I want to start by saying that I’m actually very relaxed about food and enjoy not so healthy foods every now and then. Pizza is one of my favourite foods (although I might be a little fussy on the quality). Wine – yes please. Coffee – of course! I don’t even worry about a little sugar every now and then. Flexibility and a good relationship with food and eating are really important in my book.
However, I do make sure that my base diet is as good as I can make it as I know that it’s what we eat on a day to day basis that matters most when it comes to our health and that health is so much more than the foods we eat. It’s our sleep, our relationships, how we move our body, our thoughts and our connection with ourselves and with nature.
However..... there are a number of things that I just don’t ever eat or drink and here’s a few of them.
1 Energy drinks
Energy drinks often provide a dual hit of very large amounts of sugar and caffeine accompanied by artificial chemicals and sweeteners. I hate the way they are marketed to our young people. Some of the larger cans of energy drinks contain up to 56 grams of sugar (Monster I’m looking at you) which is a whopping 14 teaspoons of liquid sugar in one go.
We now know that excess sugars (and excess rubbishy carbs) are what mostly leads to weight gain and keep you craving sweet things
2 Low fat / reduced fat foods / diet foods
These foods are, by definition, very highly processed. Where fat is taken out of a food, what nearly always goes in instead is either sugar or artificial sweeteners. The idea that fat is bad or leads to weight gain has now been acknowledged as being entirely wrong. We now know that sugars (and excess starchy carbs) are what mostly leads to weight gain and keep you craving sweet things. Many artificial sweeteners aren’t great for gut health either. I’d far rather stick to the natural, full fat version.
Some of the additives in ultra-processed meats have been linked to increased risk of colon cancer.
3 Hotdogs and processed meat
It is quite shocking how little actual meat goes into hotdogs, and processed deli-style meats are often pumped with water, sugar (even if it’s not actually called sugar, look out for anything ending in ‘-ose’ – like dextrose) and preservatives. Some of the additives in processed meats have been linked to increased risk of colon cancer. If you want to eat meat, eat the better quality stuff a little less often and expand your range of proteins to include plant based options.
4 (Most) Shop-bought cereals
Many supermarket cereals have quite a hit of sugar and are very high in starchy carbs. These foods can often lead you wanting a second breakfast a couple of hours later. Better options include a home-made granola (or a low-sugar shop bought granola but to be honest homemade is much cheaper) with plain yogurt, oats or eggs. If I was to pick the better of the shop bought cereals I’d probably go with Weetabix.
5 Rice cakes
These are often a go-to food for anyone counting calories. Unfortunately, they will skyrocket your blood sugar levels as they are a very simple carbohydrate with very little fibre. A better choice would be a couple of oat cakes or rye crackers topped with unsweetened nut butter, cheese or a little hummus which is more satisfying in terms of satiety and nutrients.
Agave syrup (or nectar) is very similar to the (deservedly) much-demonised high fructose corn syrup, that has contributed greatly to the obesity epidemic in the US.
6 Agave nectar/ syrup
Agave syrup comes from a cactus, and the syrup is made from the pulp of the leaf. It’s very highly processed and is mainly fructose, which needs to be processed by the liver, causing more stress for an already over-worked organ. Fructose is actually worse for you than glucose (which is effectively what we are talking about when discussing ‘blood sugar’). Agave syrup (or nectar) is very similar to the (deservedly) much-demonised high fructose corn syrup, that has contributed greatly to the obesity epidemic in the US. My advice? Do not use it! A little maple syrup is a better option.
7 Mycoprotein like Quorn
Quorn is a very processed food that comes from a fungus Fusarium venenatum. It has a lot of other ingredients added – like flavourings, yeast, starches and colourings, gluten to give it the texture and flavour of meat. Lentils and pulses are a much healthier alternative if you’re after vegetarian choices.
8 Fruit Juice
The easiest way to get lots of sugar into your system in a short space of time is by drinking it. And since it comes in as liquid, the body doesn’t register it as “eaten”, so it cunningly slips past any detectors that might otherwise signal satiety or ‘satisfaction’. Fruit juice – particularly when freshly squeezed – certainly contains lots of lovely vitamins and minerals, but it often contains just as much sugar as a soft drink. If you want fruit, eat fruit. Don’t drink it.
So that’s my lot of food no-no’s! What do you think, are you surprised by some of the foods I’ve mentioned?
As a nutritional therapist I’m very aware of what to avoid, which in a way make it easier to say no (knowledge is power afterall). But honestly, I stay away from most of these because of how they make me feel; tired, lethargic, bloated and craving more. I just can’t be dealing with that. I prefer to fill up on nourishing foods that provide fuel and energy to keep me going and feeling balanced throughout the day.
What about you, what foods do you avoid at all costs, and why?