Banana bread and margarine are two no-nos.
Banana bread and margarine are two no-nos. Photo: Quentin Jones

Susie Burrell

As a human being, when we are told not to do something, our instinct can be to do exactly that. Indeed, this can be the case with food restriction but when you are a trained nutritionist there are some foods that you know offer so little nutritionally that you would rather not eat at all than get your energy from these particular options. Some of these may seem obvious while some may surprise you as they commonly masquerade as "healthy" options.

White bread

While it may claim to be as good as wholemeal or wholegrain breads with extra fibre and nutrients added, it is still not as good nutritionally as wholegrain bread. In fact, in the eyes of a nutritionist, pure white bread sends blood glucose levels skyrocketing in a similar way to confectionery or soft drinks. Yes, it is true that sourdough is a better option but it does not change the fact that for those who can tolerate it, grain bread is best.

The average doughnut will set you back at least 400 calories and 20 grams of total fat.
The average doughnut will set you back at least 400 calories and 20 grams of total fat. Photo: Marina Oliphant

Soft drink

This one needs no explanation, perhaps ranking the worst of all when it comes to nutrition cost benefit analysis. With nine teaspoons of sugar per can, and as liquid sugars are among the worst we can consume, you do not need a nutrition degree to know that soft drink is bad news.

Banana bread

Cheezels.
Cheese-flavoured snacks, such as beloved Cheezels, can be pretty nasty. Photo: Jessica Shapiro

If you consider that the average muffin or slice of banana bread contains more than 60 grams of total carbohydrate (the equivalent of four slices of bread), 20-30 grams of fat and at least four teaspoons of sugar, it is safe to say that there is nothing healthy about banana bread except the bananas, and it should really just be called banana cake.

Cheese-flavoured snacks

While you can find plain potato chips cooked in sunflower oil, cheese-flavoured snacks can be pretty nasty – packed with fat, flavours, colours and even MSG, the ingredient list itself explains why it is difficult to stop eating once you start but also why a plain potato chip cooked in sunflower oil is many times better than any extruded cheese snack.

Lollies are basically pure sugar.
Lollies are basically pure sugar. Photo: Cathryn Tremain

Lollies

It does not matter if they are "natural" or "fruit" flavoured, lollies are basically pure sugar. Five to six individual lollies contain as much as three to six teaspoons of sugar. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a sweet treat occasionally but who can stop at just five or six. If you are looking for a sweet hit, a few squares of dark chocolate is a much better option nutritionally.

Chocolate nut spread

Popular in Europe, chocolate nut spreads are frequently present on Italian dessert menus but here we are encouraged to spread them on toast instead of jam or peanut butter. With the first few ingredients listed as sugar and vegetable oil, chocolate spread contains a lot more bad fat than it does good fat from nuts.

Fruit bars

There is a massive difference between a piece of fresh fruit, with all the nutrients and fibre it contains, and the compressed mix of fruit, sugar, gums and flavours that make up a fruit stick or strap. Not only are processed fruit snacks a nightmare for the teeth, they are also far more concentrated in energy than fruit itself. Eat your fruit the way nature intended it, not from a packet.

Doughnuts

One of the relatively few foods that still contains a significant dose of trans fats, the type of fat that has been directly linked to heart disease, doughnuts are one of the worst baked goods nutritionally. Topped with high sugar icing and loads of fat, the average doughnut will set you back at least 400 calories and 20 grams of total fat, 10 of which are saturated.

Rice snacks

It doesn't matter if rice has been made into a snack bar, cake, puff or crisp, rice is a dense source of high glycaemic index carbohydrate, which means that blood glucose levels rapidly increase after it is consumed, along with the hormone insulin, which promotes fat storage in the body. Rice snacks are also low in protein and other key nutrients. They simply offer "empty calories" along with a rapid rise in blood glucose levels rather than long lasting energy. Better snack options when it comes to blood glucose control include corn- or rye-based cakes and crackers.

Margarine

Spreads are a controversial food topic among nutrition professionals as the recommended switch from butter to margarine originally came from evidence that plant-based oils were better for the heart than animal-based fat. While this is true, nutritionists will generally recommend foods that are as natural as possible and when it comes to margarine it is an added fat that we do not "need" in our diet. In general, we get plenty of good fat from avocados, nuts, good quality oils, seeds and fish already. If you do choose to use a spread, at least look for a reduced fat variety.

Susie Burrell is a nutritionist and author.

Is there a food that you studiously avoid? Jump on the comments and tell us which one and why you don't eat it.