Dietitians list foods to avoid

Local experts say don't consume these products at home, on the road

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter



Ditch gluten. Avoid carbohydrates. Choose low-fat.

Everybody has an opinion about which types of foods should and shouldn’t be eaten.

Dietitians typically encourage balanced diets with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables while keeping an eye on the amount of added sugar and sodium being eaten.

Local dietitians say they don’t categorize food as “good” or “bad.” They’re open to most foods, and they eat the less nutritious stuff sometimes, too.

“I just choose to eat them less frequently and in small quantities,” said Chris Collins, a clinical dietitian at the Center for Weight Management at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.

But they do still have foods and drinks they avoid bringing into their homes for a variety of different reasons, including lack of nutritional value, food safety and sustainability.

Here are some of those items, along with their explanations for avoiding them:

o Energy drinks, soda: “These are chemical-laden, liquid-candy, caffeine stimulants,” said Jendy Newman, a registered dietitian at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center’s Diabetes, Endocrine and Nutrition Center. “If you feel you need these, then you would benefit from re-evaluating your life balance, sleep habits and nutrition.”

The caffeine content in the drinks can be up to three times higher than the average cup of coffee. The drinks also contain high amounts of sugar with no redeeming nutritional benefits.

o Doughnuts: “Although some may eat doughnuts as an occasional treat, I choose to bypass them based on principle,” Collins said. “Doughnuts represent major excesses in the American diet: fat, sugar and baked goods.”

For the same amount of calories as a doughnut, you could eat a banana, yogurt and an English muffin and be more satisfied, she said.

o Hot dogs and bologna: “Mix nitrates/nitrites with mass-produced, low-quality meat and you have an increased cancer risk and an unsustainable food system,” Newman said.

o SunnyD, V8 Splash, Tang: These juice drinks contain little or no actual juice and offer no nutritional benefits, said Sandra Brown, food safety and nutrition educator at Washington State University Clark County Extension. SunnyD and V8 Splash contain only 5 percent juice each. Tang, a powdered juice, doesn’t contain any juice.

The drinks contain high amounts of sugar or high fructose corn syrup. SunnyD is also high in sodium; a 16-ounce serving contains 380 milligrams.

o Bagels: “These are carb bombs,” said Robin Hammon, a registered dietitian with Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center’s Diabetes and Nutrition Services. “One average bagel contains as much carbohydrate in the form of refined white flour (60-75 grams) as four slices of bread.”

o Fruit canned in syrup: While canned fruit is a quick and nutritious option, fruit canned in syrup contains two to three times more calories and simple carbohydrates than fruit canned in fruit juice, Collins said.

o Partially hydrogenated oils: Partially hydrogenated oils have been proven to decrease the amount of protective, healthy cholesterol, or HDL, said Stasha Hornbeck, a registered dietitian at Kaiser Permanente. Skipping snacks with partially hydrogenated oils is “a great way for me to wait to spend calories on a dessert that I really love,” she said.

o Coffee creamers: The ingredient lists include sugar, corn syrup solids, partially hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors, Hammon said.

o High-sodium canned soups: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily.

“If a soup has more than 500 mg of sodium per serving, I look for a lower sodium choice,” Collins said.

o Margarines: They’re made with inflammatory omega 6 fats, such as cottonseed and soybean oils, and contain added artificial ingredients, including colorings and flavorings, Hammon said.

o Undercooked ground beef, raw seafood: Ground beef that is not fully cooked to 160 degrees is susceptible to bacteria growth, including E. coli and salmonella, Collins said. “If it’s pink, I’ll pass,” she said.

For Newman, getting sick from raw seafood, such as oysters and sashimi, isn’t worth the risk. She opts for cooked versions of the foods.

o French fries: Fries contain acrylamide, a known carcinogen, in addition to trans fats and damaged fats due to high-temperature cooking, Hammon said.

o Low-fat foods: These products, which are assumed to be healthier replacements, often require extra processing to remove naturally occurring fats and save calories, Hammon said. The fats are replaced with more starches and sugars, artificial flavors, texturizing agents, sodium and other ingredients to make the products edible.