Here is where I share my thoughts, ideas and opinions about the world of nutrition, food and health. I hope you find good sense, helpful guidance and inspiration to eat great healthy food that makes you feel good.

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06 Jan 2016

Ten foods I eat rarely and why

Posted by Nicole Senior on Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Every now and again I see an article about foods that nutritionists won't eat. So I asked myself: which ten foods would I never eat? Since this is my blog and I don’t have to play along with journalistic tendency to create sensation, I’m going to say: none. Besides foods that are poisonous, or have extreme yuck factor (like fermented yak milk or raw ox blood), I prefer not to take a hard line on less healthy ‘sometimes foods’. Such food judgements don’t sit well with me. I prefer to be a food democrat.  In short, when it comes to food: I never say never! Instead I’m going to put together my own list of foods I eat rarely or very occasionally, and why.

10 Foods I eat rarely and why

  1. Croissants

Despite their romantic aura that conjures Parisian cafes and holiday romances, there is an ugly truth behind these golden breakfast beauties: trans fats. Croissants, Danish pastries and the like are some of the few foods left that are high in trans fats. This is because they are made using commercial shortenings that are partially hydrogenated to achieve their desirable texture and keeping qualities. This industry still needs to come up with an affordable, trans-free shortening product that produces a desirable result. That; and croissants are usually served with butter that adds saturated fats- it’s a bad fats buffet on a plate. Having said all that, when in France (or on Bastille Day), I don’t say no.

  1. Doughnuts

During university I worked a stint in a cafe that made doughnuts and I must confess it is true what they say about working in a cake shop, chocolate factory, donut shop etc. You just get sick of them. However in the fullness of time I have once again stepped into the breach (most notably at the Berry Donut Van) and can say there is a marvel about the magic created with simple ingredients. You’d never predict that frying yeasted dough made with flour and water and then coating them in sugar and cinnamon would taste so good, but indeed it does. But doughnuts are fried dough coated in sugar and there lies the rub. And when you consider the oil is probably solid at room temperature (highly saturated, with or without trans fats, depending) there’s nothing good for health here. And adding jam, sprinkles, compound chocolate, fake cream and custard does nothing to redeem them. No thanks, except in special circumstances (see above regarding the Berry donut van).

  1. Rice crackers

OK; I can tell you’re sceptical about this one, but bear with me. Rice crackers have taken a very high GI (glycemic index) food –rice- and made it worse by refining it more and taking all the water out thus rendering it even less filling. With my hand on my heart I can say I have eaten an entire packet in one sitting (it’s a long story involving a total lack of other options). Talk about a glycemic assault. The good thing about rice is that you eat it with meat and vegetables and these even out the glycemic impact. But not so with rice crackers, which can be eaten all by themselves with a smugness that comes from a ‘99% fat-free’ claim on the label. For your blood glucose you might as well have a handful of jelly beans – at least you know they aren't great and probably stop at a handful. Rice crackers are the poster food of the now-dead low-fat movement. RIP. If they’re at a party and there’s hummus to weight them down a bit, I’ll have a few but that’s about it.

  1. Pork belly

I'm just not into eating pig fat, even if there is a slither of actual meat that qualifies it as ‘pork’. Pork belly is a fashionable food and I've been served it at set-menu events. I've tried to enjoy it but I just don’t. And, I say again it is pig fat. I could think of a thousand ways I’d rather spend my discretionary kilojoules (see points 1,2 and 3 above). There is simply nothing to nutritionally recommend it; no ‘quid’ for your ‘pro-quo’.

  1. Cheap chocolate

This one comes under the ‘life’s too short’ category, as well as the idea that if you’re going to indulge occasionally, you might as go for the best. A modern dietary problem is that there are so many ‘sometimes foods’ around, their quality has suffered. Compound chocolate is a hoax – it’s not real chocolate at all. Shunning mediocrity and embracing quality is a great approach to limiting intake of chocolate and enhancing enjoyment at the same time (and you’re worth it). Chocolate is a gift from the gods (or mother nature) and it is excessive to receive gifts everyday (this is what makes birthdays and Christmas special), so give yourself the gift of good quality chocolate on occasion and enjoy it without guilt.

  1. Sliced white bread

Bread you don’t need to chew is not ideal. Fluffy white bread has almost no fibre and can be eaten too quickly (some say ‘inhaled’). It has a high GI too, so overconsumption comes at a high price for your blood sugar levels. The best bread is wholegrain bread you have to chew well, ideally sourdough. And you can buy it in supermarkets now so it’s not as exclusive as it used to be. And here comes the “but”:  I consider it a peak holiday eating experience to eat cooked prawns on fluffy white rolls with a squeeze of lemon and a beer on the side. There’s a time and a place for every food in this world.

  1. Alcoholic cocktails

Alcoholic cocktails are dangerous. They taste too good and encourage overconsumption. And besides the kilojoule overload, the alcohol intoxication just amplifies the harm (and embarrassment). The cocktail circuit has never been part of my scene, and even less so since I became a parent. I can’t remember the last cocktail I had, but if on my birthday a talented mixologist was to come to my house and whip me up something yummy (but not creamy- see number 8 below) I’d say ‘yes please’ but sip it slowly and stop at one or two.

  1. Cream

I’m not French, as you could most likely guess from this list! I’m not into cream; in or on desserts or sweet drinks or in savoury dishes or sauces. I guess they are all a bit too rich for my blood, and I just don’t enjoy them. My tastes are more attuned to the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern or Asian flavours and I think these rate well for health and longevity too. Even in cooking I’d rather used an evaporated cooking milk than cream to achieve a much lighter result. I’m not averse to the odd Devonshire tea, however. Fluffy white scones simply beg to be devoured with jam and whipped cream and with a pot of Earl Grey on the side.

  1. Regular soft drinks

I’m not anti-sugar (everything in moderation) but I do think soft drinks are the extreme sport of the beverage world. I reject the challenge of consuming 10-12 teaspoons of sugar in once sitting thanks very much, and prefer to get my food thrills (and kilojoules) from elsewhere. And I prefer to chew rather than drink my kilojoules, and in a more satisfying form. There are occasions that warrant carbonated drinks and on these occasions I choose the ‘diet’, or ‘sugar-free’ options. And I’m here today as proof that high intensity sweeteners do not kill, maim or sicken.

  1. Cheesey things in packets

These include cheese bombs, twisties, cheezels, rings and the like. These are made from highly refined grain flours and starch fillers then extruded into shapes and fried (or baked) and then doused in salt and overly intense flavours and colours. I don’t know about you but I’ve never tasted cheese anything like these “cheesy” flavours. (And don’t get me started on the overly intense faux-flavours of flavoured corn chips – it’s natural only for me). These products invariably have a high GI, zero fibre and loads of salt but are utterly irresistible and disturbingly unsatisfying. Plain potato chips cooked in good oil are much better by comparison but again are sinister in their ability to encourage you to finish the whole packet and reach for a sweet drink to wash them down. All these foods are party foods and do not deserve daily billing.  

Croissants? When in Paris or Bastille Day