As a rule of thumb, I don’t like to demonize food. Even if you’re trying to trim down and tone-up, there’s room for fun stuff. My philosophy is if you love ice-cream, eat ice-cream, but do it in moderation.
However, I feel more adversarial about imposter foods. That is, those foods that are dubbed as ‘healthy’ but have a dark side. It’s easy to think that you’re doing something good for your body eating these foods day in and day out, when really you could be putting yourself at risk.
Here’s 6 ‘healthy’ imposters that are off my menu:
#1: Processed Lean Meat.
I try to steer clear of salted, cured, fermented, and fermented meats like ham, and other deli meats, even if they’re on the lean side. Processed meat is labeled as a World Health Organization level 1 carcinogen . This means that there is convincing epidemiological evidence to suggest that eating processed meat on a regular basis increases cancer risk, particularly of the colon and rectum . Processed meat is often rich in salt, nitrites and many other unidentifiable chemicals, which may impact blood pressure, and cancer risk .
#2: Charred Meat.
I like a good barbecue just as much as the next person, but I avoid hyper-charred meat, poultry and seafood, even if it’s one of the leaner cuts. When meat, poultry and seafood are cooked at a high temperature, animal fat melts and smokes, and proteins undergo a variety of changes. Both of these processes result in the formation of carcinogenic hydrocarbons, which have been linked to a variety of cancers . More on this topic here.
#3: Sugar-Free Desserts/ Yogurt.
Sugar is the latest nutrition demon, but that doesn’t mean that sugar-free products are better for you. Sugar-free ice-cream, pudding and yogurt is often loaded with artificial sweeteners like aspartame, and sucralose, which provide little satiation, and can cause GI distress in excess. Many artificial sweeteners are more than 100 times sweeter than regular sugar (crazy, I know), which may recalibrate your palate for sweeter foods.
#4: Most Protein Bars.
Protein bars are touted as a post-workout go-to for building muscle, but they’re often packed with a slew of nasty ingredients. Many protein bars are hidden sources of saturated and trans fat, as well as artificial sweeteners. In addition, some contain soy protein isolate-- a concentrated source of soy protein. Soy is a weak estrogen mimetic that appears to be safe for most, however there is little data on the long term impact of consuming highly concentrated/unnatural forms of soy such as soy protein isolate [4,5].
#5: 'Diet' TV Dinners.
The TV dinner market has come along way, with companies increasingly turning to whole food-based options, however there’s still much work to be done. Low-calorie TV dinners may be light on energy, but many are packed with trans fat, salt, and a myriad of artificial ingredients. Trans fat like partially hydrogenated vegetable oil are banned in many countries because they increase bad cholesterol and inflammation, and reduce good cholesterol, among other things.
#6: Cheese-Flavored Baked Chips.
Baked chips are the go-to healthy choice for many chip lovers, however they’re something that I try to stay away from. Yes, they’re lower in fat and Calories than the traditional version but these frighteningly luminous snacks are packed with artificial colors, flavors, and highly refined carbohydrate. Without the fat, they provide little satiation and boost blood sugar rapidly just like sweets.
 Q&A on the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat. World Health Organization, International Agency For Research on Cancer. 2015 Oct.
 Dietary Nitrates, Nitrites, and Nitrosamines Intake and the Risk of Gastric Cancer: A Meta-Analysis. Song P, Wu L, Guan W. Nutrients. 2015 Dec 1;7(12):9872-95. doi: 10.3390/nu7125505. Review.
 Well-done meat intake, heterocyclic amine exposure, and cancer risk. Zheng W, Lee SA.Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(4):437-46. doi: 10.1080/01635580802710741. Review.
 Phytoestrogens and breast cancer: a complex story. Helferich WG, Andrade JE, Hoagland MS. Inflammopharmacology. 2008 Oct;16(5):219-26. doi: 10.1007/s10787-008-8020-0. Review.
 Soy intake and risk of endocrine-related gynaecological cancer: a meta-analysis. Myung SK, Ju W, Choi HJ, Kim SC; Korean Meta-Analysis (KORMA) Study Group. BJOG. 2009 Dec;116(13):1697-705. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2009.02322.x. Epub 2009 Sep 19. Review.