These days it is rare to find two dietitians, nutritionists or food fanatics who can agree on the same thing - particularly when it comes to what to eat for optimising health.
We have social media to thank for an increased array of contradicting messages which leaves everybody confused and frustrated (even health professionals!).
However, there are some foods that we can all agree should be limited when it comes to building a healthier, happier lifestyle…
#1 Soft Drinks
The food industry adores soft drinks.
I mean, when a product has a whole supermarket aisle to themselves, you know they bring in the big bucks.
But did you know that a single 600ml soft drink has 16 teaspoons of sugar in it? Six-teen!
And what’s mind-blowing? You can buy a whole litre of the stuff for just 60 cents!
Thanks to drinks like these being the go-to thirst-quenchers for many Australians, we are consuming 22kg of sugar every year. The 2011-12 Australian Health Survey revealed that sugar-sweetened beverages were the greatest source of added sugar in the Australian diet, and young adults (18-35 yo) were the highest consumers.
Soft drinks are not only bad for our waistlines, but they are also damaging to our teeth and bones due to their high phosphoric acid content. This goes for diet varieties of soft drinks too, so don’t get any ideas there.
Approximately half of Australia’s 12 year-olds have tooth decay in their adult teeth. I think we can all agree that this statistic is absolutely astounding.
So, while soft drinks seem like a delicious, cheap, and easy option right now, you might want to take a step back and consider the health, and dental expenses, you’ll face down the track.
If you’re interested in reading more about how to reduce your sugar intake, check out SugarByHalf for some helpful tips and tricks.
#2 Highly-Processed Meat Products
Highly-processed meat products include things like hot dogs, corned beef, canned meat, sausage rolls and some meat-based sauces. These products are treated in a way that typically comes with a lot of nasty preservatives and fillers to change their taste and extend their shelf-life. They also might be bathing in sugary marinades or wrapped in flakey pastry, such as the humble sausage roll.
Meats that have been mechanically processed only, such as minced meat, should not be considered as processed meat. That’s because the ingredients and nutritional profile has not changed significantly during the process (if at all!).
High consumption of processed meat has been linked to cancer due to the potentially carcinogenic chemicals that can be formed during their processing and high-temperature cooking. Another risk, that is not often discussed, is that we tend not to know the source of these highly-processed meat products.
For example, do you know how and where the cattle were raised to produce the beef in that meat pie from the corner store?
Maybe you don’t care, but you should.
Highly processed meat products tend to use the cheapest meat available which generally means poor farming practices. The animals aren’t fed their proper diets and may endure highly stressful environments. As a result, their meat is likely to contain higher levels of toxins and omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory.
Alternatively, grass-fed red meat contains up to five times as much omega-3 fats (anti-inflammatory) than grain meat, as well as a higher content of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A and E.
So, next time you’re at the supermarket or butcher, ask for the 100% grass-fed meat and choose varieties that have minimal or no additives. You’ll be healthier for it and sleep well at night knowing that you’re supporting a more sustainable farming industry that allows their cattle to roam freely in the pastures.
#3 Deep-Fried Foods
Say it with me. Deep. Fried. Foods.
Is your mouth watering? Simply saying these words is enough to make most mouths water!
However, these foods are by far some of the biggest problems in our food supply that are often overlooked because of how common they are.
Did you know that frying oils used in takeaway shops are often cheap vegetable oils that are re-used over and over again?
Yep. Those delicious hot chips you devoured yesterday might have been fried in the same oil as the hot chips you ate a week ago! Gross right?
These practices create trans and hydrogenated fats - something we all know is bad for us. Once these fats are inside your body, they contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation and leave your precious cells more vulnerable to damage and less efficient at carrying out their usual functions. This can cause you to be more susceptible to illness and disease. Yikes.
In a society where our bodies are already under so much stress, it’s important for us to keep the stressors that we can control to a minimum.
#4 Sugary Cereals
Breakfast cereals are often considered a healthy option.
Breakfast - being the most important meal of the day, and cereal - being packed full of fibre and wholegrains. Right?
Breakfast cereals tend to contain more sugar, artificial colours, flavourings and preservatives than they do actual cereal. Especially the ones that are targeted at young children.
Just check the ‘best before’ date and consider whether you think a so-called ‘health food’ should last that long. We all know that they shouldn’t.
Unfortunately, these cereals are full of sugar and are not real food. Flip over the box and in the ingredients list you’ll find sugar, malt, nectar, honey, syrup and fruit juice concentrate - in other words, sugar, sugar, and more sugar.
If you’re interested in learning the ridiculously extensive names for sugar, check out this article by Hungry for Change.
So, what could you have instead?
Let’s move away from the idea that we can only have cereal for breakfast and put our thinking caps on. Here are some simple breakfast suggestions:
2 slices of the Protein Bread Co. low-carb bread with avocado and a poached egg
Natural (no added sugar) yoghurt with a handful of raw nuts and fresh berries. Tip: Mix it up by going for fruit that is in season!
Green smoothie made with banana, shredded coconut, cucumber, spinach, mint, a good dollop of natural yoghurt and milk of your choice
Roasted sweet potato with avocado, crushed walnuts, fresh tomato and crumbled feta
Whole-egg omelette filled with just about any veggies you like. My favourite combo? Onion, mushroom, zucchini, capsicum, and shredded cheese! Delish!
Last night’s leftovers (because why not?)
#5 Fruit Juice
No matter which way you look at it, freshly squeezed or out of a bottle, juice is just not the healthy choice that many consider it to be.
Why is that?
Well, fruit juice is just the water and sugar from the fruit. The process of juicing leaves behind the fibre and most of the vitamins in the juicer. Not only is this a huge waste of good nutrition, but juice can also cause unfavourable spikes in your blood sugar levels, sending your energy levels crashing down an hour or two later.
What happens then?
Well, you’re left hungry, irritable (otherwise known as hangry), and searching for your next high!
Just 200 ml of fruit juice (less than 1 cup) has around 5 teaspoons of sugar! Considering that the World Health Organisation recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day for optimal health, this is almost your whole budget blown in a few mindless sips!
So, what can you have instead that is going to satisfy and nourish you, and quench your thirst for something fruity?
A fruit smoothie!
These are a much better option because the whole fruit is blended up, and the good stuff isn’t wasted. You can also get some good quality fat and protein by adding milk, yoghurt, nuts, seeds etc. into your smoothie. Your digestion and blood sugar levels will thank you for taking this option!
Why not try this low-sugar smoothie made with creamy avocado!
The Bottom Line?
At the end of the day, it’s about being kind to your body. Find the right balance of foods and flavours to suit your appetite and health goals!
Empower yourself by reading more food labels. Check the ingredients lists of packaged food products. Don’t be afraid to contact food manufacturers to learn about the food products that you are choosing to fuel your body with.
Eat yourself to a brighter and healthier future!