4 Fitness Foods You Should Avoid

In this episode, find out four common healthy eating items and fitness foods that you should actually avoid!


Ben Greenfield
6-minute read
Episode #248

3.      Packaged Crunchy Foods

As I write this article, I’m traveling through several different airports, and have noticed a growing trend of “healthy food sections” in the snack aisle of many newsstands and food vendors at the airport. Upon closer inspection of many of these foods—from nori bites to low-fat popcorn to dried fruit and nut mixes—you’ll find canola oil, soybean oil and other seed and vegetable based oils listed on the label, often as one of the primary ingredients.

These oils are extracted from seeds and plants using harsh processing methods, which include high heat, bleaching, and use of the solvent hexane. These oils also contain very high percentages of Omega-6 fatty acids, which can be inflammatory when consumed in excess. About ½ to 4% of the fatty acids in these oils are in the form of trans fats, which can be a major contributing factor to heart disease.

Another common ingredient in these crunchy, packaged health snacks is brown rice syrup, also known as rice malt syrup, which is made by treating cooked rice with enzymes that break down the starch into simple sugars. This means that brown rice syrup is basically pure glucose void of essential nutrients, with a glycemic index of 98 (remember, this means that the glucose in it will spike blood sugar very, very quickly).

This combination of processed oils and extremely sweet additives in packaged, crunchy health foods should inspire you to add these to your list of healthy fitness foods to avoid.

4.      Gluten Free Snacks

While the gluten I referred to earlier can definitely be unhealthy, unfortunately many food manufacturers have heavily promoted gluten-free “health foods” and many people have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon by simply purchasing starchy snacks such as gluten-free pizza and pretzels, gluten-free rice crackers, gluten-free sugary chocolates and candies, and concentrated amounts of gluten-free fruit juices and smoothies, rather than, say, switching to more nutrient-dense forms of gluten-free carbohydrates, such as vegetables, quinoa, amaranth, millet, gluten-free oats, sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, and parsnips.

The problem with popular gluten-free foods is that they’re usually very low in nutrients, vitamins and minerals, and contain very concentrated amounts of starches. Instead of a gluten grain, they’re made with other starches like potato starch, tapioca starch or some others. These starches are usually highly refined, void of nutrients and spike blood sugar fast, just like wheat. Take, for example, one very popular gluten-free pizza, which contains:

Low moisture part skim mozzarella cheese (pasteurized part skim milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes), pizza sauce (crushed tomatoes [water, concentrated crushed tomatoes], tomato puree (water, tomato paste), sugar, salt, spices, soybean oil, citric acid, dehydrated onions, garlic, romano cheese flavor [romano cheese from cow's milk (milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes), water, disodium phosphate, enzymes], onion powder, spice extractive), whey, tapioca starch, rice flour, pepperoni (pork and beef, salt, spices, dextrose, latic acid starter culture, oleorsin of paprika, flavoring, sodium nitrite, bha, bht, citric acid), rice starch, water, contains 2% or less of: yeast, vegetable oil (soybean, cottonseed, corn, and/or canola oil), vegetable shortening (palm oil, natural flavor, soy lecithin), sugar, salt, xanthan gum, garlic powder.

As you can see, you are avoiding gluten, but at the same time, getting hefty doses of starch, flour, commercial dairy, vegetable oils and sugar!

Ultimately, as you navigate the ever-growing world of fitness and health foods, ask yourself whether you’re consuming real, recognizable, nutrient-dense food packed with vitamins and minerals and low in sugars and oils, or whether you’re simply being fooled by clever packaging like the folks in the Journal of Marketing Research study. If you have more questions or comments about these top 10 fitness food you should avoid, head over to http://www.Facebook.com/GetFitGuy and join the conversation there!

Fruit Juice and Gluten free images courtesy of Shutterstock.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.