8 foods a registered dietitian would never eat

By Rosemary Black, for MDLinx
Published April 26, 2019

Key Takeaways

Nutrition experts are in the know when it comes to recommending what to eat and what to skip. And while they advise clients to “eat a rainbow”—that is, to fill up on colorful fruits and veggies to maximize nutrient intake—it is advisable to shun certain foods.

But, nutrition experts don’t like to use the word “never.”

“I deem some foods as unhealthy, but if we keep our food choices healthy 80% to 90% of the time, it's fine to enjoy these outlier foods once in a while,” said Kim Larson, RDN, NBC-HWC, BS, founder of Total Health, Seattle, WA.  

Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It - Taking You from Label to Table added: “I recommend foods that have value as providing energy, providing nutrients, and making you feel good physically. Foods that I don’t recommend tend to not have good value. But I don’t like using the word ‘avoid’ since the foods often appearing on the ‘avoid’ list are those chosen first when the diet is over!”

That being said, however, there are certain foods that nutritionists themselves refuse to eat. And, since they’re the experts, perhaps we should all follow suit, and try to avoid these food choices like they do.

Here’s a list of eight foods that are nutritionist no-nos!

White bread

“This highly refined food is devoid of the fiber, phytochemicals, and micronutrients that our bodies need,” explained Larson. In white bread, the bran, germ, and endosperm layers of the whole grain have all been stripped away.

She continued: “Besides the lack of nutrition, there is the fact that the physiologic digestion and absorption of these simple carbs causes rapid insulin spikes, which is something we want to avoid.”

“If you are trying to manage your weight and your hunger level, it’s key to be aware of what white bread cannot do for your body,” she concluded.

Cheese in a can

This isn’t even real cheese, noted Amy Hess-Fischl, MS, RDN, LDN, BC-ADM, CDE, University of Chicago Medicine Kovler Diabetes Center, Chicago, IL.

“There is just no viable reason to use [cheese in a can] because it is loaded with artificial ingredients and has a lot of sodium and fat,” she said. “You would be better off having a small amount (1 oz is a serving) of real cheese, which will give you some protein and calcium.”

Take Cheez Whiz, for example. At 80 calories per 2 tablespoons plus 450 mg of sodium and no nutritional value, why would you rather eat this than actual cheese? One tablespoon of shredded Parmesan cheese is just 20 calories, and has 2 g protein. Plus, it adds a wonderful flavor to your foods. Ditto for cheddar—a single 1-oz serving contains 114 calories, 7 g protein, and 9 g fat.

Regular soft drinks

Soda pop, sweetened iced tea, and fizzy beverages of any kind are off limits, according to Larson. “These types of drinks are a sugar bomb in our bodies and are an instant dump of sugar into our bloodstream. When that happens, your blood sugar spikes immediately, which causes a rapid release of insulin to bring it down,” she explained.

When your blood sugar drops, you feel hungry and lethargic. “This roller-coaster phenomenon wreaks havoc with not only insulin regulation, but also our hunger hormones, and it sets us up to never feel satisfied with the constant battle of up and down blood sugars,” she added.

Bacon

Bacon is made with preservatives, is high in fat and sodium, and doesn’t have much protein. Plus, like other meat, bacon contains a lot of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are proteins, lipids, or nucleic acids that are glycated in the presence of sugars. AGEs are considered to be glycotoxins, and may actually increase oxidative stress and inflammation in the body in excessive amounts.  

“If someone really loves bacon, then maybe crumble a strip on top of your salad instead of having several strips to accompany your eggs,” advised Taub-Dix.

Packaged muffins

These individually packaged muffins sold in grocery stores and takeout shops can contain up to 700 calories and not much else, noted Taub-Dix. “These are the croissants and muffins you find in airports sometimes, and they are ultra-processed and made from highly refined grains, excess sugar, and unhealthy fats,” she said.

Veggie sticks and potato chips

Potato chips are not just crunchy, they are high in fat and salt as well. “They completely hook our brains with these flavors,” according to Larson. “They cause us to want more of those tastes and flavors by engaging the brain and increasing the neurotransmitter responses to these foods, making us feel good, at least temporarily.”

As for veggie sticks and straws, Hess-Fischl clarified that “these highly processed snacks, unlike vegetables, have no fiber.”

Although these snacks try to capitalize on the idea that they are made from vegetables—like tomatoes, spinach, and potatoes—“they have none of the phytochemicals, vitamins, or minerals you would find in vegetables,” added Hess-Fischl.

And despite being cholesterol- and gluten-free, with no artificial flavors or preservatives, one serving of one particular brand of vegetable sticks contains 7 g fat, 250 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 1 g protein, and 130 calories. That’s not a lot of nutritional goodness.

Sweetened cereal

“These are refined, ultra-processed carbs that come in boxes or packages,” Larson said. “And these highly refined junk carbs cause us to want more and more.”

“Most cereals are highly processed, and many are full of sugar,” stated Diane Norwood, MS, RD, CDE, and creator of “The Wandering RD” blog.

Take Frosted Flakes, for example. One ¾-cup serving of this sugary favorite contains 110 calories, 0 g fat, 150 mg of sodium, 0.5 g fiber, 1 g protein and 10 g sugar. In addition, these sugar-coated flakes have 0 mg calcium, but provide 35 mg of potassium. Nevertheless, the high-sugar, low-fiber content is just not worth the minute amounts of fiber and potassium. You’d be better off just eating a banana.

Microwave and movie-theater popcorn

“I never have movie theater popcorn—ever!” said Hess-Fischl. “The calories and fat are just not worth it. A large tub can have up to 1,000 calories and 40 grams of fat.” As for microwave popcorn, it tends to be loaded with artificial flavors, sodium and preservatives, and often contains trans fats.

Instead, choose a packaged air-popped corn or make your own in less than 10 minutes, Hess-Fischl recommended.  “You can pop your own on the stove in no time and you can control the amount of sodium and the type of oil you use,” she said.

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