The Verdict on the Worst Foods You Can Eat, According to Dietitians
Each year, countless people commit to making their lives healthier. They start exercising more, make an effort to get more consistent sleep, and make a conscious effort to revamp their eating habits. However, despite all these attempts to achieve greater wellbeing, many people still find themselves struggling to make headway when it comes to living a healthier lifestyle or losing weight.
Luckily, if you do want to improve your overall health, there's a surprisingly simple way forward: cutting out some of the unhealthy foods making their way onto your plate on a regular basis. With the help of registered dietitians, we've rounded up the worst foods you can eat—and some of them might just surprise you. And for more ways to makeover your eating habits, start by adding The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now to your diet.
There are plenty of healthy sources of protein out there, but preservative-laden processed meats definitely don't number among them.
"Processed meats, including pepperoni, sausage, hot dogs, bacon, beef jerky, and deli meats like turkey, ham, and roast beef, contain added nitrates and nitrites that have been linked to increased risk of colorectal cancer. Even items labeled nitrate-free can still contain small amounts of cancer-causing substances," says registered dietitian Sarah Williams, MS, RD, founder of Sweet Balance Nutrition. "To eat less processed meats, choose other protein foods like grilled chicken, eggs, beans, fish, and tofu," Williams adds.
It's not just the type of meat you're eating that you may have to worry about—how it's prepared could affect your health, as well.
"Regular consumption of charred foods such as barbequed meats may increase cancer risk due to char's carcinogenic effect on the body," says Isa Kujawski, MPH, RDN, founder and owner of Mea Nutrition.
A 2017 meta-analysis published in Nutrients found that increased consumption of potentially carcinogenic compounds found in charred meats was positively associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
If you want to improve the quality of your diet, start by ditching sugary cereal from your meal plan now.
"Sugary cereals spike insulin levels because they contain high amounts of refined sugar and carbohydrates with little to no fiber. They also often contain high amounts of refined sugar, dyes, and preservatives with low nutritional benefit," says Kujawski. "Sugary cereals are highly palatable, meaning they are designed to pack a flavor punch making it hard to eat just one serving," she adds.
In fact, a 2011 study published in Pediatrics found that sugary cereals not only contributed to a higher total sugar intake in children but also reduced the nutritional quality of their breakfast overall.
Pre-seasoned pasta and rice
While you don't have to completely give up your favorite carbohydrates to lead a healthier life, you might want to ditch those pre-seasoned rice and pasta dishes in your pantry or freezer.
"Pre-seasoned pasta or rice pouches often contain up to half of your daily sodium needs (or more) in one serving. Sodium intake is important because it can contribute to high blood pressure," Williams explains. "Instead, buy plain pasta and rice and add your own seasonings like garlic, lemon, and fresh herbs," she suggests.
To find out how your favorite morning meal stacks up, check out The 28 Worst Breakfast Cereals—Ranked!
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