You should always follow the leaders when it comes to healthy eating! That’s why we’ve created a list of foods that nutritionists won’t put on their plates. From artificial sweeteners and processed deli meats to doughnuts and ramen noodles, healthy eating experts are steering clear of these foods, so you should do it too if you want to live a healthier lifestyle.
1. Artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners aren’t really as healthy as you think. “I do not think there is sufficient evidence to prove that most artificial sweeteners are safe for consumers. I prefer to stay away from them and indulge in the real thing [sugar] occasionally and mindfully. Plus, there’s a plethora of research that shows how consuming diet beverages may counter-intuitively lead to weight gain, which can increase your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease,” nutritionist, Chelsey Amer, RD, says.
2. Microwave popcorn
We all desire a buttery bag of popcorn at the end of the day, but, believe me, you’re better of without it. “I once ripped open an unpopped microwave popcorn bag and I haven’t eaten it since! There are too many artificial chemicals used in the flavorings inside the microwavable bag. I prefer to avoid overly processed products like this as much as possible,” Amer explains.
3. Processed deli meats
“Processed deli meats can contain a wide variety of additives from nitrates to carrageenan that can increase inflammation in the body and have even been scientifically linked to increased risk in colon cancer,” says Megan Faletra, MS, an integrative dietitian nutritionist, certified yoga Instructor, and founder of The Well Essentials.
“Opt for organic, nitrate and antibiotic-free deli meats from brands that are focused on changing the way meat products are produced in the USA.”
4. Reduced-fat peanut butter
“Regular and reduced-fat peanut butter contain roughly the same amount of calories. But the reduced-fat varieties typically contain more added sugar or artificial sweeteners to improve the taste,” says Faletra. “The fat found in peanut butter is healthy for our bodies, so stick to the natural full-fat peanut butters.”
Get rid of that margarine, your waistline will thank you! “Most margarines rely primarily on highly processed vegetable oils (particularly soybean and palm oil),” Faletra says. “Choosing grass-fed organic butter in moderation is a much better option for our health as these butters contain high-levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.”
6. Most frozen meals
Nutritionist Ha Nguyen, RDN, admitted that she used to nom on frozen meals as a child—nearly every day after high school. But, today, frozen meals are a no-no for her. “Most prepackaged frozen meals are overly processed, made with refined flour, high in sodium, and full of additives and preservatives. All things that are not good for your body,” says Nguyen.
7. Pop tarts
Skip those pop tarts next time you go shopping! “You might as well send your kid off to school with a candy bar for breakfast. If you simply look at the first few ingredients they consist of refined sugars including corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, and sugar,” Nguyen says.
8. Cheese in a can
“Cheese spread is highly processed with very little actual ‘cheese’ in it,” says nutritionist Michelle Jaelin, RD. It comes with a laundry list of artificial ingredients and colors that I don’t feel comfortable eating. It is called plastic cheese for a reason! If I want to eat cheese, I eat the real thing,” says.
9. Boutique fruit juices
While the label might claim to give you the vitamins and minerals you seek, nutritionist Andy De Santis, RD, says that fruit juices—even the boutique ones—are a slippery slope.
“The alarming trend of expensive juices is concerning. These products are generally packed in calories and they won’t keep you feeling full or provide anywhere near the full nutritional benefit of eating whole fruits and veggies,” he says. “For reference, eating an apple, orange and banana would take me 10 minutes. Drinking them in a juice—maybe 10 seconds?” That’s a lot of calories in less than a minute.
10. Sausages, hot dogs
“Not only are hot dogs high in fat and relatively low in protein, which is the exact combination you don’t want in your meat, but they are generally chock-full of sodium, which none of us need more of,” De Santis says. “The icing on the cake? There is a growing body of evidence that connects eating processed meats with an increased risk of cancer in the digestive tract.”
“Cheese is generally high in calories, saturated fat, and sodium, all of which we need to cut back on. You are better off with a low-fat milk, a soy or almond alternative, or vitamin D-fortified yogurt. Don’t forget that nuts, seeds, legumes and dark leafy greens also contain calcium,” De Santis says.
“Preservatives, sodium, and uncertainty of the meat’s origin are three things that make me worry,” says nutritionist Gabriella Vetere, RDN. “Choose meat that your body can recognize, not one full of chemicals and preservatives,”
13. Ramen noodles
Exercise physiologist and nutritionist Rachel Straub, MS, certified strength and conditioning specialist and author of Weight Training Without Injury, recommends staying away from these packaged goods because they’re loaded with salt and very little, if any, nutritional value.
“Doughnuts are made of refined (possibly GMO) white flour which is super high glycemic,” says personal trainer, author, nutritionist, and health and wellness coach Jamie Logie. That means it causes sudden spikes in your blood sugar. “And they’re deep-fried in artery-clogging and cancer-causing trans fats and covered in sugar. They won’t fill you up, make you hungrier and are filled with pretty much the worst ingredients out there.”
15. Fruit canned in syrup
“Fruit is naturally sweet enough on its own,” explains nutritionist Amy Gorin, MS RDN. The amount of sugar in the fruit plus the syrup could put most desserts to shame. “If you’re shopping for canned fruit, you can absolutely find fruit that doesn’t contain added sugar, such as varieties canned in water or juice.”
16. Cheese-flavored snacks
These snacks are full of chemicals, says nutritionist, Ashvini Mashru, MA, RD, LDN. “While you can find plain potato chips cooked in sunflower oil, cheese-flavored snacks are packed with fat, MSG, and artificial flavors and colors. The ingredient list itself explains why a plain potato chip cooked in sunflower oil is many times better than any extruded cheese snack,” she says.