Think you’re being healthy by drizzling fat-free salad dressing on your lettuce? Do you feel virtuous purchasing only organic cookies and candies? Not so fast. We asked eight dietitians to list some of the food items they would never eat, and while some of the responses were no-brainers (no energy drinks or sugary coffees!), there were some surprises, as well. Of course, there is no such thing as “good” or “bad” foods. But you might think twice before filling your grocery cart with these 8 foods.
Sprouts. “As a source of many foodborne illnesses, raw sprouts are one food I tend to avoid,” said nutrition expert and registered dietitian Toby Amidor, author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen. There have been at least 30 reported illness outbreaks associated with raw or lightly cooked sprouts from salmonella or E. coli bacteria. “If I do choose to eat sprouts, I will cook them beforehand,” she added.
Processed red meat. There is strong evidence showing a link between processed red meat and cancer, heart disease and premature death. Registered dietitian-nutritionist Cara Anselmo, who blogs at caraanselmo.com, tells her clients never to eat bacon, sausage, pepperoni and most hot dogs. “They’re basically just salt, fat and preservatives,” she said.
Processed foods. Processed foods are our biggest nutrition issue, according to registered dietitian Jae Berman. “If we just ate foods where we knew the ingredients, understood what is in the food and aware of where the food comes from, we would be a healthier society,” she said. “We put food in our mouths and have no clue where it comes from, the chemicals that are in it and how it is made.” She urges individuals to focus on whole real, local and seasonal foods. “If we did that, we wouldn’t have to focus on foods not to eat,” she said
Raw milk. “Raw milk, whether it is from cows, sheep or goats, has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria,” said registered dietitian Joan Salge Blake, clinical associate professor at Boston University and author of Nutrition & You. While proponents claim there are health benefits to drinking milk that is unpasteurized and un-homogenized, raw milk carries some dangerous risks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely than pasteurized milk to cause foodborne illnesses. Your best bet? Stick to organic milk, which is made from cows that aren’t treated with growth hormones.
Cereals. Cereals with 4 grams of fiber or less are high in sugars and calories and less nutrient-dense than whole grains. “We have become consumers of food-like products, rather than whole foods,” said registered dietitian Carol Ann Brannon. Rather than eating a bowl of sugar-laden cereal for breakfast, make a batch of steel-cut oats on the stovetop—rich in stick-to-your-ribs fiber, oats will keep you fuller for longer.
Fat-free bottled salad dressing. “Fat-free bottled salad dressing is never going to taste as good as your own vinaigrette made with extra-virgin olive oil, and it has a strange consistency due to the fillers used to thicken it to make up for the lack of fat,” said registered dietitian Janet Helm, author of The Food Lover’s Healthy Habits Cookbook and blogger at Nutrition Unplugged. Researchers at Purdue found that fat-fat or low-fat salad dressings reduced the absorption of fat-soluble carotenoids – beneficial compounds in the salad such as lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. She recommends making your own dressing.
Organic lollipops. “Many food companies put words on packages to make them appear healthier,” said registered dietitian Shari Portnoy, who blogs at Food Label Nutrition. “The word organic seems to many synonymous with healthy, not true. Organic is a production system, not a healthy eating system.” Lollipops (organic or otherwise) are loaded with sugar and devoid of nutrients.
Canned soup. A regular sized can of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup contains 2.5 servings, which breaks down to 150 calories, 5 grams of fat, 20 grams of carbohydrate and a whopping 2,225 milligrams of sodium—more than the recommended daily intake. “Watch the nutrition facts,” said registered dietitian-nutritionist Sara Lopinski with the Division of Endocrinology at Southern Illinois School of Medicine. She recommends staying with the reduced sodium and fat versions and limiting yourself to the suggested serving size.