We can all agree that restrictive diets are a total drag. Plus, they've been proven to be detrimental to our health in the long run. For our sanity, it's important to enjoy what we eat, and registered dieticians insist that most foods are fine in moderation. That said, "there are some foods that provide minimal nutritional benefits that we should limit or avoid," says Vandana Sheth, RD, CDE, spokesperson for the Academy Of Nutrition and Dietetics.
So how can you begin phasing them out? Angela Ginn-Meadow, RD, LDN, CDE, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that it's a gradual process: Start by eating that food less often, then cut down the portion size when you do eat it. Finally, sub in a healthier option. (Lose up to 15 pounds WITHOUT dieting with Eat Clean to Get Lean, our 21-day clean-eating meal plan.)
The bottom line is that healthy eating is about being mindful and aware of what you're consuming. Here, registered dietitians share the 5 foods you should totally nix from your diet.
"Beverages with added sugar are one of the easiest things we can cut from our diets," says Ginn-Meadow. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (about 24 g) of sugar a day, and men no more than 9 tsp. To give some perspective, one 20 oz lemon-lime soda has a whopping 77 g of sugar—more than triple the recommended daily amount. Sheth adds that fancy coffee drinks can also be total sugar bombs that add up quickly. Before you know it, you may consume 400-900 calories and 10-15 tsp of sugar from that white chocolate mocha.
Here's another place to slash added sugar. According to Sheth, sweet cereals and flavoured instant oatmeal are packed with added sugars and typically made from refined grains, which contain minimal fibre. Instead, enjoy whole grain cereal or old-fashioned oats with fresh fruit.
You may want to think twice about bringing home that bacon. According to a 2010 Harvard University study, processed meats including bacon, ham, and hot dogs have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease by 42% and the risk of diabetes by 19%. Additionally, research has linked sodium nitrate—a preservative found in these foods—to cancer.
Ingredients you can't pronounce
No idea what that ingredient list says? "Put it back on the shelf," says Ginn-Meadow. And especially be on the lookout for artificial colouring and added preservatives, which don't add any nutritional value. Plus, research has shown that some food dyes are toxic, which ups the risk of various health concerns. Best to steer clear.
"Trans fat increases your overall cholesterol, lowers your 'good cholesterol,' and raises your 'bad cholesterol,'" says Ginn-Meadow. In short, according to research by McMaster University, trans fat has been linked to a greater risk of "early death and heart disease." Foods that contain trans fat include shortening, prepackaged biscuits, store-bought pie crusts and cookies, and packaged frozen meals.
This article originally appeared on Prevention.