Sugar. Saturated fats.
Dairy. Gluten. Meat.
Low fat. High fat. Low carb. High carb.
With the abundance of health information and the constant stream of health fads out there, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed — not to mention confused — by what we should and shouldn’t be eating in order to be healthy.
When we’re on the quest to become healthier, a huge factor affecting our diet isn’t what we eat — but what we don’t eat.
Today, we’re going to get to the bottom of what the ultimate unhealthy foods are to avoid.
We’ll share the worst foods to eat, why “unhealthy” food is bad for us in the first place and the top 5 types of unhealthy foods to kick out of your diet for good.
Why Is Unhealthy Food Bad For You?
Unhealthy foods that contain a lot of sugar raise our insulin resistance and makes us want to eat more and more of the sugary foods.
All of these unhealthy processed foods also lack the essential nutrients our bodies need to function.
Instead, they’re packed with chemical additives that trigger a dopamine response in our bodies — ultimately trapping us in an unhealthy food addiction cycle.
How can I tell if I’ve eaten unhealthy food?
A good way to tell if something is unhealthy is in your body’s response.
Namely: feeling bloated or tired after the meal.
Feeling bloated and tired is a hallmark inflammatory response. This is our body telling us that it has to work extra hard to get rid of whatever we’ve put into it.
When we feel tired and heavy after a meal, our body has to work extra hard to digest and break down what we ate.
The answer? Start studying your body’s responses.
Keep a food journal or take a moment to reflect before, during and after a meal.
How does what you’re eating make you feel?
Be honest with yourself and record your responses alongside what you’ve consumed.
We can also avoid many unhealthy foods by simply taking a minute to reflect on where the food came from in the first place.
Did it grow on a tree? Come from the ground? Was it ever alive?
Was it modified in some way that may have stripped its original nutrients?
Were there any preservatives or chemicals added to help it stay “fresh” during the packaging process?
Did our ancestors hundreds of years ago eat it?
Eric Edmeades, serial entrepreneur, author & speaker, describes how we’ve become disassociated with the food we eat today.
In his revolutionary nutritional re-set program, Wildfit, Eric explains how all our health problems come from the discrepancy between what we were genetically wired to eat, and what we’re actually eating today.
THE MORE CLOSELY A SPECIES ADHERE TO THEIR NATURAL EVOLVED DIET, THE HEALTHIER THAT SPECIES WILL BE.
— ERIC EDMEADES, AUTHOR OF MINDVALLEY’S WILDFIT PROGRAM
What Are Unhealthy Foods To Avoid?
When it comes to steering clear of bad food, there are 5 culprits that we should try to avoid at all costs.
Here are 5 unhealthy foods to avoid:
This sneaky substance is notorious for showing up in foods and drinks we never would have thought twice about.
Here’s where checking the label is important.
If sugar is listed in the top 3 ingredients, it’s best to stay clear of that food altogether. (Make sure to check the total sugar content as well, just in case.)
But here’s where it gets tricky — sugar can be disguised under up to 65 different names! Yikes!
From high fructose corn syrup to dextrose and muscovado (um – what?), this tricky substance can be disguised under a host of names to stay hidden inside our favorite (unhealthy) foods.
And one of the most common unhealthy foods to avoid? Sugary drinks.
Piles of sugar (literally) are often hiding in seemingly healthy fruit drinks, as well as so-called “sport” or “energy” drinks.
We should know to stay clear of the most obvious culprits, like soda and pop, but many so-called healthy smoothie drinks also contain a staggering amount of sugar, as do many drinkable yogurts.
We also need to be on the lookout for sneaky sugar making its way into disguised “healthy” snacks, such as granola bars, instant oatmeal, and almost all breakfast cereals.
The key here is to always check the ingredient list.
Not all smoothies or granola bars are necessarily “bad” for us, but by taking a minute to read the label and see what we’re actually putting into our bodies, we practice becoming a more mindful consumer and can make conscious decisions on what we’re choosing to fuel our bodies with.
What to choose instead of sugar:
Our bodies need sugar to function, but it should come from naturally occurring sugar — not from a chemically isolated refined version.
One of the best sources of natural sugar is fruit.
Instead of that store-bought smoothie, make your own by throwing a bunch of fresh (or frozen) fruits into a blender, and voila — you’ve got yourself a home-made healthy breakfast in no time.
In fact, ripe banana is the perfect way to sweeten up your smoothie while providing a smooth, creamy consistency. Banana is also a fantastic sweetener in many baking recipes. (Applesauce works too!)
If you’re having yogurt, get it unsweetened. If the unsweetened version isn’t cutting it, throw some fresh blueberries into the mix, or add a drizzle of honey.
2. Processed foods
Does the title give it away?
“Processed” foods aren’t quite food. They’re more like a “food-like” mix of different chemicals, preservatives and additives trying to disguise itself as a “food-like” product.
And man. Are those food marketers ever good.
Cheetos (or most any other kinds of chips), fruit loops cereal (check the label — is there any actual fruit in there?) and fish sticks are just some examples of food-like products that we’ve been tricked into eating.
Processed sandwich meat, hot dogs, and cheese wiz are more examples of food so processed that they’re entirely devoid of nutrition. Just because you can put it in your body doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
These unhealthy foods are often high in artificial additives, food dyes and other preservatives in their efforts to pose as something we should be eating. These added chemicals work to make our tastebuds want more and more of the unhealthy food we’re eating, but don’t provide any of the essential nutrients our bodies really need.
What to choose instead of processed foods:
Think of some of the unhealthy foods you like and trace them back to the source.
For example, a McDonalds hamburger?
Why don’t you sub the sugar-sweetened bun and processed meat patty for a straight-up T-bone BBQ’d steak?
Love fish sticks?
Bake or sautée some fresh, organic fish fillets yourself.
Processed foods are shallow imitations of the real thing. And when you opt for whole foods over processed, your body will thank you.
3. Hydrogenated oils
Think deep-fried food here — french fries, calamari, onion rings, donuts — anything that’s been boiling in low quality, hydrogenated oil (canola or vegetable oil) is simply a bad idea to be putting into your body.
Most fast-food will be deep-fried using low quality, hydrogenated oil.
Additionally, these types of unhealthy foods are often combined with other things we want to avoid — like excess salt, sugar and more of those chemical preservatives and food dyes.
What to choose instead of hydrogenated oils:
Make sure your diet contains healthy fats. Our bodies need fat to function optimally and perform at our highest level.
Foods like avocados, macadamia nuts, almonds, and coconut are great ways to satiate our hunger while getting lots of essential nutrients.
Toss these in abundance into any salad, smoothie or just snack on them on their own.
Coconut or avocado oil can be used when sautéeing vegetables, and a dash of coconut milk in any soup, stew or smoothie adds thickness and flavor.
Check out these healthy recipes for more ideas on what to create in the kitchen the next time you’re trying to avoid any unhealthy foods.
4. Unbleached flour or gluten
In Eric Edmeades’ exclusive Wildfit Program, he explains how grains were only added into the human diet a few centuries ago.
And because our bodies still haven’t completely developed the digestive mechanisms to consume grains, foods like bread, bagels, and pizza often cause digestive distress.
Ever notice how you feel heavy and bloated after eating pizza or pasta?
Digestion can take up to 70% of the body’s available energy. And when it’s having to work extra hard to digest whatever unhealthy food we just ate, it’s taking up energy that could be going towards repairing our cells, or having more extra energy for output — like going for a run!
What to choose instead of gluten:
This one’s easy.
Thanks to growing food consumer education, most people today know to limit the amount of unbleached flour and gluten in their diets, so many wheat-based products often come with gluten-free alternatives.
Corn tortillas instead of flour-based ones.
Gluten-free bread, pasta, and pizza are also common in most groceries stores.
When baking, use almond, buckwheat or amaranth flour instead of white flour.
Your gut and energy levels will thank you!
5. Fake food
These types of food go beyond processed into the realm of complete nonsense.
We’re talking about coffee creamer, pancake syrup, frosting, mayonnaise, and margarine.
The problem with coffee creamer? There’s no cream!
The first three ingredients listed on Nestle’s Coffee-Mate’s popular creamers: water, sugar, and soybean and/or canola oil.
Is that really what you want to add to your morning cup of joe?
Coffee creamers can also have synthetic additives like mono-diglycerides.
I’ll pass, thanks.
Oh, and frosting?
Let’s think about this for a minute.
Does it come from a plant? Does it grow in the ground?
Frosting is literally sugar whipped with a laundry list of cringe-worthy chemicals and additives. You’d honestly be better off eating spoonfuls of white sugar straight from the bag.
And you’d be astonished by how many “syrup” brands contain not a single drop of maple syrup. There’s syrup alright — but it’s high-fructose corn syrup — coupled with caramel dye.
What to choose instead of fake food:
You can make a healthier version of mayo at home by blending Greek yogurt, lemon juice, mustard, pepper, and spices. You’ll save more than 200 calories and 20 grams of fat per quarter-cup serving.
Plus, Greek yogurt is rich in protein and calcium, so it makes for a heartier, healthier spread.
Adding a dash of coconut milk is a great way to add richness to any cup of coffee (or sauce, smoothie or soup for that matter).
Ditch the fake corn syrup for the real stuff — but be conservative. While real maple syrup is preferable to the fake kind, it’s still high in sugar and should be used sparingly.
6 ways to eliminate toxic foods from your diet
When it comes to kicking the garbage out of your daily diet, there are some general rules of thumb to adopt:
- Labels. Always check labels and read the ingredient list carefully.
- Avoid the aisles. Try to complete the bulk of your shopping in the produce section and avoid the aisles — typically filled with processed, canned, and “shelf-stable” foods.
- Long expiry dates. Long expiry dates aren’t impressive. They signify a bunch of additives and preservatives — stay clear of these!
- Long ingredient lists. The longer the ingredient list, the higher the likelihood that it’s unhealthy food.
- Thirst response. If something makes us feel thirsty after eating it, it’s a sign that it’s dehydrating our body due to added salts or chemicals.
What is the unhealthiest food?
The worst foods to eat are those that combine the most ingredients that we want to avoid (sugar, hydrogenated oil, gluten) and have high amounts of chemical preservatives and additives.
But the bottom line is that is that there is no one single unhealthy food that you should avoid.
Eating an “unhealthy food” now and again isn’t going to set you back or make you an unhealthy person.
It’s about making healthier choices day by day, meal by meal.
It’s about making sure we have more good food than bad food.
Opting for whole, ethically sourced, local food over something packaged, prepared or processed.
What we put into our body’s literally becomes us.
‘DIET’ DOES NOT MEAN ‘TEMPORARY ALTERATION OF YOUR LIFE FOR SHORT-TERM GAIN,’ IT MEANS ‘WAY OF LIFE.’
— ERIC EDMEADES, Author of Mindvalley’s WildFit Program
So, are you choosing to fuel your body with the right food to become the best version of yourself?
The choice is yours.
What are some of the unhealthy foods you regularly eat that you’re going to avoid from now on? What are you going to have instead? Let us know in the comments below!