It's easy to get confused about which foods are healthy and which are not.
You will generally want to avoid certain foods if you want to lose weight and prevent chronic diseases.
In this article, healthy alternatives are mentioned whenever possible.
Here are 20 foods that are generally unhealthy, although most people can eat them in moderation on special occasions without any permanent damage to their health.
1. Sugary drinks
Added sugar is one of the worst ingredients in the modern diet.
However, some sources of sugar are worse than others, and sugary drinks are particularly harmful.
When you drink liquid calories, your brain doesn't seem to register them as food. Therefore, you may end up dramatically increasing your total calorie intake.
When consumed in large amounts, sugar can drive insulin resistance and is strongly linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It is also associated with several serious conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Some people believe that sugary drinks are the most fattening aspect of the modern diet, and drinking them in large quantities can lead to fat gain and obesity.
Drink water, soda water, coffee or tea instead. Adding a lemon wedge to water or soda water can provide a burst of flavor.
2. Most of the pizzas
Pizza is one of the most popular junk foods in the world.
Most commercial pizzas are made with unhealthy ingredients, such as highly refined crust and heavily processed meat. Pizza also tends to be extremely high in calories.
Some restaurants offer healthier ingredients. Homemade pizzas can be very healthy too, as long as you choose healthy ingredients.
3. White bread
Most commercial breads are unhealthy if eaten in large quantities, as they are made from refined wheat, which is low in fiber and essential nutrients and can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar.
For people who can tolerate gluten, cloud bread is a great option. Whole wheat bread is also healthier than white bread.
4. Most fruit juices
Fruit juice is often assumed to be healthy.
While the juice contains some antioxidants and vitamin C, it also contains large amounts of liquid sugar.
In fact, fruit juice contains as much sugar as sugary drinks like Coca-Cola or Pepsi, and sometimes even more, although since it is not refined sugar, it does not have the same risk factor.
Some fruit juices have been shown to have health benefits despite their sugar content, such as pomegranate and cranberry juices.
However, these should be considered occasional supplements, not an everyday part of your diet.
5. Sweetened breakfast cereals
Breakfast cereals are processed cereal grains, such as wheat, oats, rice, and corn.
They are especially popular with children and are often eaten with milk.
To make them more palatable, the beans are roasted, crumbled, pulped, rolled or flaked. They are generally high in added sugar.
The main drawback of most breakfast cereals is their high added sugar content. Some are so sweet that they could even be compared to candy.
Choose breakfast cereals that are high in fiber and low in added sugar. Even better, make your own oatmeal porridge from scratch.
6. Fried, grilled, or broiled foods
Frying and grilling are some of the unhealthy cooking methods.
Foods cooked this way are often very tasty and high in calories. Various types of unhealthy chemical compounds are also formed when food is cooked over high heat.
These include acrylamides, acrolein, heterocyclic amines, oxysterols, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and advanced glycation end products (AGEs).
Many chemicals formed during high-heat cooking have been linked to an increased risk of cancer and heart disease.
To improve your health, choose milder and healthier cooking methods such as boiling, stewing, blanching, and steaming. Nowadays you can also resort to hot air fryers, which reduce the use of oil in the process.
7. Cakes, cookies, and cakes.
Most cakes, cookies, and pies are unhealthy if eaten in excess.
Packaged versions are generally made with refined sugar, refined wheat flour, and added fats. Lard is sometimes added, which can be high in unhealthy trans fat.
These treats may be tasty, but they have almost no essential nutrients, many calories, and many preservatives.
If you can't stay away from dessert, take advantage of Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, or dark chocolate.
8. French fries and potato chips
Whole white potatoes are very healthy. However, the same cannot be said for the fries.
These foods are high in calories and easy to overeat. Several studies link potato chips to weight gain.
These foods can also contain large amounts of acrylamides, which are carcinogens that form when potatoes are fried, baked, or roasted.
Potatoes are best eaten boiled, not fried. If you need something crunchy to replace the fries, try carrots or walnuts.
9. Gluten-free junk food
About a third of the US population actively tries to avoid gluten.
However, people often replace healthy foods that contain gluten with processed foods that do not contain gluten.
These gluten-free replacement products are often high in sugar and refined grains like cornstarch or tapioca starch. These ingredients can trigger rapid spikes in blood sugar and are low in essential nutrients.
Choose foods that are naturally gluten-free, such as unprocessed plant foods.
10. Agave nectar
Agave nectar is a sweetener that is often marketed as healthy.
However, it is highly refined and extremely high in fructose. The high amounts of fructose from added sweeteners can be absolutely disastrous for your health.
In fact, agave nectar is even richer in fructose than many other sweeteners.
While table sugar is 50% fructose and high fructose corn syrup about 55%, agave nectar is 85% fructose.
Stevia and erythritol are healthy, natural, and calorie-free alternatives.
11. Low-fat yogurt
Yogurt can be incredibly healthy.
However, most yogurts found in the supermarket are bad for you.
They are often low in fat but loaded with sugar to offset the flavor the fat provides. Simply put, most yogurt has replaced its healthy, natural fats with an unhealthy ingredient.
Also, many yogurts do not provide probiotic bacteria as is generally believed. They are often pasteurized, which kills most of their bacteria.
Choose regular full-fat yogurt that contains live or active cultures (probiotics). If possible, buy grass-fed varieties of cows.
12. Low-carb junk foods
Low carbohydrate diets are very popular.
While you can eat a lot of whole foods on such a diet, you should be wary of low-carb, processed replacement products. These include low carb candy bars and meal replacements.
These foods are often highly processed and packed with additives.
If you're on a low-carb diet, look for foods that are naturally low in carbohydrates, including eggs, shellfish, and green leafy vegetables.
13. Ice cream
Ice cream may be delicious, but it is loaded with sugar.
This dairy product is also high in calories and easy to overeat. If you eat it for dessert, you generally build it on top of your normal calorie intake.
You can opt for healthier brands or make your own ice cream with fresh fruit and less sugar.
14. Candy bars
Candy bars are incredibly unhealthy.
They are rich in sugar, refined wheat flour and processed fats, while very low in essential nutrients.
Plus, these treats will leave you hungry due to the way your body metabolizes these sugar bombs.
Eat fruit or a quality piece of dark chocolate instead.
14. Processed meat
Although raw meat can be healthy and nutritious, the same is not true for processed meats.
Studies show that people who eat processed meats are at increased risk for many serious diseases, such as colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Most of these studies are observational in nature, meaning that they cannot prove that processed meat is the culprit. However, the statistical link is strong and consistent across studies.
15. Processed cheese
Cheese is healthy in moderation.
It's loaded with nutrients, and a single slice contains all the nutrients like a glass of milk.
Still, processed cheese products are nothing like regular cheese. They are mostly made with filling ingredients that are designed to have a cheese-like appearance and texture.
Be sure to read the labels to confirm that your cheese contains dairy and few artificial ingredients.
Eat real cheese. Healthy types include feta, mozzarella, and cottage cheeses. Many vegan cheese alternatives can also be good options.
16. Most fast foods
Generally speaking, fast food chains serve junk food.
Most of their offerings are mass produced and low in nutrients.
Despite their low prices, fast foods can contribute to disease risk and harm your overall well-being. You should especially be careful with fried items.
As a result of mounting pressure, many fast food chains have started offering healthy options.
17. High calorie coffee drinks.
Coffee is loaded with antioxidants and offers many benefits.
In particular, coffee drinkers have a lower risk of serious diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and Parkinson's.
At the same time, creams, syrups, additives and sugars that are frequently added to coffee are very unhealthy.
These products are as harmful as any other sugary drink.
Drink regular coffee instead. You can add small amounts of heavy cream or whole milk if you like.
18. Foods with added sugar or refined grains
It is important to avoid, or at least limit, foods that contain added sugar, refined grains, and artificial trans fats.
These are some of the less healthy but most common ingredients in the modern diet. Therefore, the importance of reading labels cannot be overstated.
This even applies to so-called healthy foods.
Aim for nutrient-dense whole foods, such as fresh fruits and whole grains.
19. Most highly processed foods
The simplest way to eat healthy and lose weight is to avoid processed foods as much as possible.
Processed products are often packed and loaded with excess salt or sugar.
When you go shopping, be sure to read food labels. Try loading your cart with lots of vegetables and other whole foods.
20. The bottom line
Although the Western diet contains a lot of junk food, you can maintain a healthy diet by staying away from the sugar-rich and processed items mentioned above.
If you focus on whole foods, you will be well on your way to feeling better and regaining your health.