Five Foods You Should Always Avoid At The Supermarket

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Want to stack the nutrition odds in your favour? The key is good food so here are five things to never let into your shopping trolley. Known as discretionary foods, all five are high in either added sugars, saturated fat or salt. Discretionary foods provide kilojoules but not many nutrients. Here's an overview of what to avoid.

Consuming a lot of discretionary foods and drinks increases your risks of weight gain, obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Unless you're extremely active, it is unlikely that you can eat a lot of these foods and also be a healthy weight.


Dental caries or cavities (holes in your teeth) are the most common and expensive preventable diet-related problem. It's bad enough that one in five adults rate their oral health as fair or poor, the prevalence of dental caries in children is also increasing. If you or your kids are lolly addicts, the best way to avoid dental disease is to give up grazing on confectionery.

Sugar and other fermentable carbohydrates from highly processed foods are major risk factors for both the start and progress of dental disease. The more lollies you eat, and the more often you eat them, the bigger the risk.

What's more, they'll make you fat. Just 100 grams of jelly babies has over 1400 kilojoules and over 50 grams of sugar, which is about ten teaspoons. Dump the lolly bag and swap to sugar-free chewing gum to save the kilojoules and your teeth.

Sugar-sweetened drinks

Sugar-sweetened beverages include sweetened soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit juice drinks and cordial.

In a trial of over 15,000 adults who were followed up for 15 years, researchers found drinking one or more cups of soft drink a day increased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 29%, compared to drinking less than one glass a month. And a US study estimated drinking one can of soft drink a day could contribute to over six kilograms of weight gain in just a year, if the kilojoules were not offset by increasing physical activity or by cutting back on food intake.

Since we know these extra kilojoules are usually not offset, you can see why drinking sweet drinks regularly increases the risk of weight gain.

Swap to diet drinks, or soda water if you want the fizz without the kilojoules. Better still, drink water. Unless you're an elite athlete, plain water is all you need during sport.

Crisps, including potato chips, Burger Rings, Twisties and corn chips, are some of the most popular snack foods in the developed world. And the bigger the bag, the more we eat.

A healthy low-kilojoule alternative is air-popped popcorn. So put the multi-bag of crisps back on the shelf, grab a bag of popcorn kernels, and pop them yourself at home.

Popcorn is wholegrain, more satisfying and cheap. One cup of air-popped popcorn has 150 kilojoules, compared to 550 kilojoules in a 25-gram individual packet of potato crisps. This approximately 400-kilojoule saving is the equivalent of the energy burned up in about a 25-minute walk.


Most biscuits are consumed with a cup of tea or coffee. But the problem is that biscuits provide more than crunchiness. They contain large amounts of kilojoules, unhealthy fats and highly processed carbohydrates. What's more, they're mostly low in fibre and whole grains.

Look at it this way: two cream-filled biscuits contain around 860 kilojoules. You'd need to push your shopping trolley for about an hour to burn that up.

Instead load up on fruit and save on kilojoules. One cup of strawberries has 150 kilojoules, a small bunch grapes 350 kilojoules and a medium banana 365 kilojoules.

Processed meat

Processed meat includes meat products preserved by smoking, curing, salting or the addition of preservatives including nitrite, nitrates, phosphate, glutamate or ascorbic acid. They include bacon, ham, pastrami, salami, corned beef, chorizo, devon, fritz, luncheon meats, some sausages, hot dogs, cabanossi and kabana.

There's no completely safe level of intake for these foods. The more processed meats you eat, the greater your risk of developing bowel cancer over a lifetime.

Keep processed meat for when there are no other choices available. Whenever possible, load up with tomatoes and mushrooms, and swap the breakfast bacon for an egg with baked beans and a mixed vegetable grill.

Grab a pack of fresh chicken breast and cook it for use on sandwiches, or buy reduced-fat cheese, canned tuna and salmon, or small cans of four-bean mix.

If you have a recipe that calls for chopped bacon, replace it with diced browned onion and garlic, mixed with a couple of tablespoons of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or pine nuts.

Avoiding the five foods discussed here and replacing them with the suggestions I have outlined will put you on track to a long, healthy life. Ideally these foods will never appear in your shopping trolley, unlike the five foods that should be there every time you're filling up the shopping trolley.The Conversation

Clare Collins is Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at University of Newcastle. She has received funding from NHMRC, ARC, MLA, HMRI and the University of Newcastle.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.


    Thanks - that's a good list. Mind you, biscuits vary wildly - Oreos vs Country Cheese. It's worth reading the nutrition label in the box.

    Also, beware of the pure fruit juices. They are full of sugar. If you're a parent and you give any sweet drink to small kids in a sipper bottle, it's like sticking lollies to their teeth .. it's a constant coating of sugar.

    And on track to eternal sadness.. Don't take my bacon!

    You lost me at bacon.

      I remember one of the Discworld novels where Sam Vimes has a breakfast of bacon and eggs in a roll where the bacon was an inch thick but when his wife asks about his breakfast, the bacon was a mere garnish.

    I thought processed meat was bad because of the nitrites/preservatives, not in spite of them. Any clarification?

      Processed meat like mince for example is also bad because the fibers have already been broken down. Thus it takes less time to digest, you feel hungry sooner and end up eating more than you need.

        This is bad?

    Fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. Also deli meats.

    So goddamn much better at the fresh food markets, and at a stand alone deli.

    Woolworths/Coles/Aldi all have the absolute worst quality of "fresh food".

    Last edited 09/09/14 8:32 am

      This raises an interesting point actually.

      Are the processed meats such as cabanossi you get from the deli any better or worse than the supermarket variety?

      Last edited 09/09/14 9:33 am

        I think they are all going to be bad and the only sandwich meat should be brought raw and cooked yourself.

    In other worse don't buy junk food or processed meats.

    Is there a difference between the Hans bacon vacuum sealed and the stuff from the Deli?

    Crisps, including potato chips, Burger Rings, Twisties and corn chips

    So Cheetos are okay...right?

    Last edited 09/09/14 9:31 am

    There’s no completely safe level of intake for these foods. The more processed meats you eat, the greater your risk of developing bowel cancer over a lifetime.

    I don't doubt this, but why aren't they regulated like smoking/drinking?

      my guess is that the risk of developing bowel cancer from eating processed meat is far less than the risk of developing any number of health issues due to smoking.

      Just what we need - More regulations!

      Last edited 09/09/14 9:06 pm

    In which way is bacon processed? I watched a butcher slicing rashers straight off a large hunk of pork. Is all pork chemically processed?

      In the alarmist health food industry, slicing is processing.

      Bacon is processed. Traditionally is was cured with salt. Now days who knows what they use to speed up the process. Bacon is not pork it is cured pork.

    This is an alarmist article. Eat on moderation.treat happy.

    Also known as "Tips to live a sad, sad, sad, long life."

    Gosh, that's a great article, not just in advice but for being well written.

    Bacon though? Pffft. From my cold dead hands.

    "If you have a recipe that calls for chopped bacon, replace it with diced browned onion and garlic, mixed with a couple of tablespoons of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or pine nuts."

    Or just end it now because you hate happiness.

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