7 Foods to Limit, According to Nutritionists

These common eats aren't the best choices for your health.

Updated on May 31, 2023

an older man with white hair and glasses pours fresh orange juice into a glass in his kitchen with a bowl of strawberries, blueberries and bananas on the counter
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Nutritionists are excellent sources for healthy-eating tips. They can teach you how to select foods that are best for your body—and how to limit or avoid foods that may not be the greatest choices.

While some popular items like potato chips and ice cream are well-known to be poor picks for healthy eating, other bites may not be so obvious. Check out some of the top foods nutritionists advise you to avoid. Some of them may surprise you.

non-dairy creamer in a small bowl against a background of coffee beans
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Non-Dairy Creamer

Non-dairy creamer can sidetrack your weight management plans. Many products feature an easy-to-pour spout, so it’s easy to overindulge and start your day with a blast of extra sugar. The creamer itself doesn’t contain a high number of calories per serving, but over-pouring can add more calories than you might expect.

In addition to sugar (which usually comes in the form of high-fructose corn syrup), and extra calories, your coffee creamer may contain some other unhealthy ingredients, like saturated fat. Try using flavored almond milk or oat milk instead and check to see if they have added sugar. Many alternative milks contain added sugar, but offer sugar-free varieties. 

top view of pretzels on a plate
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These twisted treats lack fiber, protein, and healthy fat making them, essentially, all refined carbs (read: sugar). Plus, they're easy to overeat. Still craving the salty satisfaction of a pretzel? Opt for whole grain options, a better choice for your body.

granola with blueberries and strawberries in a bowl
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Surprise: Granola can contain as many calories as your favorite dessert. Many types of granola contain additives like sugar and saturated fats, which turn an otherwise “healthy” snack into a calorie overload. Get the satisfaction of a crunchy morning meal—without the extra fat and calories—by choosing blends high in protein and fiber, or try making your own at home.

slices of white bread on a platter
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White Bread

Due to its low fiber content, white bread is digested and absorbed into your body quickly, which can create a spike in blood sugar, followed by a crash in energy that can lead to overeating later in the day. Because white bread is stripped of nutrients and contains preservatives, it doesn’t keep you full for long.

Opt instead for hearty, whole grain breads that contain more dietary fiber and selenium, essential components in maintaining a healthy metabolism.

Chicken noodle soup in a white bowl
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Canned Soup

Canned soup is a quick and easy meal but beware of sodium and sulfites (found mostly in soups containing seafood). Sodium increases the amount of fluid in the body, which can increase the volume of blood in your vessels. Over time, that can lead to high blood pressure or worsen blood pressure if yours is already high. The added pressure on the heart and blood vessels can lead to increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

Sulfites, a form of preservative found in canned soup and other canned foods, can be harmful to people with sulfite sensitivity or asthma. Symptoms of sulfite sensitivity include headache, respiratory irritation, and anaphylaxis (an allergic reaction that can be life-threatening), though most reactions are mild. Nutritionists think it’s best to choose homemade soups and stews, so you know exactly what you’re eating.

popcorn spilling out of a brown paper bag
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Packaged Popcorn

Popcorn in its natural state is a healthy alternative to other salty snacks. The catch? Many packaged or microwave popcorn brands contain large amounts of saturated fat and salt, along with additives like artificial flavors and preservatives. Go for air-popped popcorn, without butter, salt, or sugar, or try popping your own with olive oil.

white chocolate bar
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White Chocolate

Dark chocolate gets all the praise, for good reason: It contains cocoa that’s packed with flavonoids, which are natural antioxidants that may protect your heart, brain, and other parts of your body. White chocolate, however, lacks the good properties that come from the cocoa solids, because, quite simply, white chocolate doesn’t contain any cocoa solids. Plus, it’s packed with sugar.

If you’re craving chocolate, choose a darker variety and eat in moderation, meaning one or two squares depending on serving size. Dark chocolate can still satisfy a sweet tooth, and just may provide some health benefits.

Slideshow sources open slideshow sources

US Department of Agriculture. Food Search. Accessed May 27, 2022.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Allergic to the Fine Print: Food Allergy to Additives, Rare but Real. Last reviewed September 28, 2020.
Sayago-Ayerdi S, García-Martínez DL, Ramírez-Castillo AC, et al. Tropical Fruits and Their Co-Products as Bioactive Compounds and Their Health Effects: A Review. Foods. 2021 Aug 22;10(8):1952.

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