In the first part of this series, we’ve learned a few simple rules that one can use in order to make healthy food choices. Now we’ll discuss about what types of foods to consume and what are the foods to avoid, and we’ll make a breakdown of the actual foods that you should focus on.
Are you excited to learn what are the health promoting foods? I know I am so let’s get started!
What NOT to eat and Why
I’ve prepared a long list of products that you should always avoid because these so-called “foods” are not healthy to consume and your body does not process them well. These are the foods that are loaded with sugars, industrially processed oils (which are often oxidized, trans-fats or hydrogenated), wheat, GMOs or they are simply highly processed foods.
These toxic foods will only add empty calories to your meal, while they won’t provide any real nutrients (vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients, or fiber). These unhealthy foods are often processed, pasteurized and loaded with additives, preservatives or fillers. The quality of the ingredients used is often the worst quality that money can buy.
In short, my advice is to avoid things with sugar, refined oils, wheat, soy, additives, preservatives, processed foods of any kind, foods that were highly pasteurized, foods made with genetically modified products (GMOs), or foods that don’t come from responsible sources (including, but not limited to foods that were treated with chemical additives or foods that comes from animals that were fed an unhealthy diet or that received antibiotics or hormones).
You’ll want to stay away from these foods as much as possible because they will make you sick.
Most bread doesn’t provide any real nutrients, it’s loaded with refined carbs and it’s often made with fillers such as soy, or using refined seed oils. Incorrectly fermented bread contains toxic gluten which is an anti-nutrient that can damage the intestinal gut lining, leading to various gut related issues, food intolerances, immunity problems, etc.
That being said, it’s worth noting that not all bread is created equal. For instance, traditionally fermented bread can be healthy to consume. The same goes for traditional breads made in Northern Europe, namely sourdough bread and rye bread.
My advice is to focus on consuming organic bread that was manually made using just a few simple ingredients (flour, water, salt, seeds) and correctly fermented using natural fermentation methods. If you enjoy bread, make sure to try traditional sourdough bread and rye bread.
These are usually made with cheap white bread and cheap meats or cheeses. When I am using the word “cheap”, what I mean is that often the most unhealthy and highly processed ingredients are used in order to obtain the cheapest product possible.
Vegan sandwiches are worse since these are loaded with soy or soy based products, trans-fats like margarine, refined seed oils and other food toxins.
The plants used in your average supermarket sandwich are usually the worst kind that money can buy. When it comes to dressings, these are often packed with refined oils and added sugars, as well as preservatives and fillers like corn starch.
My advice is to make your own sandwich at home using quality ingredients and a naturally fermented bread.
These can include a wide range of products and should always be avoided since they will negatively impact your health even when consumed in low quantities. Think of processed food as being everything that you buy from a shelf instead of a fridge, except for raw plants. Things like potato chips, supermarket snacks of all kinds, biscuits, pre-cooked meals, pre-made salads, ice-cream, sugary drinks, and so on.
I believe that over 75% of all supermarket food products are processed foods. It’s no wonder that we are living an epidemic of obesity, type 2 diabetes, dementia, heart disease, autoimmune diseases or depression.
My advice is to avoid all processed foods (no exception). Always read the labels to know what ingredients are used and how a particular product/food was made. If it’s not clear from the label, then it probably means that what you’re holding in your hand is most likely something unhealthy and should be avoided. You deserve better than processed foods!
Let me put it this way: there is no healthy fast food. When it comes to fast food, everything is based on processed foods, additives, preservatives, fillers, cheap ingredients and over-cooked food in toxic refined seed oils.
Foods in this category are loaded with refined seed oils, trans-fats, wheat and added sugars, just to name a few of the bad stuff you should avoid. I don’t even want to get into the quality and sources of the ingredients used (where things like meat, salads, veggies, sauces, dairy, wheat, etc come from)
My advice is to stay away from all kinds of fast food, no matter what!
Burgers and Pizza
Although burgers and pizza may come with some healthy versions, most of the burgers and pizza will definitely fall into the fast food category. Often the price point or the restaurant preparing the food is a clear indication whereas a certain burger or pizza is healthy to consume or toxic.
My advice is to do your research before consuming any of these. Ask the restaurant about the source and list of ingredients used, or the methods of cooking.
If you can buy raw dairy please do it and choose dairy products that are as little processed as possible (full fat creams or yogurts). Stay away from the pasteurized kinds since these are often some of the unhealthy foods that you can buy. Of course, unpasteurized dairy should come from healthy cows that were fed grass and not a diet of grains, soy, corn, hormones or antibiotics.
Since pasteurized dairy products are low in beneficial nutrients, we must also ask ourselves what was the reason for pasteurization in the first place? Sometimes they also add an aseptic treatment and a homogenization which makes the milk even worse and more toxic.
More often than you’d think milk is pasteurized either because the milk used was combined from multiple sources or it was simply old. Another reason for pasteurization is the fact that the animals were often sick and treated with hormones and antibiotics, as well as a diet of soy and corn.
In order to remove all doubt about the quality (read toxins in the milk) of the milk, companies often prefer to pasteurize their milk thus killing any bad bacteria that may live in the milk, as well as any good bacteria or living enzymes. This makes for a milk that lacks most of the nutrients that healthy milk delivers.
In conclusion, the problem with pasteurization is that good bacteria are also killed during this process, leaving the milk completely useless from a nutritional standpoint.
On the other hand, raw milk should come from healthy animals that were raised outside on the pasture, eating green grass (or simply grass, like it’s done in the cold season). Animals should spend as much time as possible in their natural environment and consuming their natural food. If the milk comes from animals raised in mountain areas, their diet will most likely be based on grass, and in that case there is some hope of obtaining a quality milk.
Healthy milk is milk rich in vitamins A, B, C, E, iron, zinc, calcium, whey, enzymes, and immunoglobulins. Pasteurized milk contains only parts/traces of these nutrients and no enzymes at all, since the enzymes are killed by high temperatures during pasteurization.
My advice is to consume raw milk and dairy products that come from responsibly grown animals. The next best choice is to consume fermented yogurt, cream and cheeses that are made using milk obtained from cattles raised in mountain areas, by small producers. If possible, talk to the producer or go and inspect the farms before consuming their products. You simply must have a way to determine if the animals were healthy.
Like bread, pasta is made from wheat and water, and sometimes eggs. The final product (pasta) will always have a load of anti-nutrients (such as physic acid) and will come with empty calories (carbs).
Besides the above, wheat is often sprayed with chemicals so the best option for health would be to buy pasta made using organic ingredients.
My advice is to eat only low quantities of pasta produced by responsible companies. In general, the advice is to stay away from pasta as much as possible. A good option, in case you like pasta, is to consume pasta made from organically grown grains or ancient grains. Just to be sure, look for brands that are committed to using quality ingredients, and go organic if possible.
These are loaded with industrially processed oils, sugar, additives and preservatives. Must be avoided at all costs.
My advice is to avoid all kinds of potato chips, even organic ones.
Pretzels and similar
These products are also loaded with empty calories (carbs) but most often they’re also dipped in refined oils to make them more appealing to the average consumer.
My advice is to stay away from these, unless you eat small quantities and if the products do not contain refined seed oils.
Candy (even expensive ones)
Always loaded with sugar, additives and preservatives, all candy should be avoided. Candies are always made by using the lowest quality ingredients, even if they are marketed as expensive treats.
Besides, consuming candy is one of the easiest ways that you can increase your blood sugar glucose in just a few seconds. This leads to oxidation in the body, gut issues, weight gain and, if continued, often leads to insulin resistance and diabetes. Keep in mind that sugar is the easiest way that one can impair the immune system so sugar should be avoided at all costs.
My advice is to stay away from all kinds of candy.
In my opinion, chocolate should not contain additives like milk and milk powders. Chocolate should only be prepared using cacao mass, cacao butter, a healthy sweetener (not sugar), spices (vanilla, cinnamon) and basically no additives, fillers, preservatives or aromas of any kind.
My advice is to stay away from milk chocolate or any kind of chocolate that is below 70% cacao. You can go away with a bit of added sugar in 70% chocolate or more, but search for chocolate made using coconut sugar. Should you want to consume a more traditional chocolate search for brands that do not include fillers and strange powders in their products, and brands that use quality cacao.
Regardless of how expensive they might be, all cakes sold in a grocery store are literally packed with sugar, refined oils and white flour. These cakes don’t provide any kind of nutritional value and will only promote the desire to eat more of the same stuff. Cakes from speciality shops may be better but they are made using the same kind of toxic ingredients, white flour, sugar and refined oils.
If you absolutely must consume a cake, your best option is to bake it yourself at home using the best organic ingredients that you can. Another option will be to bake or buy low-carb cakes that were made using low-carb flours (almond, coconut) and without refined seed oils or extra sugar. Ask your local health store about low-carb cakes.
My advice is to stay away from regular cakes and instead focus on low-carb cakes prepared using alternative flours like almond flour and coconut flour.
Confiture, Fruits Jams and Marmalades
These are usually very sweet and loaded with sugar unless otherwise specified. They also have very little fruit, while most of them also contain additives and preservatives. Also, they don’t provide any nutritional benefits besides being better than plain old table sugar.
My advice is to always read the labels and search for those products that are free of additives and have as little added sugar as possible. If you must consume jams and marmalades, at least make an effort to consume as little as possible and choose a quality product.
Besides being loaded with sugar these are also pasteurized, thus all the remaining beneficial bacteria are killed. Compotes don’t provide any nutritional benefits, instead they will make you hungry and depressed. Fruit compotes are even worse than jams or marmalades.
My advice is to always avoid fruit compotes at all costs.
Too much Fresh Fruit
Even too much fresh fruit can be a problem. Yes, fruits have vitamins and minerals but they also come with a lot of fructose which will negate the benefits of those vitamins and minerals.
Fructose is metabolized by the liver which means that consuming many fruits at once will put a load on your liver. Your liver will have to process and store all the fructose that comes to it and do it fast.
If you simply want or need something sweet, short for 1-2 fruits or choose berries which are lower in fructose. Sometimes hunger or the need for sugar is an indication of being tired … Keep this in mind and ask yourself if you really need that bag of fruit!
Also, keep in mind that some fruits have more fiber while others are lower in fiber and have more fructose. Bananas are a good example: green bananas have more fiber and less fructose, while very yellow bananas are the opposite. Choose fruits that have more fiber as these are lower in fructose and will also fill you up faster, which means that you’ll end-up eating less.
My advice is to consume fruits that are in season and in a lower to moderate quantity. Try to spread your fruit consumption during the day and choose fruits that are higher in fiber.
If a certain food has been fried than it should always be a red flag for unhealthy food. Avoid anything like fried meats, potatoes, sausages, french fries or similar fried products.
These products are dipped in unhealthy refined seed oils at high temperatures, are super unhealthy and devoured of nutrients, and will generate a cascade of unhealthy chemical reactions in your body.
My advice is to avoid all fried products.
*Milkshakes or any other shakes*
These are very popular but unfortunately they’re a sugar bomb. They come with a lot of sugar and usually even the cream used isn’t healthy.
My advice is to avoid all milkshakes.
Cheeses are tricky
I must confess that I love cheeses and I eat them often but there is a trick to choosing a healthy cheese. Most of them are not ok to eat and my advice is to learn how to choose those healthy cheeses.
Here are my principles for choosing healthy cheeses:
- made from raw milk that comes from healthy animals
- organic if possible
- or local producers if possible
- or the milk should come from mountain areas
- free of additives of any kind
- milk should not be homogenized or aseptic treated
- must be made using traditional recipes
- must be correctly fermented and fermentation time must not be artificially increased
- must come from France, Italy, Spain, Romania, UK, or basically from areas where these cheeses are made for centuries using traditional recipes
- look for any kind of labels showing the recognized recipes and traditional preparation methods
My advice is to consume quality cheese and to pay more for quality products. Visit your local cheese store and buy your cheese by following the rules listed above.
Organic foods dipped in bad oils (refined, trans-fats, oxidized oils)
This is one of the health traps these days, namely organic foods prepared with unhealthy ingredients.
Just because something is labeled as “organic” it doesn’t necessarily means that it’s also healthy to consume. Most of the organic products that I see these days are falling into one of the unhealthy categories detailed above.
My advice is to always do your research by reading the labels.
Although not directly related to a certain type of food, pay close attention to how anything is being cooked. I’m talking about the health hazards that could appear in the cooking process: ingredients used, pots and pans used, cleaning products, how the food is handled, how the food is stored before and after cooking, how it’s served to you. Focus your attention on hygiene in the kitchen and the staff, as well as environmental toxins.
Breakdown of a healthy meal
Now that you know what to eat, what to avoid and why, let’s do a quick breakdown of what I may call a healthy meal.
When talking about plants I like to mostly focus on vegetables, including some legumes that are lower in anti-nutrients. Ideally one should eat plenty of vegetables with every meal and we must pay attention to most of the legumes since they contain anti-nutrients. When it comes to legumes and anti-nutrients, a special preparation is often needed before cooking them.
I like to focus on consuming healthy fats at every meal. Even if a meal will not contain too many fats, the next one will most likely contain more healthy fats simply because my body will ask for those healthy fats. The trick is to eat a wide array of healthy fats from plants like avocado, olives, extra virgin olive oil, coconut, coconut products, quality cheeses, eggs, butter, nuts and seeds, and nut butters.
I don’t specifically look for protein since I discovered that there is plenty in plants or cheeses (I don’t consume meat). Contrary to what conventional wisdom may tell you, consuming too much protein is not healthy because it will eventually convert to cabs leading to fat gains and eventually weight gains.
I focus on eating low-carb meals because I get most of my energy from fats. Sometimes I may need a bit more carbs after a long day, after a stressful day or after a workout, but that’s another story. I don’t make carbs a priority when I prepare my food. If I need carbs, I’ll always choose sources that contain fiber or resistant starch (that’s mostly rice, sweet potatoes, carrots or any other tubers) and fruits (fresh or dry fruits), or some kind of healthy bread.
Any kind of berries or 1-2 fruits of my choice, not more. Yes, there are periods when the body craves more fruits and I eat more fruits, but I do not make fruit a dietary priority.
I usually make my own low-carb desserts and, if I need to buy something, I look for low-carb desserts and sweets made using organic ingredients and free of additives, preservatives or fillers.
Quick choices can include fruits, berries (fresh or frozen), frozen fruits, dried fruits, 85% dark chocolate (and sometimes 70%), nut butters (cashew, almond, hazelnut). I always buy products that come without any kind of additives, preservatives, hidden sugars or refined seed oils.
Water and craft beer are my go-to choices for drinks. Maybe a smoothie or a juice if I’m in the city, but only if it’s freshly made and without added sugar and without too much fruit. Wine can also be an excellent choice but I don’t like to drink too much wine. Coffee and tea are other favorites and, when it comes to coffee, I prefer 100% Arabica from Ethiopia.
When it comes to extras like dressings, I only choose those products that are free of additives, preservatives, fillers, sugar, soy and refined seed oils. I can tell you that it’s easier to make my own dressing than to find something suitable at the store.
As a general rule, keep in mind that dressings are some of the most toxic products that you can buy. Pay special attention when it comes to the ingredients list in dressings.
What to eat 101
Here’s a quick breakdown of the foods that I try to focus on daily. Do the best you can and strive for perfection … with time the body adapts, improves and will average all the nutrients.
The whole point of a healthy way of eating is not to do it once or twice, but to make it a habit and eat this way as often as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to eat simple meals prepared at home by using real food ingredients, focusing on consuming plant foods that are grown as naturally as possible.
When it comes to my food choices, I strive to shop organic and/or locally produced, or at least to get the next best thing available. I try to find products that are grown as naturally as possible or at least from areas where a certain product is traditionally grown, prepared or consumed.
Here’s my breakdown of vegetables to eat as often as possible:
- broccoli (fresh or frozen)
- cauliflower (fresh or frozen)
- spinach (fresh or frozen)
- mushrooms (fresh or frozen)
- baby spinach
- sweet potatoes
- white potatoes
- onions (both yellow and red onions)
- shallots (also called French onions)
- spring onion (scallion)
- celery and celery root
- herbs – dill, parsley, lovage, others
- spices – turmeric, ginger, cardamom powder, others
- lemons and limes
- Brussel sprouts
- lettuce (all varieties – iceberg, romaine, leaf, watercress)
- pumpkin and squash (spaghetti squash)
- olives (actually these are fruits)
- avocado (it’s a fruit)
- other vegetables that grow locally
Here’s my breakdown of legumes:
- green beans
- peas (green peas, sugar snap peas, snow peas)
- dried beans (all varieties except soybeans)
- chickpeas (or other varieties)
- kidney beans
- white beans
Here’s a list with grains to consume in moderation:
- rice – all varieties
- grains used for bread making (rye, wheat, millet, spelt, emmer, or others)
Here’s my breakdown of fruits to eat:
- frozen berries (blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and others)
- other types of frozen fruit
- all kinds of fresh berries
- bananas (organic only)
- sour cherries
- olives (yes, these are fruits)
- avocado (yes, these are also fruits)
- other locally grown fruits not specified here
Nuts and Seeds
- brazil nuts
- pine nuts
- sunflower seeds
- pumpkin seeds
- chia seeds
- hemp seeds
Note: Peanuts are not nuts, they are legumes. Peanuts are classified as nuts due to their similar characteristics to other tree nuts.
There are different kinds of fats and not all fats are the same. The healthiest fats are the ones that come either in plant form and also aren’t processed industrially.
Here’s my breakdown of the sources of healthy fats:
- Olives – buy without any additives, preferably organic
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coconut products – coconut butter, coconut flakes
- Cheeses – safest cheeses include greek feta, emmentaler , cascaval, brie and its variations (camembert, coulommiers, reblochon) , mozzarella, cheddar, comte, schweitzer. These should be made in their country of origin (eg: the French make brie, meaning Danish brie is usually not ok!)
- Eggs – try to buy from organic and/or free-range eggs
- Nuts – almonds, cashew, pine nuts, pecans, walnuts, macadamias, etc – these should be properly soaked to active their enzymes and also to increase their nutritional values, but also to make them more easier to chew
- Nut butters – almond, cashew, hazelnuts nut butters
- Seeds – chia seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds – these should be soaked properly before consuming
Things to remember
In this article I’ve provided a long list of general guidelines and you are advised to adapt these guidelines to anything you might like to eat. The trick is to learn how to find a healthy version of that food that you like (eg: burgers or fries could be cooked in a healthy way without additives or refined oils).
Here are a few simple rules that will help you improve your eating habits, and ultimately your health:
- Something is healthy to eat if it doesn’t fall into the unhealthy categories listed and detailed above.
- Once you eliminate all the unhealthy foods, your cravings will eventually stop and you’ll start having more and more energy.
- Give your body time to adapt to the positive changes that you’ve made. Health doesn’t happen overnight, you know!
- Always read the labels or directly ask the people selling the food how it was prepared and what kind of ingredients were used.
- Choose to buy only those products that are made without sugar, refined seed oils or wheat.
- Cooking methods are as important as the quality of the ingredients used in the cooking process.
- Following the recommendations above will also help you improve your overall health in many ways.
- Consuming unhealthy foods increases your risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart problems, depression, sleeping disorders, cancers, dental problems, arthritis, osteoporosis, inflammation, autoimmune diseases, infections and immunity related issues, gut issues, stomach issues, and others. It’s not worth-it!
- Unhealthy foods are usually the cheapest foods to buy. Keep in mind that the reversal is not always true … expensive food products are not necessarily healthy.
- You’ll have to read the labels and identify the macronutrients (fats, carbs, protein) and to get a general feeling of the micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fiber, and phytonutrients) found in the foods that you’re consuming daily.
- The practice of reading the labels on food will help you to better understand what you’re putting inside your body. With time, this habit will fade away on its own once you’ll learn what each food contains in terms of nutrients. This practice will also help you to better manage your cravings since cravings always start in the mind.
- All these changes will take some time initially but soon it’ll become “a walk in the park”.
- Give yourself enough time and patience to change those unhealthy habits for healthy ones.
That was it for the second part of this article. If you haven’t already, please read the first part of this series.
Thanks for reading so far and I hope that you enjoyed my No BS Guide to Healthy Eating Series.