Six “Unhealthy” Foods You Thought You Shouldn’t Eat

Six “Unhealthy” Foods You Thought You Shouldn’t Eat

Should the majority of your diet consist of processed, non-organic, whole foods? Probably not, but in moderation, indulgence meals can help you adhere to a lifelong nutritional plan, make eating little more enjoyable, and have mental health benefits……we all need a little pizza in our lives here and there.


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. Often times I see people try to make too many nutritional changes at once, and can only adhere to that for a few weeks. Once they start to break down and “cheat,” they think they have failed their new life changes and will not be able to reach their nutritional goals without being 100% perfect. This is where a little variety comes into play in keeping your nutrition plan sustainable!

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 of 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.
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.


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, none of them have any inherent dangers when eaten in moderation with a diet that’s balanced and nutrient-dense.



Let’s start with a doozy and get your attention and possible outrage.
Yes, I’m aware 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 accidently 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 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 decent low calorie meal, that satisfies your hunger, taste great and doesn’t ruin your day or your progress… It can happen.

Hopefully you live in the world where you can always prepare all your foods for the entire week and you never have to go to fast food or meet people at one, but reality is you may not always be prepared or be able to avoid social situations. This goes for restaurants, too. Fast food is not the best choice, based on most of the meal choices are high calorie and nutritiously void, but if you do research to make “good” fast food choices ( balanced and low calorie) they can fit within moderation of an overall healthy diet. (Our Balanced Habits LIFE program helps you break down accurate meal options just for you at various fast food places)

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. No more than 1-2 time per week for fast food consumption, or it will disrupt your health progress!

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.



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.
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? Personally, 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 un-healthier 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. 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 heavy 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 in whole is good. Red meat can actually be excellent add to your diet. Only about 3-4 ounces at one meal is needed, and anything more is in excess.

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.



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. 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 6pm (which is a whole other 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 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 glycemic index of that food.

2) It doesn’t take in 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 in consideration the amount. In the studies to figure glycemic index the amount carbs used were 50g, depending on want fruit you eat, that can be a lot of fruit.

4) And most important part is that in caloric deficit or at maintenance calories an insulin spike doesn’t affect 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 concern to health and body composition. 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!

I recommend no more than one piece of fruit at one sitting; 1 apple/pear/orange or 1-2 cups of blueberries/strawberries. Stay away from dried fruit though, it takes away all of the fluids from the fruit, which concentrates the sugar, causing the carb and calorie count to go way up in relation to the serving size.

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



This goes with the same as fruit debate, so I spare the glycemic lecture, but white potatoes have 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 certain context. We sometimes focus on micro-nutrient density (how many vitamin 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!

I recommend you not eat more than 1-1 ½ cups of potatoes per meal.

Benefits: It’s low calorie and high volume food, good energy source, high potassium, are stuffed with phyto-nutrients, low sodium, cheap and versatile.



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 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.

I recommend no more than 1-2 pieces of bread or half a bagel at one meal for your carbohydrate intake.

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!



I know these fast food chains and dive bar creatures have bread, the “bad carb” and red meat! When people picture an un-healthy 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 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!

I recommend to eat ½ the burger with a small veggie side or the whole burger with no sides.

Benefits- A cheese burger 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 a family BBQ’s.


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.


Anna Sherry
Pursuit Fitness and Performance Food Coach