As a dietitian, people are always fascinated by the foods I eat. Truth be told, nothing is entirely off the menu, but there are a few foods that seldom grace my plate – and for good reason. Here’s a sneak peek. By Zoe Wilson.
1. Sugary cereals
Not a smart start!
You might say no to biscuits for breakfast, but some cereals have almost the same amount of sugar as a couple of original Tim Tams! Sugary cereals add unnecessary kilojoules to your morning meal, while often being devoid of fibre.
Fibre doesn’t just keep you regular, but it also takes longer to digest, so it keeps you feeling full for longer. Without it, you’ll get a quick rise in your blood sugar levels, then a quick crash – and a quick return of your hunger! So, look for high-fibre cereals made from whole grains without added sugar (such as wheat biscuits or bran flakes) and add some fruit so you get your sweet fix naturally.
2. Processed meats
Cancer risk alert
Processed meats such as Devon, bacon, ham, corned beef and salami are often sky-high in sodium. Just two slices of pre-packed ham can have up to a third of your daily sodium limit (750mg)! They also contain nitrates and nitrites, which are preservatives that have been linked to cancer.
The World Cancer Research Fund warns of strong evidence linking processed meats with bowel cancer and high-salt foods with stomach cancer and recommends we eat them rarely, if at all.
Instead, choose lean, unprocessed meat such as roast chicken, turkey or beef.
3. White chocolate
No goodies here!
White chocolate is not really chocolate…. it doesn’t actually contain any cocoa solids. Nutritionally, there’s a stark difference between white and dark. White chocolate is made from cocoa butter (which gives it the creamy mouthfeel of chocolate), with lots of sugar and milk solids thrown in so it’s high in fat, sugar and kilojoules.
White chocolate doesn’t have any of the antioxidants that give real chocolate its health benefits, as these reside in the cocoa solids.
Make your next occasional chocolate fix a dark one and you’ll be giving yourself an antioxidant boost while you’re indulging.
4. Sugar-fuelled drinks
A fast way to add kJs
Did you know if you drink a 600ml bottle of regular soft drink, you’re drinking 16 teaspoons of sugar? If there was only one thing that you stopped eating from this list, sugary drinks should be it. That includes soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, cordials and even too many juices, as these all add kilojoules to your day without giving you many other nutrients, like protein and fibre.
Those extra kilojoules contribute to weight gain, which in turn can increase the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Instead, choose water first. If you need a little flavour, add a squeeze of lemon juice, a sprig or two of mint, or try herbal teas which add flavour without the sugar.
5. Rice cakes
Ain't no satisfaction
You may think you’re doing the right thing by munching on rice cakes or corn thins. However, even though they have very few kilojoules and fat, they have a very high glycaemic index (GI).
Rice cakes have a GI of 82. To put this in context, pure glucose has a rating of 100 and a low-GI food is less than 55. This means they’re digested quickly and so your blood sugar levels rise quickly, then drop just as fast so you’re hungry soon after your snack.
Instead, opt for wholegrain crispbreads which are higher in fibre and have a lower GI so you’ll have more sustained energy throughout the afternoon.
Women steer clear!
Your traditional fish and chips could have more to it than just a high level of fat. Flake, or shark, is one of the main culprits for high mercury levels. Mercury naturally accumulates in the marine food chain, so all fish contain some. As sharks are one of the ‘top dogs’ of the sea, they often contain the most mercury.
Other high-mercury fish include swordfish, marlin, orange roughy (deep sea perch) and catfish.
Mercury from fish is generally not a problem for most people – but it’s important that women planning a pregnancy, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and children under six watch their intake.
Instead, go for fish that are higher in omega-3 fats and lower in mercury such as Atlantic salmon, mackerel, herrings, sardines and canned salmon or tuna.