it's one of the only oils I keep in my larder.


The reason you see me hating on “oils” so much in these articles is because any oils we consume in excess get stored in our body, either as that spare tire around your waist or in our cell membranes. That means that damaged/oxidized oils can stay in your body for years and cause problems for you in later life as they get used. So, it’s worth being a little extra prudent with the quality of fats you take in on a regular basis.


6. Coffee "Drinks"

My concept of coffee is black and bitter (much like my soul... or so I’ve been told). As such, coffee is calorie free and may even have some health benefits due to its polyphenol content {8}. Besides that, coffee makes mornings possible so I'm definitely not anti-coffee.


However, those fancy, sweet and creamy beverages that you can get at your favorite coffee chain are not the the coffee of days gone by. Instead, they are just like the sweetened soft-drinks and fruit juices that I mentioned in Part 1 of this article. They are nothing more than quick and easy ways to get calories (in the form of sugar and fat) into your body with no satiety value {9}.


You yourself might be willing to spend nearly 300 calories from your daily allowance on a small coffee “milkshake” that you can finish in a couple of minutes but I can find much more enjoyable (and longer lasting) ways to consume that many calories.


7.  Refined Breakfast Cereals

Of all the foods on this list, these might be the most benign but I still think they’re worth a mention.


Many people know that most breakfast cereals are ridiculously high in sugar and generally low in fiber and protein. Thankfully, breakfast makers had the bright idea of fortifying them with vitamins and minerals so they're not entirely worthless.


My problem with most breakfast cereals is two-fold. Firstly they make consuming a lot of calories very, very easy (that’s why they’re a great addition to a bodybuilding/weight-gaining diet) and they provide very little satiety value. This can lead to overeating especially when combined with the idea that cereals are supposed to be healthy. Also, if you ever measure out an actual serving of breakfast cereal, you’ll realize how easy it is to eat far more than the recommended serving.


Secondly, they take the place of much more nutrient dense breakfast foods such as wholegrains and fruit or eggs which can be excellent sources of vitamins, fiber and phytonutrients or protein, respectively. If you don’t get a whole lot of calories in during the day (for example kids and smaller women), waisting calories of refined breakfast cereal might be short-changing you of more health-promoting foods {10}. As always, context is important so this might not even apply if you burn a lot of calories and need to eat a lot.


The same idea spans to other refined cereal products too like refined pasta, white bread or white rice.


8. Nutella/Potato Chips/Cookies (and other Uncontrolables)

I was originally going to write about some of these foods separately but I decided that they would be better off put into a category of foods called “Uncontrolables”. What all these foods have in common is that they have very little nutritional value (some are deep-fried or contain refined vegetable oils and are often high in sugar and calories) and they are VERY, VERY easy to overeat.


Ever eaten nutella with a spoon? One of my clients did when she tried to fit it into her daily calories... the only problem was that she couldn’t really stop at one spoon. And considering that a single tablespoon of nutella has about 100 calories * it’s no wonder it’s easy to overdo it. I believe I have great self-control and I love fitting different foods and treats into my diet but... damn... nutella is so dangerous (from a wanting to eat more sense) that even I don’t keep it in my house.


Ever bought a large pack of potato chips or cookies and gone through the whole bag without noticing? You’re not alone.


Basically, this category of foods includes anything that is very high in calories, low in nutrient density and that YOU have difficulty in controlling. It could be ice-cream, jelly beans, popcorn or anything else. It might not even appeal to other people but for YOU... it's your Kryptonite. If you can comfortably fit it into your daily calorie/ macronutrient needs, fantastic. I see no problem with it. But if it’s the kind of food that you can’t stop eating once you start then it’s probably much better to avoid it… at least until you learn how to control yourself (which comes with time and consistency).


*Values taken from the USDA Food Database


Spend your calories wisely

The great thing about having a flexible approach to dieting is that you can still enjoy many of the foods that you’ve always loved while still losing weight. However, you need to think about your long term health and how the foods you regularly consume can affect it.


Moderation is a great tool that allows you to enjoy a huge range of delicious foods but it’s worth bearing in mind that some foods might deserve a little more moderation than others.


Eat well, folks.



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  3. Festa A, D’Agostino R, Howard G, Mykkänen L, Tracy RP, Haffner SM. Chronic subclinical inflammation as part of the insulin resistance syndrome: the Insulin Resistance Atherosclerosis Study (IRAS). Circulation. 2000;102(1):42–7.
  4. Koh E, Surh J. Food types and frying frequency affect the lipid oxidation of deep frying oil for the preparation of school meals in Korea. Food Chem. 2015;174:467–72.
  5. Esterbauer H, Muskiet F, Horrobin DF. Cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of lipid-oxidation products. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1993.
  6. Lichtenstein AH. Dietary trans fatty acids and cardiovascular disease risk: Past and present. Current Atherosclerosis Reports. 2014.
  7. Teegala SM, Willett WC, Mozaffarian D. Consumption and health effects of trans fatty acids: A review. J AOAC Int. 2009;92(5):1250–7.
  8. Zamora-Ros R, Knaze V, Rothwell JA, Hémon B, Moskal A, Overvad K, et al. Dietary polyphenol intake in Europe: the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study. Eur J Nutr. 2015;1359–75.
  9. Rebello CJ, Liu AG, Greenway FL, Dhurandhar N V. Dietary Strategies to Increase Satiety. Adv Food Nutr Res. 2013;69:105–82.  
  10. Ye EQ, Chacko SA, Chou EL, Kugizaki M, Liu S. Greater whole-grain intake is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and weight gain. J Nutr. 2012;142(7):1304–13. 

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