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What Foods To Avoid And Why

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I made the mistake of grocery shopping with my husband this weekend. He’s an educated, intelligent man and a wonderful husband and father so I was shocked to see how little regard he had for our family’s health when adding items to our cart. When I asked him about some of his choices, I realized that although he is knowledgeable about many things, basic nutrition is not one of them.

Vending Machine

I am pretty sure that when I started hyperventilating when he added a case of Ramen noodles to our cart, he thought I was being dramatic. This was nothing though, compared to near heart attack I had when he picked up a 70-count box of frozen popsicles from the SNACK aisle (NOT the frozen food section). I felt like I was shopping with a serial killer and I’m pretty sure he felt like he was shopping with an asylum escapee.

Okay, I know he wasn’t trying to intentionally harm his family. The fact of the matter is that his lack of knowledge about the dangers of his food choices will harm his family whether or not that was his intention. So, for his sake (because I make him read my website) and for yours (in case you don’t know it already), I’m going to list the foods and ingredients you should avoid, and why.

Junk Food

What’s So Bad About Processed Foods?

I know not everyone is a health nut. Sure, we all know we SHOULD choose healthy foods, but choosing not-so-healthy options isn’t so bad, right? Right! I’m not trying to convince you to avoid processed food altogether. Life’s too busy to be picking up fresh fruits, vegetables, milk, and eggs each day and whipping up every meal from scratch. I do hope you will consider the risks of relying too much on convenience foods though, because they are pretty scary.

Here’s a short list of the common side effects of additives and preservatives found in processed foods:

  • Food Allergies
  • Weight Gain
  • Inflammation and Weakened Immunity
  • Decreased Absorption of Vitamins and Minerals
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Memory Loss
  • Asthma
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Cancer

For more information go to http://www.livestrong.com/side-effects-of-food-preservatives.

If you enjoy some potato chips while watching tv Saturday night, you’re probably not going to get cancer from it. If you do it every night, you’re pushing your luck.

Here’s another thing to keep in mind, processed foods are addictive. They stimulate dopamine, in a fashion very similar to cocaine use. Thus, the more processed food you eat, the more you will crave it even when you are consuming so much that you are experiencing negative side effects. Click here to read how processed food addiction occurs.

Kraft Dinner Pasta

Ingredients To Avoid

Artificial Colors: Hard to avoid, I know, but worth skipping if you can since they have been linked to ADHD, visual and learning disorders, nerve damage, and cancer.

Artificial Sweeteners: Ironically, the biggest proven problem with artificial sweeteners is that they have a negative effect on your metabolism. If you absolutely MUST sweeten your food and/or drinks, stick with natural sweeteners like honey or stevia.

Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO): Sadly, manufacturers aren’t required to list this in the ingredients even though it can damage your liver, thyroid, heart and kidneys. To be sure to avoid it, skip citrus flavored soda.

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT): These additives are commonly found in chewing gum, chips, cereal, cookies, other snack foods, and vegetable oils.  Half your pantry, right? I’m not saying you should throw them all out, but do consider that although the FDA allows them, they are banned in England. Why? Because they have been linked to liver and kidney damage, infertility, birth defects, and cancer.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): Despite corn growers’ claims that their research shows HFCS is just as safe as sugar, there’s a pile of research on the other side showing a link to type-2 diabetes, strokes, and cancer.

Hydrogenated or Partially Hydrogenated Oil: This is loaded with trans fat which increases bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol, which increases your risk of heart disease. Oh yeah, and for those of you concerned about your weight, it increases abdominal fat. So, skip the margarine and pick up some whipped butter instead.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): Chinese food isn’t the only place you will find MSG. Watch out for it in snack foods, seasonings, canned soup, and frozen dinners. It is an excitotoxin which means it can damage or kill cells causing depression, vision impairment, and fatigue. It is also tied to obesity.

Sodium Nitrite and Nitrite: It’s hard to find affordable deli meats without them since they prevent botulism (which is the reason the FDA allows them even though they are considered dangerous). But hey, if you’re okay with headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and an increased risk of cancer, go ahead and load up.

A Simpler Strategy

I’m a strong advocate for reading nutrition labels but I understand that not everyone shares my passion. If you’d rather not spend a lot of time scavenging the ingredient list of every product you buy for the ingredients listed above, here’s an easier strategy to quickly omit a lot of unhealthy ingredients from your life:

  • Try to do most of your grocery shopping on the perimeter of the store (i.e. produce section, meat and seafood department, and dairy section).
  • If a product has more ingredients listed that you don’t recognize (or can’t pronounce) than ones that you know, don’t buy it.
  • When looking at the nutrition label, do NOT buy the item if the % Daily Value for Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, or Cholesterol is over 5%.

For more tips on how to eat and shop healthy, see “How To Eat Healthy For Life.”

23 thoughts on “What Foods To Avoid And Why”

  1. Ahhh.. Those are the foods that would make you buy. They look so good and taste sweet. However bad if you kept eating them. Those are my weakness, nevertheless I tried not to get tempted and focus on my healthy ways.

  2. I agree with you on the whole processed foods and them candy bars and stuff they are horrible for our families. I even read that some macaroni and cheeses actually have a wood pulp in them. Our body doesn’t have the enzymes to even digest that. It’s a shame the FDA approves so much garbage!

    I am not perfect but fast food and a lot of that candy is a yearly usually Halloween or Easter. My son’s Easter basket is still half full, it’s just a waste of money. I am thinking of doing some kind of healthier basket next year with some muffins and nuts, raisins. He would eat it that’s for sure!

  3. i love cooking from scratch. it is so much healthier and it actually tastes better that way. but there are times when we just can’t avoid eating processed ones.:/

  4. Thank you so much for this information! We used to use artificial sweetener but we stopped AND I am so glad we did.

  5. I switched to a clean diet a while ago and was amazed at how quickly I felt better. I am no longer tired and run down instead I am full of energy. It is hard to make the change until you do it, but it is so worth it. Great post.

  6. Thanks for the great tips! I try really hard to eat healthy too. I still buy some frozen meals but I other processed food I stay away from.

  7. Before I started my diet, that is like all I ever ate. Great info.

  8. I am trying so very hard to avoid all these foods. I think we all should eat healthier!

  9. Great article, I never knew about all those dangers. However I’m unlikely to change my habits. You only once, and I’m going to enjoy tasty food!

  10. Thank you so much for writing this article! Everyone needs to read this because we are sort of know this stuff but ignore it but at what cost? I’m gonna share this everywhere.

    I absolutely love this!! You have no idea how much. It’s scary to think what’s in our foods, it’s like someone’s trying to kill us, it’s insane.

  11. I’m as bad as your husband. i have been trying harder and harder to avoid certain things the last few years, and the more I learn the more I avoid, but sometimes I just want to say yeah grab the chips.. :/

  12. Hubby use to be realllllly bad now not so much, only if he don’t have a list. But he does know to shop the outer rim of the store, well kinda at our Safeway the back aisle is the junk aisle.

    One thing to keep in mind is 99% of the time the ends are junk usually things that are in the ads or unadvertised sales but still junk.

  13. Very, very good advice! I know, on occasion I will buy something that is so not good for me–even after reading the label–but that is usually my taste buds kicking in and I have found if I indulge I get over the craving–sometimes–snack foods like potato chips are HIGHLY addictive!! And although I have always been a label reader-I am even more so now that I have Diabetes 2!!

  14. Certainly an eye opener of a post, thank you for sharing. I always notice just how better I feel when I have actually eaten fresh natural food.

  15. This is a fantastic post, thanks for sharing… not many people take these things into consideration!

  16. Generally I don’t “avoid” any foods but I do LIMIT them. Honestly, no matter how much I’d like to be able to always cook from scratch it’s not always possible.

    The big thing a lot of people don’t think about is how much SODIUM is in a lot of processed food. When the doctor says to watch your sodium, he isn’t talking about the salt you put on your food. That’s almost negligible. It’s the sodium in frozen, canned, and other processed food you buy pre-made.

    • Thank you for your valuable insights. You are right, it would be nearly impossible (and not necessary) to completely avoid these ingredients. My hope is that people will be more aware of the risk they pose and limit consumption of them.

      I agree, sodium levels are very high in most processed foods. The average American consumes 50% more sodium they need every day. All that sodium can lead to kidney disease, heart disease, and strokes.

  17. I agree it is too hard to remeber what ingredients to avoid. I like your simple suggestions and we do our best to eat fresh when we can

  18. It is mighty scary what they put in food these days. I like my fresh fruit n veggies.

  19. It seems easier to buy foods that are bad for you than ones that are good for you. Great article.

    • Katie, I know. Eating unhealthy is easier (and cheaper!). I like to think of feeding our bodies healthy food like putting gasoline in our cars. We could put tap water in the gas tank instead, it’s cheap and easy, but the car wouldn’t run because it isn’t designed for that type of fuel.

  20. OMG! I need to make my hubby read this! He keeps running out to the store to get chips and chocolate, thinking it makes me happy, but it really makes me feel guilty. To make him feel better, I eat the chips, but afterwards if we go on a run together, he always ends up somehow in FRONT of me!


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