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Ask Health Coach Maria: What Are the Worst Foods You Can Eat?

February 7, 2014

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Hi, I’m Maria Marlowe, a Certified Health Coach and author of Detox without the DeprivationI love to explain why you are what you eat and have made it my mission to help the world get healthy through better nutrition. In the“Ask Health Coach Maria” series, I answer frequently asked questions that relate to health and wellness.

Nobody likes being pulled over by the food police, but this week, you can call me Officer Maria. Forgive me for sounding the siren, but the worst type of prison you could ever end up in is your own body in poor health.

So this week, I’m answering the question, “what are the worst foods you can eat?” I’ve chosen to outline three “bad guys” that are extremely common, yet all have deleterious health effects. Personally, they will never pass my lips. And as long as I’m playing food cop, they won’t pass yours, either.

Soda (Diet and Regular)

We all know regular soda is loaded with sugar and is associated with weight gain and diabetes. Diet soda might seem like a healthy alternative, but in reality, it’s even worse!

A University of Texas study found that drinking 1-2 cans of diet soda a day increases your risk of obesity by 54.5%, compared to 32.8% for those drinking the same amount of regular soda. Bottom line? Drinking diet soda regularly will likely lead to weight gain, not loss.

And diet soda affects more than just your weight. A study by the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine found that regular consumption of diet cola increases your risk of a cardiac event by 61%.

On top of that, the artificial sweeteners used in them, like aspartame, are known neurotoxins.

If you currently drink soda, try switching to stevia-sweetened beverages or club soda. Of course, the best choice is water, but don’t feel bad for using other beverages to wean off it, if needed.

Anything with Partially Hydrogenated Oils

Microwave popcorn, cookies, and other snack foods are common places you’ll find partially hydrogenated oils, otherwise knows as trans-fat. 

The reason you want to avoid trans-fat at all costs? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it causes up to 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 cardiac deaths each year.

Avoiding these foods will hopefully become easier in 2014, as the FDA recently reversed its stance on it, and has now issued a warning that trans-fat is no longer “generally recognized as safe.” As such, it will (hopefully) soon be outlawed, and banished from all foods sold in US, but until then, it’s still sitting in thousands of food products on store shelves.

In the meantime, don’t be fooled if you see a package that says trans-fat free! Because of a labeling loophole, a package can say 0 grams trans fat on the front and on the nutrition panel, even if a serving contains up to 0.5 grams of it. The best way to ensure you’re not consuming it is to read the ingredient list and avoid anything that contains any type of partially hydrogenated oil. You may be surprised at how many foods contain trans fat, but you’ll also be pleased at how many healthy—and delicious—alternatives are out there.

Non-Organic Meat

Conventionally raised meat is pumped with synthetic hormones (which are linked to cancer) and antibiotics (which can lead to antibiotic resistance). The European Union has banned hormone-treated American beef since 1989 due to health concerns.

Pretty scary, huh? If you’re going to eat meat, make sure it’s the highest quality you can get. Choose organically raised meat, which doesn’t contain synthetic hormones or antibiotics. If you can’t find organic meat at the grocery store, try your local farmer’s market.

If cutting these three foods out of your diet seems overwhelming, don’t panic. As someone who grew up eating T-bone steaks, drinking soda, and subsisting on little else besides junk food, I’m here to tell you eliminating these foods is a lot easier than you think.

For meat, opt to go “vegetarian” when you eat out, and save meat for home cooked meals, when you can choose organic. Another option is to search online or use the HappyCow app to find farm-to-table, organic restaurants, which are becoming more and more common.

For snack foods, I assure you there is a healthier version of just about everything, so it’s just a matter of being diligent about reading ingredient lists, and choosing brands that don’t contain questionable ingredients.

And as for soda, if you miss the bubbles, choose club soda or sparkling water. If you miss the flavor, add cut up fruit or lemon or lime slices to water. As mentioned above, natural stevia-sweetened sodas are also an option.   

No matter where you are in your health journey, just remember that you don’t have to change your eating habits overnight; it’s a process that happens gradually over time. If you need help or more substitution ideas, leave us a comment below.

Know someone who consumes these products regularly? Send them a link to this article.

What are some other unhealthy foods you think should be added to this list?