It’s pretty easy to know what foods are good and bad for you. Of course, homemade mac and cheese isn’t exactly the most nutritious food you can eat, and fresh berries are healthy and delicious. Even in moderation, though, some of the most calorie-laden and nutrition-devoid foods can be okay. But, there are some foods out there that you should just stay away from no matter what. What are the absolute worst foods you can eat? Read on for some of the surprising — and not so surprising — foods you should banish from your diet.
Some brands of margarine are loaded with a whole slew of unhealthy trans and saturated fats. And, many of the brands that claim to be trans fat-free are actually allowed to contain a little bit of the stuff. Margarine sticks are the absolute worst offenders here: they almost all contain those unhealthy fats. Stick with real butter in smaller doses, or reach for one of the many healthy cooking oils out there.
2. Potato Chips
This greasy, salty and carb-loaded snack are one of the worst offenders when it comes to health and nutrition. Potato chips contain ultra-unhealthy trans-fats, which can lead to increased risks of diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
3. Low-Fat Packaged Foods
There’s a very good reason that low-fat diets have mostly fallen out of fashion: the science just doesn’t really back them up anymore. Many low-fat snacks make up for that lack of fat with other types of nutrients — sugar, trans-fats and lots of carbs. Fat is not necessarily always bad. Healthy fats like olive oil and avocados, are great in small doses, and you do need these fats to maintain a healthy diet. But take a close look at the nutritional facts of any low-fat food before buying: it might be packing a whole bunch of unhealthy ingredients.
4. Frozen Meals (even “healthy” ones!)
It’s not that all frozen foods are bad — frozen vegetables and fruits, for instance, are often a healthy and economical alternative to fresh produce. But those frozen dinners? Well, what you’re gaining in convenience you’re usually losing in nutritional value. Frozen dinners often contain alarmingly high levels of salt, sugar, fat and calories. Read the label carefully, because even frozen dinners that are touted as health foods can be hiding some majorly distressing nutritional content.
5. Processed Meats
There is little nutritional value, and plenty of nutritional concerns, in smoked, cured and salted meats. Loaded with cholesterol, fat and salt, processed meats also contain plenty of preservatives that actually may increase your risk of certain types of cancer. One study conduction at the University of Hawaii found that people who ate the most processed meat had an 68 percent higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Tuna might have the worst reputation for mercury and other toxins, but swordfish, especially imported swordfish, is usually worse. Swordfish is high on the food chain, and contains more toxins because of its predatory habits. It’s also bad for the environment because swordfish are severely overfished, and fishing results in the death of countless other marine species like turtles, sharks, dolphins and seabirds.
7. Microwave Popcorn
Air-popped popcorn is a surprisingly healthy snack. But the packaged stuff? Well, microwave popcorn tends to contain plenty of scary, unhealthy additives, trans-fats and way too much salt. You can read more about the dangers of microwave popcorn here.
Stick to the stovetop stuff and pour on the real butter and salt. That way, you can control how much you want. And it tastes better, too!
8. Diet Soda.
Is diet cola worse for you than the regular stuff? In a lot of ways, yes. For more on this, read this great breakdown of 14 ways diet soda is bad for you here.
Sparkling flavored water is a good substitute, or, if you must, indulge in regular soda