Dietitians more than anyone know how true the saying can be: you are what you eat. Eating well ensures a healthier and more active lifestyle . Therefore, this can help you live a longer and more productive life. But eating unhealthy foods can do the opposite.

The question is: are you willing to have a healthier diet and lifestyle? Learning how to better select our foods is also essential to achieve weight loss .

26 harmful foods to avoid according to dietitians

Here is a list of 26 harmful foods that dietitians recommend that you avoid.

1. Sausages

Most hot dogs are a mixture of pork, high in fat, and spices. If that were all, there would be nothing wrong with eating a small portion occasionally. The problem with most processed meats like sausage is that manufacturers often use nitrates as a preservative.

Once these chemicals enter your system, they break down into substances that have been linked to causing cancer . This popular breakfast meat is also loaded with salt, which can raise blood pressure and cause other health problems.

2. Cereals with sugar

Studies show that most sweetened cereals contain almost a tablespoon of sugar per serving, and those that are for children tend to have 60 percent more sugar than those that are marketed for adults. The best option is a low-sugar cereal or a good old-fashioned bowl of oatmeal.

3. Artificial sweeteners

The debate over sugar versus artificial sweeteners has raged for decades. When dietitians realized that people who ate too much sugar gained weight and were prone to disease, the search for a sugar substitute began. However, these lab-created substitutes comprise a different set of health hazards.

For years, scientists have warned consumers about the cancer risks of ingesting saccharin. Aspartame, which at one point was considered the miracle sweetener, soon fell out of favor and was considered one of the worst harmful foods when researchers discovered its potential health threats. 

Most dietitians recommend leaving sweeteners aside and instead opt for honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar in moderation.

4. Microwave popcorn

Even if you buy a brand of microwave popcorn that does not have salt, butter, or other ingredients, it could put your health at risk. When the container is heated in the microwave, it can produce a carcinogenic compound called PFC . 

If you want to try some tasty popcorn, better make popcorn with fresh corn in a pot and flavor it with herbs or spices.

5. Margarine 

While margarine may be lower in saturated fat, it still contains a lot of calories and fat just like plain butter. Most of the fat in this butter substitute is trans fat, which is worse for your body than the saturated fat in butter. And that’s why it enters this list of harmful foods.

6. Canned cheese

Sure, it can be fun to sprinkle canned cheese on crackers or straight into your mouth if you’re a kid (or a kid at heart). However, there are many things that should not be canned, and cheese is one of them.

Not only is the canned cheese variety packed with sodium, it’s also packed with chemicals and preservatives that aren’t good for your health.

7. Ramen noodles

These very cheap, dry, crispy plastic-wrapped noodles sold in many stores don’t even come close to the traditional Japanese version. This college student staple may seem healthy and easy to cook, but the noodles are high in fat and the questionable spice package is mostly salt and MSG.

8. Fruit yogurt

Perhaps dietitians would prefer you to have tasty fruit yogurt for breakfast instead of sugary cereals? Well, it may surprise you that there really isn’t much of a difference.

Most brands of fruit yogurt use jam that contains large amounts of sugar instead of whole fruits, so you won’t benefit from consuming them at all. Instead, try plain yogurt with fresh fruit.

9. Soft drinks

Did you know that many of your favorite carbonated beverages can contain up to 11 teaspoons of sugar per can? Most of these drinks have a surprising 185 empty calories, plus artificial colors and ingredients that aren’t good for you. Drinking water is always the best option. And you could even drink some sparkling water and a few drops of lemon.

10. Diet sodas

Diet sodas may contain zero calories, however artificial sweeteners have been linked to the development of cancer. Also, countless studies have suggested that drinking diet soda can cause you to gain weight.

11. Fruits canned in syrup

Better enjoy fresh, natural fruits, which are sweet and juicy on their own. Why ruin them by dipping them in high fructose corn syrup that can contribute to obesity and diabetes ?

Dietitians suggest that if you buy canned fruit, that it be canned in water or fruit juice with no added sugar. Fruits canned in syrup are not healthy at all.

12. Wheat

For most people, it is okay to eat natural wheat products in moderation. However, some people are intolerant to gluten , the protein found in wheat. If you have this condition be sure to speak with a dietitian to find alternatives.

13. Frosting with food coloring

Everyone deserves to enjoy a piece of cake once in a while, but watch out for colored frosting. Preliminary research suggests that food coloring frosting may be linked to hyperactivity in children and some forms of cancer in adults.

14. Sugar-free sweets

Today, stores are full of sugar-free treats for dieters. Can you eat them without feeling guilty? If you read the labels, you’ll find that most of these have as many calories as their sugary counterparts, as well as added sodium and harmful sugar substitutes. So you better look for natural alternatives to these harmful foods.

15. Skimmed milk

Do you buy skim milk to reduce your daily fat intake? A single glass of whole milk has about 12% of the daily recommendation for fat and keeps you full longer. A diet that is too low in fat can cause you to have a lot of carbohydrate and sugar cravings, which can lead to heart disease and diabetes .

16. White rice

There’s a reason dietitians recommend brown rice over white. The white variety is processed and bleached, which depletes much of its fiber and beneficial nutrients. Plus, brown rice has a delicious nutty flavor that goes well with any rice dish.

17. Sports and energy drinks

Take a look at the label of popular energy drinks and you will be surprised at how much sugar and caffeine they contain. Some sports drinks are overloaded with herbal and vitamin supplements and can often do more harm than good. Instead, drink fresh water or a homemade smoothie and skip energy drinks.

18. Sushi

Not all sushi is excluded from dietitians’ lists of healthy options. You should be aware of the type of fish you are eating, as shark, marlin, swordfish, and mackerel can all contain toxic levels of mercury and be harmful foods. Instead, go for the tuna, salmon, and vegetarian sushi to be safe.

19. Syrup for pancakes

Pancake syrup may have a bit of a maple syrup flavor, but it’s really just artificially flavored high fructose corn syrup. It is high in empty calories and can make you crave sugar. Consuming pure maple syrup in moderation is a better sweetener option.

20. Canned soup

Perhaps nothing is more comforting than a plate of steaming soup on a cold night. But better enjoy a tastier and healthier plate of homemade soup. Canned soup usually has too much sodium and other artificial ingredients .

Instead, make a large pot of soup to enjoy over the weekend and place the leftovers in the freezer in containers for later use.

21. Coffee creamer

These “non-dairy” products contain sugar, trans fat, and corn syrup , which are bad for your heart and can lead to diabetes. Choosing to add some real cream in moderation may be your best option, or better learn to enjoy black coffee.

22. Fast food restaurant burgers

This is one of the best known harmful foods. Burgers sold at fast food restaurants can wreak havoc on your health. Just one of these burgers can have up to 14 grams of fat, not including the high calorie and carbohydrate content. Better prepare your own hamburgers at home and accompany it with vegetables and omit the bread.

23. French fries

Who could eat a hamburger without fries? This classic fast food chain favorite combo may be the worst when it comes to grams of fat and sodium. Did you know that you can bake your own crispy fries in an oven and use fresh herbs and less salt?

24. Fruit juice

Drinking fruit juice has to be better than drinking soda, right? Not necessarily, because even 100% natural juices can contain a lot of fructose , a natural sugar that can accumulate fat cells in the abdomen. For a fruity kick, add some berries or citrus slices to a glass of water.

25. Canola oil

While canola oil may be better than lard or other cooking oil, it is not necessarily the healthiest. Remember that canola oil is still a hydrogenated oil refined with chemicals that can cause inflammation and some forms of cancer . Your best option would be olive or grapeseed oil.

26. Red meat

Dietitians approve of eating lean red meat in moderation. However, there are still concerns in the medical world about the unhealthy saturated fat contained in red meat and the added hormones. Try to keep your consumption to a minimum and also eat white meat, fish or vegetable proteins.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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