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6 "Unhealthy" Foods You Thought You Shouldn't Eat

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6 "Unhealthy" Foods You Thought You Shouldn't Eat

When I was asked to write a blog about “6 "Unhealthy" Foods You Thought You Shouldn’t Eat” I literally said, “Awesome blog idea, that’s right up my alley!”

The reason for this is I was the typical strict “clean eater”, thinking that anything that was processed, manufactured, contained sugar, made with white flour, or contained chemicals was going to kill you. Or at least ruin your fitness goals!

Fun fact: 100% of food is made from chemicals.

After years of studying every piece of nutritional literature I could get my hands on, I learned through science that "clean eating" wasn’t the only way.

Should the majority of your diet consist of these things? Probably not, but in moderation, these types of foods can help you adhere to a nutritional plan, make eating a little more enjoyable, and have surprising health benefits.

Why do I care about what you eat?

Because I do! I care about helping people and I know that completely restricting certain foods, in thought that they are “bad,” can cause unnecessary difficulties in meal planning or social events.

Dieting and eating healthy can be hard enough as it is so why make it harder than it needs to be?! Also, labeling foods as “bad” and restricting them can make you desire to eat them even more. We all know how that story ends.

A 2002 study from the “Appetite” Journal, showed that restrictive diets had a far higher correlation with eating disorders, body image concern, and altered mood.

Humans do not do well with restrictions. We are like children, and when we don’t get what we want and have the chance to rebel, all hell can break loose!!

Having an understanding that you can have foods that you thought were considered “bad” or “unhealthy” without causing danger or ruining your goals, may result in lowering the novelty.

In nutrition there is nothing black and white, everything is gray. (watch for my next blog, 50 shades of whey...kidding)

There are triggers foods that can take you off your diet and those may need to be avoided. A lot of this, however; has to do with perception and sometimes a transition in educating ourselves and learning moderation.

The 6 foods below is not an attempt to convince you to eat any certain type of foods but to share another perspective and education for you to make your own decisions.

OK....we got it, now on to the list!

Why did I choose this list? Well, every food in here has at some point in recent years, been demonized for its supposed ill effects on health or body composition, yet like so many foods out there, none of them have any inherent dangers when eaten in moderation, and in the context of a diet that’s balanced and nutrient-dense.


1. Fast food:

Let’s start with a doozy and get your attention and possible outrage.

Yes, I’m aware of how horrible fast food is for you, and not asking you to make this your only food choice. However, there are benefits to eating fast food and in moderation is completely safe.

I always suggest meal prepping, but suppose this scenario happens:

You are in a rush to leave the house and accidentally left your Six Pack cooler full of perfectly portioned Tupperware goodies of chicken and broccoli! What the hell are you going to do!? You don’t have time to hit up your local natural grocery store or bake some tilapia, but you can swing through a Subway.

“No, Subway is horrible; I’ll gain weight looking at it. I read their bread has ingredients used in making yoga mats!” But, with your tummy growling like a pitbull fighting over a 100% organic milk-bone, you have no choice.

Guess what? You pick up a great low-calorie meal, that satisfies your hunger, tastes great, and doesn’t ruin your day or your progress... It can happen.

Hopefully, you live in a world where you can always prepare all your food for the entire week and you never have to go to fast food or meet people at one, but the reality is you may not always be prepared or be able to avoid social situations. This goes for restaurants, too. Fast food is probably not the best choice based on most of the meal choices are high calorie and nutritiously void, but if you research to make smarter fast food choices ( balanced and low calorie) they can fit within moderation of an overall healthy diet.

Being healthy involves being able to exercise moderation and control over foods, knowing that fast food can have a place in your plan, interacting with friends and family, and maintaining perspective. Focus on the big picture and don't sweat the small stuff.

Benefits- Certain choices can be surprising low calorie, easily available, and fast, curve cravings allowing you to adhere to your nutrition plan helps lower chances of binging and keeps you from avoiding social gatherings.


2. Red Meat:

Ever since the WHO (World Health Organization) released a statement saying red meat causes cancer, it’s been on the banned list. I not refuting their statements, I strongly agree there is a correlation between a higher intake of processed and red meats and total cases of cancer.

However, correlation does not equal causation!

For instance, ice cream sales increase in the summer, as do murder rates.

So, in that thought, the increased murder rate is due to a jump in sales of creamy frozen treats? I’m far too chill digging through a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey...Um I mean Halo Top, to be violent.

People who eat more processed and red meat tend to lead unhealthier lives in general. They’re more likely to smoke, drink, be overweight, lead inactive lifestyles, and the big one; they tend to eat less fiber.

All these factors come into play.

Also, cooking red meats where there are burnt pieces can be a higher carcinogenic. Carcinogens can lead to cancer. A simple strategy is to avoid open fire cooking and parts that are burned or preparing in ways that don’t cause burnt parts.

It also seems as though red meat has been lumped in with processed stuff.

There’s also a huge difference between something like reformed, water and additive filled, packaged ham that only has a 70% meat content, and a grass-fed sirloin steak.

Despite its innocence, red meat has once again been demonized and lumped in with its fatter, uglier, more evil cousin...processed meat. Avoiding or mostly avoiding heavily processed meats may be a good idea, but going out on a limb here and say I think a steak here and there will not harm you as long as your diet and lifestyle as a whole is good. Red meat can actually be an excellent addition to your diet.

Benefits- high in complete protein, high in iron, high in B12, high in Creatine, high satiety (feeling full), low carb, and lean cuts can be low calorie as well.


3. Fruit:

What Fruit!? I thought fruit was healthy, you may be thinking. It is, but as of late with the insulin spike scare, people have even started to demonize fruit. I Will get to why in a minute, but first...

The moment I lost respect for Wolverine;

Ok not wolverine, but sounded cooler than Hugh Jackman, which played Wolverine, a Marvel comic book character in the X-men movies. When interviewed he was asked, “how did you get your body ready for the role?” He answered by not eating carbs after 6 pm (which is a whole other blog, and a myth that should not be perpetuated), and limiting his sugar and FRUIT!!

Whaaa!? Fruit? I can only imagine his reasoning for this is because fruit contains fructose, a sugar that is considered high glycemic (the rate carbohydrates are absorbed as blood sugar). High glycemic carbs can spike insulin, a storage hormone. Well, that makes sense right? Yes, but just only in a certain context, because:

1) The glycemic index is faltered by the fact these things are measured by eaten alone. If you combine protein, fat, and fiber that will change the way the sugar will be absorbed and the glycemic index of that food.

2) It doesn’t take into consideration calories; something can be low in glycemic index, but high in calories (like oil). This doesn't have to do with insulin spike, but can definitely add to gaining weight if not conscious of your caloric intake.

3) It doesn’t take into consideration the amount. In the studies to figure glycemic index the number of carbs used was 50g, depending on what fruit you eat, that can be a lot of fruit.

4) And most important part is that in a caloric deficit or at maintenance calories an insulin spike doesn’t affect the fat gain. You can’t store something that is not there. Meaning unless you are eating more calories than you burn (caloric surplus) or have a medical issue like diabetes, insulin spikes are not that much of a concern to health and body composition. The fruit is awesome and yes, you might want to limit the amount to a degree, like any food.

Go ahead and eat fruit. And, eat a variety!

Benefits- low calories, low fat, very high in unique vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients the body needs, some high in fiber, great energy source, can curve sweet cravings keeping you from overindulging in higher calorie nutrient-deprived treats, easy to transport for travel and meal prepping, and taste yummy!.


4. White Potatoes:

This goes with the same as fruit debate, so I spare the glycemic lecture, but white potatoes have been considered evil for a long time now. Most people have switched to sweet potato, which I love too! I’m an equal potato opportunist. There are benefits to eating both.

Diets do not come down to one single food choice, but our diet as a whole and in a certain context. We sometimes focus on micro-nutrient density (how many vitamins and minerals a food has) and not enough on micronutrient diversity (the variety of vitamins and minerals in food). I will have to tell you when white potatoes are compared to sweet potatoes, the sweet potato normally comes on top nutritionally, but there are benefits to eating white potatoes to sweet potatoes.

Like lower sugar, lower sodium, higher protein (very slightly), higher potassium and iron, cheaper and biggest reason, you like their taste better or just want a dang white baked potato!

Benefits: It's low calorie and high volume food, good energy source, high potassium, are stuffed with phytonutrients, low sodium, inexpensive and versatile.


5. Bread:

The dreaded bread!

Don’t even bring the rolls to the table Mr. Texas Roadhouse waiter or you might get stabbed!
(they do provide you a knife)

It might be a good idea to lower carbohydrate intake some if your wanting to lose fat, but that does not mean you should never have bread. Now, if you have Celiac disease, a wheat allergy, or bread that just makes you feel yucky, then by all means pass it up, but if not then there is no need not to enjoy a delicious roll now and again.

Benefits- You get energy-providing complex carbs and it's high in fiber. In many cases those who choose to cut bread out also seem to have a low daily fiber intake, Per 100g bread has fewer calories than rice and pasta, it's cheap, it's convenient, and it's versatile. It also has B-vitamins, zinc, selenium, and PEOPLE LOVE BREAD!! Even Oprah!


6. Cheeseburgers:

I know these fast food chains and dive bar creatures have bread, the “bad carb" and red meat! Which we essentially covered, but I threw this bonus one in there for GoTimeTraining’s owner, Shannon Dykman, who is known to grab a burger every once in a while. When people picture an unhealthy diet, it seems the Cheeseburger is the staple American culprit junk food.

And well, yes the Cheeseburger can be rather high in calories, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make one yourself or design a lower calorie version at your favorite restaurant (most of them will customize). You can use a turkey burger, bison, or even lean ground beef to make a surprising low-calorie mouthwatering burger to quench those cravings.

It’s hard to be red-blooded American and not enjoy a cheeseburger now and again!

Benefits- A cheeseburger is a complete balanced meal with carbs, protein, and fats. They quench cravings making it easier to adhere to diet and not binge. They are high protein and simple to make or find, and fun to enjoy social events like family BBQs.


The Bottom Line

Back in the day, I was guilty of saying “food is just fuel and nutrients for my body; I don’t care about the taste. I don’t eat for enjoyment anymore.” This makes me sad about the old me.

Food should and can be enjoyed. There is nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to be extreme to be healthy and see results.

Do you have to be mindful of your calorie intake? Yes.

Do you have to eat mainly low calorie, high nutrient, and high volume food choices? Yes.

Do you have to make adjustments and new recipe creations to make food choices healthier and lower calorie? Yes.

But, you can include an array of different foods you enjoy, as long as they fit in an overall healthy diet.

Sometimes healthy is enjoying life, which can include your favorite foods.


Raymond Elliott
GoTimeTraining Lead Personal Trainer
Personal Trainer School Director
ACE & NASM Certified Personal Trainer

 

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