Dietitians are fond of reciting the mantra 'all foods can fit into a healthy diet' and telling people that there are no "good' or "bad" foods. But considering that 64 percent of adults (plus an alarming 15 percent of children) arecategorized by the government as overweight, some experts say this message is baloney (which happens to be a really bad food!).
"The idea that there are no bad foods is a marketing gimmick thought up by the food industry to defend their products," says Bonnie Liebman, M.S., director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit health-advocacy group based inWashington, D.C. "The whole notion is full of holes and makes no sense."
Evil is the only appropriate word to describe foods that promise pleasure but deliver misery in the form of heart disease and obesity. Although a Whoopie Pie isn't going to sprout fangs and go for your jugular, it's wise to watch your back when traveling the dark alley of empty calories. A sweet, creamy taste and jazzypackaging can be hiding a food that will only do you wrong. That's the thing about evil: Sometimes it looks so good.
The Dark Side of the supermarket
What makes a food really, really scary? In the edibles department, a food gets the seal of disapproval if it does more harm than good -- that is, if it supplies calories but little else, and also contains heart-disease-promoting substances like saturatedand trans fats. Trans fats are the nasty man-made fats used to give foods a longer shelf life. Manufacturers hydrogenate oil to make it solid and literally twist the molecule into a form that wreaks havoc in the body.
Every food pyramid -- including the Shape Pyramid -- advocates a plant-based diet in which these destructive fats (as well as sweets) are "used sparingly." Unfortunately,supermarkets are brimming with such high-calorie, low-nutrient choices. Perhaps the biggest problem with foods that we are supposed to eat sparingly is that they simply are everywhere.
"The pendulum swings from abstinence to binge," says Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., author of Nutrition for Women, Second Edition (Owl Books, 2003). "In our culture if you tell someone no, they only want to do it more,' shesays. So instead of banning a bad food, choose a healthier substitute most of the time. And once in a while, when you really need to have a hot-fudge sundae or batch of nachos, opt for a small portion, sit down and savor every bite.
Following are eight foods to avoid or save for very special occasions because of the damage they inflict in calories, unhealthy fats and sodium -- plus some healthy andtasty substitutes that offer savings in calories and fat.
RELATED ARTICLE: 8 BAD ROODS TO AVOID (and their good alternatives)
1. Cola drinks
The damage (12 ounces) 150 calories, 0 g fat (10 teaspoons of sugar!) We take a hard line with soft drinks -- and cola is the worst offender. Full of sugar, corn syrup or other sweeteners and not much else, soft drinks pack 150 empty calories and havebeen pegged by research studies as being associated with both adult and childhood obesity, Cola drinks have the added detriment of a caffeine jolt that many of us just don't need. And it's easy to supersize yourself if you regularly consume the 42-ounce, 410-calorie versions served at fast-food restaurants and convenience stores.
"I recommend that patients stay away from sugar-sweetened beveragesbecause these drinks may be replacing more healthful foods in the diet," says Cara Ebbeling, Ph.D., research associate at Children's Hospital in Boston. "In addition, there is evidence that when we take in calories in liquid form, the body doesn't fully compensate by reducing calories from other foods." In other words, your body doesn't register that you've just consumed a bunch of calories,...