Guess what? There are bad foods. I’m not one of those nutritionists who is going to say, “There are no bad foods” and “Everything in moderation” is OK.

I will tell you that eating anything every once in a while will not completely disrupt your health. But that doesn’t mean fried Oreos aren’t bad. That also doesn’t mean you’re a bad person for eating them. Aside from those random times when we all succumb to “bad” foods, are there foods that nutritionists, like myself, steer clear of all the time? You bet. Here are my top five:


1. Hot dogs

Processed meats in general are just one of the worst things you can put into your body. They’re high in sodium and saturated fats (not the good kind, like those found in coconut) and filled with sodium nitrite (a commonly used preservative that adds color and flavor to meats) and often other chemicals and dyes.

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Consumption of processed meats, but not red meats, is associated with higher incidence of coronary heart disease and diabetes mellitus. High intake of red and processed meat is associated with significant increased risk of colorectal, colon and rectal cancers. If you want to reduce your risk of cancer, ditch the dogs.

2. Pretzels

Pretzels were the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing type of food. I mean, who didn’t pound them years ago while watching “Friends,” thinking they were “fat free”? Talk about a food 180. Pretzels are all refined carbs. In other words, you might as well be throwing back jelly beans.

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They have no fiber, no protein and no healthy fat to keep you satisfied or add health benefits to the calories you’re consuming. Instead, go for a small handful of nuts or other snacks full of fiber. Data indicates diets rich in high-fiber whole grains are associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and type 2 diabetes. It’s also been shown that people who consume whole grains versus refined have better lipid profiles and glycemic control.

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3. Diet soda

Just because something is calorie-free doesn’t mean it’s chemical-free. You wouldn’t drink Drano would you? Artificial sweeteners found in diet soda are known to trigger insulin, which sends your body into fat storage mode and may lead to weight gain, even though the soda contains no calories itself.

Diet soda has also been linked to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, when compared to regular soda. No, I’m not telling you to go grab a Sprite or regular Coke. Swap out the diet soda for club soda bubbles instead.

4. Processed pastries

Long shelf life and a long list of ingredients is a sure bet that you should place that package back on the shelf. Processed pastries are made with refined sugar, refined wheat flour, hydrogenated oils (unhealthy trans fats) and a whole bunch of other chemicals and artificial ingredients. Trans fat has been associated with coronary heart disease, sudden death from cardiac causes and diabetes.

If you just have to have a sweet to go along with your milk, please make it homemade and take the ingredients up a notch. Bonus, your home will smell good too.

5. Fluorescent orange snacks

These crunchy old school lunch box go-tos are full of salt, chemicals and artificial coloring. They may taste good going down, but they are the ultimate junk with a capital J food.

Some grocery stores won’t even sell foods with artificial colors. Let’s applaud those stores and jump on the bandwagon and refuse to serve them in our homes too. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory spice that can give your fave crunchy snack like air popped (and GMO-free of course) popcorn a similar orange color if you’re feeling nostalgic.

Keri Glassman is a registered dietitian, healthy cooking expert and published author. Follow her on Instagram!

10 Absolutely Worst Foods to Eat

The deliciousness of bacon is not up for debate. ©iStock/Thinkstock


There’s no denying to the many bacon lovers that bacon is delicious. But it’s not very good for you — in fact, it’s one of the worst things you can eat. One average serving of bacon — three slices — contains 435 milligrams of sodium — about one-fifth of the average adult’s daily allowance .

An average healthy adult eating a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet should aim for 45 to 65 percent of those calories to come from carbohydrates, preferably unrefined (and remember, carbs include all the sugar you eat, not just bread and pasta). You also want no more than 66 grams of fat (including less than 20 grams of saturated fat) and no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day .

If your daily diet is full of junk foods such as fried foods, processed deli meats, bacon and soda, you have an increased risk of some major health conditions — and if you eat these kinds of foods six days a week, you increase your risk of stroke by 41 percent compared to if you only indulged in them once a month .

Following nutrition guidelines and eating healthy foods does make a difference. People who eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day live longer than people who don’t. But even if you’d rather have a slice of apple pie than an apple, you can make healthier choices, at least avoiding the foods you know absolutely aren’t good for you .

What’s so bad about processed foods? Scientists offer clues

NEW YORK (AP) — Chips, soda and frozen pizzas tend to be full of salt, sugar and fat, but now scientists are trying to understand if there’s something else about such processed foods that might be bad for us.

Already, the spread of cheap, packaged foods has been linked to rising obesity rates around the world. Yet advice to limit processed foods can seem unhelpful, given how convenient they are and the growing array of products that fall into the category.

While three recent studies offer more clues on how our increasingly industrialized food supply may be affecting our health, they also underscore how difficult nutrition science and advice can be. Here’s what they say.


Whether it’s curing, freezing, milling or pasteurization, nearly all foods undergo some type of processing. Even though processing itself doesn’t automatically make food unhealthy, “processed foods” is generally a negative term.

To more precisely identify the processed foods of most concern, scientists came up with a system that groups foods into four categories. It’s far from perfect, but the system says highly processed foods are made mostly of industrialized ingredients and additives, with little to no intact whole foods.

Sodas, packaged cookies, instant noodles and chicken nuggets are some examples of highly processed foods. But also included are products that can seem wholesome, like breakfast cereals, energy bars and some yogurts.


Cheap packaged foods are everywhere including checkout lines, gas stations and vending machines, and a very small four-week clinical trial might deepen our understanding of why that’s likely fueling obesity rates.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health found people ate an average of 500 extra calories a day when fed mostly processed foods, compared with when the same people were fed minimally processed foods. That’s even though researchers tried to match the meals for nutrients like fat, fiber and sugar.

The 20 participants were allowed to eat as much or as little as they wanted, and were checked into a clinic so their health and behavior could be monitored.

That’s not all the bad news.

In another study based on questionnaires, researchers in France found people who ate more processed foods were more likely to have heart disease. A similar study in Spain found eating more processed foods was linked to a higher risk of death in general.


Beyond the fact they taste really good, there might other reasons why it’s so hard to stop eating foods like cheese puffs and ice cream.

When fed minimally processed foods, people in the clinical trial produced more of a hormone that suppresses appetite, and less of a hormone that causes hunger. The reason for the biological reaction isn’t clear. Another finding: People ate processed foods faster.

“Those foods tend to be softer and easier to chew and swallow,” said Kevin Hall, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health who led the study.

Hall noted the source of nutrients might make a difference. Fibers from whole fruits and vegetables, for instance, may be better for making people feel full than the types of fiber added to packaged foods such as cookies, yogurt and even soda.

For the French study, author Mathilde Touvier also noted the largely unexamined effects of the “cocktail” of additives used to make the various processed foods we eat.

All three studies come with big caveats. The U.S. study was tiny and individual behavior varied widely: Some ate about the same amount of calories on both diets, and others ate far more on the processed diet.

Meals in the two diets were rated as being similarly pleasant, but Hall noted it’s possible participants were saying what they thought they should. The processed food diet included foods like salted nuts and whole milk, compared with unsalted nuts and lower-fat milk for the unprocessed diet.

With the French and Spanish studies, there could be other habits and environmental factors that explain the differences in health risks. The studies also didn’t reflect the broader population. In the Spanish study, participants were college graduates and relatively younger. And though processed food was tied to a greater risk of death, the total number of deaths was still relatively small.


Even without the latest studies, advice to limit processed foods probably makes sense to most people. Minimally processed foods tend to be richer in nutrients and more difficult to overeat, since they’re not as widely available and convenient.

Still, following that advice can be hard, especially if for people with limited time and money to spend on food.

“What frustrates me is when the message is, ‘Change the way you eat,’ without thinking about why people eat the way they eat,” said Sarah Bowen, a professor who studies food and inequality at North Carolina State University.

Another challenge is the broad spectrum of processed foods, and distinguishing which ones might be better or worse as companies continually re-engineer products to make them seem more wholesome. So while the newest studies may give us more reasons to avoid industrialized foods, they also underscore the difficulty of coming up with solutions.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

There’s no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food

Ditching rigid thinking about food and healthy eating helps us to create a happier, more sustainable diet.

It’s the kitchen-witching hour … after dinner, the kids are in bed, she’s prowling through the cupboards searching for the perfect Netflix-viewing snack. She’s craving chocolate but it’s not “healthy”, so instead she grabs some nuts, they’re “healthy”, then a piece of fruit, then just one biscuit – not quite so healthy but surely not as “bad” as the chocolate she really wants.

By the time the Netflix session is over, she’s eaten several more biscuits and a pile of popcorn, before caving in and eating the chocolate. And, after scoffing a few squares, racked with guilt, she decides to eat the whole bar – best to get rid of it, so she won’t be tempted by chocolate again tomorrow.

Prowling the kitchen, eating foods we don’t want, while circling the real object of our desire is a common problem for many dieters – not because we want chocolate (or cookies, or crisps), but because we see it as a problem and make it into a bigger issue.

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By the time we’ve completed a full stocktake of the kitchen pantry – eating everything we deem “healthy” in our quest to avoid the “wrong” snack choice – we can eat two or three times as much as we would have if we’d just cut to the chase and eaten the chocolate in the first place.

“But chocolate isn’t a ‘healthy’ food,” your brain screams. “Chocolate is bad – you shouldn’t eat it!”

In reality there is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” food, not least because no single food, snack or meal defines your entire relationship with food or eating. This type of black-and-white thinking – an apple is good, chocolate is bad – has been linked to a greater likelihood of failing to stick with healthy-eating goals long term.

Case in point: Dutch researchers measured the relationship between black-and-white thinking, eating behaviours and weight status among 241 adults, asking them how strongly they agreed with statements such as, “I view my attempts to diet as either successes or failures”, “I think of food as either good or bad”, and, “When dieting, if I eat something that I had planned not to, I think that I have failed.” Those who strongly agreed with these statements were more likely to fail in their attempts to stick to their healthy-eating goals.

Read more: Benefits of the Meditteranean diet | How to look after your liver: Scrap detoxing, raw food and juice-cleansing

Ditching rigid thinking about food and healthy eating helps us to create a happier, more sustainable diet as we release ourselves from the guilt and self-sabotage – “I’ve eaten some chocolate now, I might as well eat the whole bar, and a tub of ice cream, too!”

This type of catastrophic thinking – viewing or presenting a situation as considerably worse than it is – is a recipe for disaster in our relationship with food and our body.

If we banish inflexible rules – and chocolate isn’t “bad” or the “wrong” food – then we can enjoy some without first eating a pile of nuts, fruit, biscuits and popcorn. We eat less food in total, and more of the food we really enjoy.

Eating intuitively – giving ourselves unconditional permission to eat what we want, when we want; eating for physical rather than emotional reasons; and acting on our hunger and fullness cues – has been linked to improved psychological health, and in some studies, to improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels, along with improved dietary intake.

Food freedom, contrary to popular belief, actually allows us to settle into a happy middle ground, rather than swinging like a pendulum from rigid healthy eating rules to, “To hell with it, I’ll eat anything and everything in the pantry.”

So yes, eating the “wrong” food is sometimes the right choice, because in doing so, we break the black-and-white rules that push us further away from a healthy, relaxed relationship with food and eating.

Pass the chocolate, would you?

This article was first published in the October 13, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

10 of the Best (and Worst) Processed Foods at the Grocery Store

Very few people have the time, energy, and patience required to make all their meals completely from scratch. To fill in the gaps, we reach for processed foods at the supermarket. While this can often be a huge misstep, not every packaged item on the shelves is so sinful. Plenty of partially prepared foods are completely nutritious — you just have to know which ones to choose. We’re highlighting five of the best and five of the worst packaged foods to help you navigate the aisles with ease.

1. Best: Canned fish

Tuna salad made with canned tuna is a good choice. |

Fatty fish are among of the best choices for loading up on omega-3 fatty acids. Most folks are interested in these fats for heart health, but a good amount of research has found regular fish consumption is linked to an overall reduced risk of death. Fresh fish doesn’t hold well, though, so it can be difficult to get your fill if you’re not headed to the market every few days. The good news here is salmon, tuna, and sardines, all rich in omega-3s, are also available in shelf-stable cans. Because the seafood comes already cooked, you’ll also speed your way to a meal that much faster.

2. Best: Whole-wheat bread and pasta

Whole-grain bread is the way to go. |

Most of us don’t get close to consuming enough fiber on a daily basis, which can lead to weight gain and other health problems. Whole grains like brown rice and barley are some of the best foods to get your fill, but most of them take a lot of time to prepare. Fortunately, you can get all the goodness of these fiber-filled foods without the long cook time if you opt for whole-wheat breads and pastas. According to Vegetarian Times, you’ll also score more B vitamins, zinc, and magnesium.

3. Best: Fortified milk

Milk contains vital nutrients. |

When you think about it, all commercial milk is processed. In order for it to get the safe seal of approval, it has to be pasteurized. The drink is already healthy on its own, with plenty of calcium and protein, and it gets even better once producers add vitamin D. A deficiency in this nutrient has been linked to everything from dementia to obesity, according to WebMD, and it’s common for folks to fall short on the amount they need. Consider one 2014 study that found children who drank non-cow’s milk, which isn’t typically fortified, were more likely to have inadequate vitamin D levels.

4. Best: Canned beans

Try making black bean soup out of canned beans. |

Whether you’re looking to eat more meat-free meals or just need an easy way to make food prep go faster, canned beans are a stellar supermarket buy. A ½-cup serving contains 109 calories, more than 7 grams of protein, nearly no fat, and more than 8 grams of fiber. They can be pretty high in sodium, though, so make sure to thoroughly rinse canned beans before using. Also, keep your eye out for low-sodium versions.

5. Best: Frozen fruits and vegetables

Frozen peas are a great alternative to fresh. |

The frozen foods aisle is usually the spot where shoppers load up on pizza and microwave entrées, but it’s also home to a huge variety of frozen produce. These packaged fruits and veggies are great to have on hand for days when you don’t have time to pick up something fresh at the store, and they’re also just as healthy. The Frozen Food Foundation partnered with the University of California-Davis in 2014 to conduct a study on the nutrient values of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. They found the frosty foods tended to have nutrient levels nearly as good, and in some cases better, than fresh ones.

6. Worst: Juice drinks

Skip this orange juice drink. |

Now for the bad, starting with juice drinks. While 100% juice can find its way into a healthy diet, provided you’re sticking to a reasonable portion, packaged drinks, blends, and cocktails are usually about as healthy as candy. Let’s use Sunny Delight as an example. According to this tropical-tasting drink lists water and high-fructose corn syrup as its top two ingredients while the actual fruit comes in just tiny portions of concentrates. This leads to a whopping 19 grams of sugar per portion.

7. Worst: Boxed noodle meals

Instant ramen noodles should be left in the college dorm room. |

This category includes boxed macaroni and cheese as well as instant ramen. Though these packaged eats are inexpensive and quick, they’re not doing your diet any favors. Both Nissan Top Ramen and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese contain 30% or more of your daily recommended sodium intake, and that’s if you stick to the portion size. Since many of us down the entire package, you can easily go way overboard. With little else aside from simple carbohydrates, you’re better off skipping these noodles.

8. Worst: Processed meats

Skip this pile of hot dogs. |

Some people say they would sooner die than give up their favorites foods. If you find yourself feeling this way about breakfast sausage, hot dogs, bacon, and deli meats, you might want to change your tune. Studies on the effects of processed meat are numerous, and the results are not good. For example, one 2013 study found diets high in processed meat were linked to an increased risk of mortality from all causes, but especially due to cancer and cardiovascular disease.

9. Worst: Frozen, deep-fried foods

Chicken nuggets are much healthier when baked and made from scratch. |

Though restaurants are usually seen as the bad guys when it comes to fried foods, the frozen foods section at the grocery store can be just as dangerous. Those crispy fries, breaded fish fillets, and chicken nuggets might get the oven treatment in your kitchen, but these foods were fried prior to packaging. Eat This, Not That! highlighted some of the worst chicken nuggets. Even ones trying to feign health benefits by touting they use only breast meat can pack up to 13 grams of fat per serving.

10. Worst: Packaged cakes and cookies

Chocolate chip sandwich cookies are delicious, but bad for you. |

No one thinks a diet loaded with cookies and pastries is healthy, yet few realize just how much damage these eats can do. A seemingly harmless snack of three Oreos will set you back 160 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 14 grams of sugar. And because they have virtually no fiber or protein to keep you full, it’s easy to down several servings. When hunger strikes, you’re much better off reaching for a handful of almonds.

Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec

Processed foods have the advantage of saving time and this makes them tempting to people who have a busy lifestyle and for those who don’t particularly like to cook. Most processed foods also come with a low price tag that is hard for many consumers to resist. However, at some point we really need to look at the hidden costs that processed foods have on our health.

READ: Foods That Farmers Won’t Eat

It is no secret by now that the vast majority of processed foods are not healthy. In general, they are very low in nutrients, especially micronutrients like antioxidants and vitamins, while simultaneously being high on calories. They also contain industrially engineered ingredients that can be very harmful to the human body.

Eliminating all processed foods from your diet may be quite difficult. However, you can significantly improve your healthy by eliminating the worst of the processed foods. Below, you will find a list of the 4 most unhealthy processed foods.

1. Store Bought Cookies, Cake, Muffins, and Crackers

Beyond the obvious high levels of sugar and salt, most of these products also contain trans fat. Trans fat is added in part because it is much cheaper than healthy fats and this makes them more profitable. However, trans fat is also added to prolong shelf life and to improve the texture. In fact, there are whole “food science” labs devoted to figuring out how to use trans fats and other industrial foods to achieve the perfect texture in these types of products.

READ: 5 “Unhealthy” Foods You Should Be Eating

To determine if a product contains trans fat, you should not go by what it states on the front of the label. The USFDA actually allows manufacturers to label their products with “zero trans fat” if each individual serving contains less than 0.05 grams of trans fat. Many manufacturers simply reduced the size of a serving to reach this magic number. So, instead of a serving size being three cookies, they might say it is one cookie so they could put a “zero trans fat” on the label. To know for sure if a product actually contains trans fat, you need to look at the ingredient list and look for the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated.” If these words appear, then the product contains trans fat.

2. Many Popular Breakfast Cereals

Do you want to know why so many breakfast cereals are “fortified” with vitamins and minerals? The reason is because otherwise they would be so devoid of nutrition, no one would want to buy them. Fortified means that the vitamins are artificially added during the processing of the food. It’s no better than taking a crunchy vitamin, and in fact, usually a low quality vitamin. For example, these fortified cereals often add a form of vitamin D that is not easily used by the human body.

READ: The Best Breakfast Ideas

Most breakfast cereals are also loaded with sugar, or worse, high fructose corn syrup. If they contain corn, as many do, then you can bet it is genetically modified (GMO) corn because this type of corn is much cheaper and this increases their profit. GMO corn has been shown to cause tumors in rodents in a recent study conducted in Europe. Research studies have been limited in the United States and other countries because Monsanto and other biotech companies threaten scientists with lawsuits if they conduct research with their patented seed. However, there have been many anecdotal cases showing cattle and other farm animals getting sick and/or dying from eating GMO corn.

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The Top 10 Worst Ingredients in Processed Food (and what you should eat instead!)

By Anjali Shah on March 5, 2018 · Last Updated on April 25, 2019 This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure. Share This:

I recently got a question from a reader about what not to eat. She said, “Are there any foods that you’d say we should never eat, that are totally off limits?”

That got me thinking. In general, I don’t advocate cutting out entire food groups or foods altogether. Instead, I like to promote the 80/20 rule or “everything in moderation.” I think you can pretty much find a healthier version of just about anything (e.g. 88% dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate, sprouted grain bread instead of white bread, whole wheat pasta or lentil flour pasta instead of white pasta, etc.) I don’t believe in diets, and I don’t believe that entire food groups (e.g. gluten, dairy) are harmful unless you have an allergy or major intolerance to those foods.

But, after I received this question I realized while I don’t advocate for cutting out entire food groups, there are certain ingredients in processed/packaged foods that I try to avoid at all costs. And when Mark Hyman reached out to me to chat about some of the advice in his newest book, I thought a joint post with some of his tips and some of mine would be the perfect way to answer this question.

Dr. Hyman likes to call processed foods “Frankenfoods” – that contain things like trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), monosodium glutamate (MSG), preservatives, pesticides, and antibiotics. Why the Frankenstein reference?

When I spoke to Dr. Hyman about this, he said, “Today’s industrial food-like substances have hijacked our taste buds and brain chemistry. Food giants have taste institutes, where they hire “craving experts” to identify the “bliss points” of foods to create “heavy users.” It’s like manufacturing food that’s like a drug – literally addicting! Even so-called healthy foods are hijacking our health. Manufacturers know that we’re becoming more health-conscious, and they’re staying three steps ahead of us with their food marketing. All the food labels on packaged products say things like “natural,” “gluten free,” “whole grain,” “low-fat,” – but these terms literally mean NOTHING. None of these labels indicate a food is healthy, and oftentimes if there are health claims on the label, what’s inside is probably unhealthy!”

All of that can be so confusing when you’re trying to figure out what to eat. In general, I advocate for sticking to real food – which lies in the periphery of our grocery stores. Real food doesn’t usually have barcodes or ingredient lists. It doesn’t claim to be “fat-free” or whatever health claims dominate the front of packaged foods. There are no preservatives to lengthen shelf life. They come nature-packaged with nutrients, not produced in labs using inferior versions of vitamins and minerals. When you eat a variety of real foods – things like fresh vegetables and fruits, wild-caught fish, nuts and seeds – you naturally get the right amount of protein, fiber, and other health-sustaining nutrients.

Most of what we eat is not “real food.” At least, it has been so adulterated and processed, it is more of a food-like substance. Look at pretty much any processed food and you’ll find dozens of ingredients. The front label might have some bold health claims, but its ingredients show otherwise. As a result, most of us are confused, not knowing whom to believe or what to eat. It can be so frustrating! And while I definitely don’t advocate cutting out all packaged foods altogether, there are 10 ingredients I absolutely avoid if I see them on the label.

So here it is: My Top 10 Worst Ingredients in Processed Food!

#1 | High Fructose Corn Syrup (other names it goes by: glucose syrup, corn sugar, fruit fructose, iso-glucose).

What it is: a highly refined sweetener made from corn starch.

Why it’s bad: It has been shown to contribute to weight gain, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, insulin resistance, elevated triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.

It’s found in: Soda, salad dressings, breads, cereals, yogurt, soups, canned vegetables, lunch meats, pizza sauce and condiments.

What it is: Trans fats are created when a regular fat like corn, soybean, or palm oil is blasted with hydrogen and turned into a solid. Trans fats help packaged foods retain a longer shelf life (it doesn’t go bad for years!)

Why it’s bad: Trans fats raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower your HDL (good) cholesterol. They contribute to heart disease, obesity, strokes, and increase your risk of metabolic syndromes.

It’s found in: Deep fried foods, margarine, chips, crackers, baked goods, fast food

#3 | Artificial Food Coloring / Food Dyes (other names it goes by: Blue 1 and 2 – E133, green 3, red 3, red 40 and yellow 6 – E110, yellow tartrazine – E102)

What it is: These make foods look bright and colorful (much brighter than they would look in nature!)

Why it’s bad: Artificial food coloring has been banned in Europe for a while now, as they have been linked to various cancers, chromosomal damage, and behavioral problems (ADD/hyperactivity) in kids

#4 | Artificial Sweeteners (other names it goes by: Aspartame, Equal, Sucralose, Splenda, Saccharin, Sweet N Low, NutraSweet)

What it is: A chemical that adds sweetness to food without adding calories to food

Why it’s bad: Many artificial sweeteners are believed to be carcinogenic, and can contribute to headaches and digestive issues. It also messes with your metabolism and insulin because they trick the brain into forgetting that sweetness means extra calories, which can cause people to actually eat more sweet foods over time! Also, when you eat something that’s artificially sweetened, your body releases insulin the way it would if you actually ate sugar – which messes with your body’s insulin response over time.

It’s found in: Over 6,000 products – including diet/sugar-free sodas and drinks, gum, yogurt, mints, instant breakfasts, dessert, low calorie drinks, toothpaste

#5 | MSG – Monosodium Glutamate (other names it goes by: Yeast Extract, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Hydrolyzed Plant Protein, Vegetable Protein Extract, Glutamate, Glutamic Acid, Sodium Caseinate, Textured Protein, Soy Protein Isolate, Barley Malt, Calcium Caseinate and Malt Extract)

What it is: MSG is an amino acid used as a flavor-enhancer in processed foods. It is used to make foods more “addicting” to keep you eating/buying those foods!

Why it’s bad: Regular consumption of MSG has been shown to stimulate the appetite and contribute to weight gain and obesity. It can also cause fatigue and headaches.

It’s found in: Many processed foods like pre-made salad dressings, low-fat flavored yogurt, canned meats, frozen dinners, chips, canned soups, Chinese Food, cookies, seasonings, lunch meats.

#6 | Sodium Nitrite and Sodium Nitrate

What it is: These two chemicals are used to preserve meat and also give it a nice, vibrant color

Why it’s bad: When added to meat (which has amino acids), which is then cooked, these nitrates convert to nitrosamines, which are associated with an increased risk of certain cancers. This conversion usually happens at high temperatures, and the presence of amino acids is necessary as well for the conversion to occur (which is why it’s problematic when nitrates are in meat). In a 2007 analysis, The World Cancer Research Fund revealed that eating 1.8 ounces of processed meat every day increases your cancer risk by 20%.

It’s found in: Bacon, ham, salami, corned beef, hot dogs, pate, pickled pig’s feet, canned meat, smoked salmon, dried fish, jerky, lunch meat, cured meats and other processed meats.

#7 | BHA & BHT (Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT))

What it is: These are two preservatives used to extend shelf life and keep foods from becoming rancid.

Why it’s bad: Both of these preservatives have been deemed potentially carcinogenic to humans and the State of California has listed them as a known carcinogen. They can also mess with your hormones.

#8 | Potassium Bromate (other names it goes by: bromic acid, potassium salt, bromated flour, “enriched flour”)

What it is: This is a food additive used to increase the volume in breads, rolls, flour

Why it’s bad: It has been banned in the EU, Canada and several other countries because it has been shown to cause cancer in animals. It is also an endocrine disruptor.

It’s found in: Most commercial breads (e.g. Wonder Bread, Home Pride). It’s also common in flour so check the ingredients before you buy!

#9 | rBGH and rBST (Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), Recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST))

What it is: These are growth hormones designed to boost milk production in dairy cows.

Why it’s bad: Milk from cows given these hormones have high levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). High levels of this have been linked to breast, colon and prostate cancers. Additionally, giving cows rBGH has been shown to increase the incidence of mastitis – which requires high levels of antibiotics to be given to the cows. rBGH milk is not required to be labeled.

It’s found in: All dairy products that aren’t specifically labeled “No rGBH or rBST.”

#10 | Artificial Flavors

What it is: Chemical compounds used to flavor foods and make them more addicting

Why it’s bad: Artificial flavors on their own aren’t harmful, but they are often an indicator that the food is highly processed and likely includes one of the other ingredients on this list! Real food doesn’t require artificial flavoring to taste good it tastes great all on its own!

It’s found in: Candy, soda, fast food, and other processed foods.

So what should you eat? Stick to whole foods (the perimeter of the grocery store!) and only buy packaged foods where: 1) you can pronounce all of the ingredients on the label (e.g. nut butter should just have nuts and salt listed, nothing else) and 2) none of these 10 ingredients are listed on the label! I hope this list helps you navigate those confusing grocery store aisles, and help you find the healthiest food for you and your family!

For more information on which foods are beneficial and which to avoid, check out Mark’s new book — Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?

The Top 10 Worst Foods To Eat

Healthy Eating

Processed junk foods are everywhere, full of sugar, salt and fat, they can have devastating effects on your health – but what are the real worst foods to eat?

Processed junk foods are everywhere, full of sugar, salt and fat, they can have devastating effects on your health – but what are the real worst foods to eat?

That’s not to say that the foods featured on this list are things you should never eat again, but if you want to follow a healthy diet then try to keep your intake of these 10 foods to a minimum.


Cheesy fries

It’s no secret that fries are high in salt, fat and calories, and adding large amounts of cheese to this already unhealthy food makes this a terrible recipe for your health. A regular portion of fries contains around 420 calories. Throw in 100g of cheddar cheese on top of this, and you will be adding a further 400 calories and 35g of fat to the fries.


Fried desserts

Anything deep fried is a poor health choice, and coating a dessert that is already high in sugar and fat in batter is something you should avoid. Fried foods can clog up your arteries which can, over time lead to heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. Don’t think this doesn’t apply to pineapple and banana fritters too. Just because they are fruit, they have still been cooked in batter and will also be swimming in a sugary syrup.



Many of us start our day with a bowl of cereal, but in some cases, this breakfast choice can actually contain many harmful ingredients.

Some breakfast cereals (specifically those aimed at children) contain preservatives to make them last longer, artificial dyes, flavourings and high amounts of sugar. An article published in the Journal of American Dietetic Association found that cereals marketed at children contained more: sodium, carbohydrates, sugar and calories per gram than those not marketed to children. Where possible, try to stick to cereals that are high in fibre and low in sugar.


Pork scratchings (pork rind or crackle)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, deep fried pig skin covered in salt makes it onto our list of the 10 worst foods to eat. If you’ve ever had a bag of pork scratchings, then you might have had the pleasure of finding a piece that still has a few hairs on it. Pig hair is usually removed by burning the skin quickly before it’s cut up and cooked in the hot fat, but occasionally, some hair remains on the skin.


Fizzy drinks

Although they are technically not a food, fizzy drinks still rightly deserve a place on the unhealthy food list. The health implications of regular consumption of fizzy drinks include heart disease, tooth decay and osteoporosis. Fizzy drinks also contain enormous amounts of hidden sugar, with the average can of coke containing 10 teaspoons. Even diet drinks that seem more healthy should generally be avoided as although they might be lower in calories than full-fat versions, they still contain artificial sweeteners which can rot tooth enamel over time.


Processed meats

Processed meats have been modified to contain nitrates and other chemical additives to help preserve the meat for longer and enhance the colour. Some processed meats such as sausages are also made up leftover, unwanted parts of animals, mixed up with high amounts of salt and fat. Consuming processed meat can also cause health risks including high blood pressure, heart disease and some forms of cancer.


Frozen meals

Although frozen ready meals might be a convenient choice, they offer little in the way of nutritional value. To turn something that sits in your freezer for months on end into an edible meal, manufacturers add in high levels of preservatives and sodium to the food. Rather than filling your freezer with shop bought ready meals, batch make your own homemade alternatives and freeze the individual portions.


Chicken nuggets

Don’t be fooled into thinking that chicken nuggets are a healthy food choice because they contain chicken. The truth is, chicken nuggets rarely contain only chicken breast, with manufacturers mixing the meat with bulking agents and leftover bits of carcass (the average nugget contains 50 per cent more fat and carbs than protein.) Instead of eating the deep fried nuggets, make your own healthy chicken nuggets at home by using a lean chicken breast cut into pieces and coated in breadcrumbs.


Canned soups

A seemingly innocent addition to this list, canned soups are not as bad for your health as some of the other foods featured in this top 10, but they do contain high amounts of salt. Made correctly, soup can provide a hearty and healthy meal packed full of vitamins and other goodness so if you want to eat soup, then stick to making your own. That way you know exactly what is going into it and won’t fall into the high salt trap of the canned varieties.



Although you might love doughnuts, in the long term, your heart won’t. Doughnuts are fried, so you consume high amounts of saturated and trans fats when you eat the treat. Doughnuts also class as empty calories, as the snack itself is high in calories and sugar (a chocolate iced doughnut contains 350 calories) but low in nutritional value. So it won’t be long before your reaching for another doughnut… or two.

I don’t think I am ever going to convince anybody that what I do for a living — traveling and eating — could be counted as one of life’s tougher jobs. I am usually placed in the enviable position of spending time in fascinating places and eating amazing food prepared for me by talented and generous cooks.

That said, on more than one occasion I have been faced with a particularly challenging local delicacy that I have had to force down as enthusiastic locals watch for my reaction. Some are challenging because they contain ingredients alien to a Western palate, others because they are made using techniques like fermenting, which makes them an acquired taste. However, some are just objectively nasty and should be mentioned in the Geneva Convention.

Here are the 10 worst foods I have encountered so far.

Dende oil (Brazil)

This dislike is a purely subjective one. Dende oil is the cooking medium for much of the fried food in the Bahia region of Brazil. It is extracted from local palm trees, and the origins of its use go back to the cooking methods of African slaves. The taste of anything cooked in the oil is very strong, but you are unlikely to get that far, as the smell is reminiscent of an unwashed armpit.

Kopi luwak (Sumatra)

Time to fess up: I have never tried this one. Not because I have any great fear of drinking something that has passed through the digestive system of the Asian palm civet and then been collected by rummaging around in its feces, but because coffee is one of two things to which I am allergic (the other being oysters). Apparently kopi luwak is the most expensive brew on earth, so maybe I am missing something. I can learn to live with not knowing.

Balut (Philippines)

Let a fertilized duck or chicken egg develop until it is embryonic. Boil it and serve with chili vinegar, and you have balut, the street food of discerning Filipinos. There is a strict etiquette to eating balut. First, sip the liquid from the shell. Next, chew the remaining contents, making sure to crack the bones for good measure, and then toss the shell on the ground. For me, the only rule is to run as fast as possible in the other direction if I am ever offered one again.

Roasted camel (Morocco)

Butchers in the famous city of Casablanca advertise the origins of the camel meat they are selling by hanging the grinning heads of the animals outside their stands. Nearby, stalls are set up to grill your purchases for you, in kebab or sandwich form. The meat is tough and gamy. The locals seemed to like it, but it took more chewing than my sensitive gnashers were able to dish out.

Cod sperm (Japan)

In the spirit of adventure and so as not to lose face in front of a crowd of smart Japanese businessmen, I tried these small white sacks of slimy unpleasantness in a trendy sushi bar in Kyoto. I threw up, and they laughed a great deal.

I am not particularly sentimental and don’t have any great issue with people eating Fido if that is what their customs dictate. For the record, the meat tastes like gamy pork. However, once I found out that cooks like to beat the dog while it is still alive, believing that the added adrenaline in the meat will give virility to those who eat it, I made a vow never to touch it again.

Cane rat (China)

I totally understand that people have to use what resources are available to them to survive. However, the sight of a dried cane rat at a food stall in Yangshuo, in southern China, was not a particularly welcome one. Being a culinary adventurer, I felt obliged to try it. What can I say? It tasted just as one would imagine a dead dried rat would taste. Let us never speak of it again.

Durian (Southeast Asia)

Signs bearing the silhouette of a large prickly fruit with a line through it can be found on the doors of hotels, buses and trains throughout Southeast Asia. They are a firm warning that the dreaded durian is not welcome, and it is easy to understand why. Although the taste of the fruit is not at all unpleasant, the smell is enough to peel the skin off one’s face from one hundred paces away.

Airag (Mongolia)

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Hákarl (Iceland)

At some point in distant history, a hungry Icelander thought that if he buried a basking shark in a pit of gravel and snow for up to 12 weeks and then left it to dry for a few months more, it would make for a lovely little snack. It doesn’t, and the long curing process of hákarl actually produces arguably the single most unpleasant thing to eat on the whole planet.

Top 10 Best Foods To Eat & 10 Worst Foods, To Avoid

These are the top 10 best foods to eat, and the worst 10 foods to avoid. A great FREE printable for the fridge and an easy reminder to stay on track. Just click on the image below to save the PDF for printing.

10 Worst Foods To Eat

Yikes. That is a Lot of sugar!!!

      1. Sodas, soft drinks – these have absolutely ZERO nutrition. 1 can of coke contains 10 spoons of sugar! Think about that. Would you sit and eat 10 cubes of sugar? Would you give that to your children to eat? All these sugary drinks do, is increase obesity, tooth decay and poor health. If you do nothing else, please, please, NEVER drink these again. Drink water. It is healthier and free. To save $$$, don’t buy the bottled water, use a refilable bottle. Take a look at my son’s science experiment using soda and juice.
      2. Grains – forget this “whole grain is healthy” message. Grains are incredibly high in carbohydrates (which turn into glucose by the body). Modern grains, are not like our ancestors ate. Modern wheat in particular, has been bred to be knee high (so it is easier and cheaper to harvest) and bred to be disease resistant. It is sprayed with pesticides and fungicides which affect our gut immunity and gut health. Milling grains removes most of the nutrients, can be bleached with various chemicals, then is fortified with artificial nutrients. Wheat contains gluten, gliadins, amylopectins and other proteins which cause leaky gut syndrome. Wheat consumption is associated with memory loss, arthritis, T2 diabetes, depression, heart disease and alzheimers. By going grain free, you will be amazed at your weight loss, reduction of puffiness around the face, heal your gut, absorb more nutrients and feel amazing.
      3. Sweets and confectionery – Sweets are incredibly high in sugar, high fructose corn syrup, colourings, flavourings and preservatives. They offer ZERO nutrition and cause tooth decay. For a sweet treat, go for dark chocolate or berries as a healthy alternative.
      4. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) – fructose is not metabolised the same way as glucose is. Glucose can be metabolised throughout the body, but fructose is metabolised in the liver. Fructose causes visceral fat (that dangerous tummy fat that surrounds your organs) and raises LDL and triglycerides (potent predictors of heart disease). It is used by the food industry as a cheap ingredient and has a relatively high sweetness 1.7 x glucose. Food manufacturers try to hide High Fructose cron Syrup, so it may appear on the nutrition panel as corn syrup, HFCS, Glucose-Fructose, Isoglucose, High Fructose Maize Syrup.
      5. Snack foods – read the labels and most snack foods are high in carbs, wheat, sugar, colours, preservatives, trans fats …. Make your own snacks which are cheaper and healthier. Don’t eat pretzels, chips, wheat puff balls, corn chips, or microwave popcorn. Sadly snack foods are rewarding, but they increase our appetite and are addictive.
      6. Seed oils – We have been told for so long to avoid cholesterol and to use seed oils such as canola, sunflower, soybean oil, corn oil and other seed oils instead, but they are high in Omega 6 which causes inflammation throughout the body. Just watch the video at the end of this post, to see how canola oil is made, extracted, bleached, boiled and refined. All the waste products are sadly fed to cattle! Like that’s a good thing!
      7. Sugar in any form – is sugar! No matter where the sugar comes from it will raise your insulin, increase your appetite, stop fat burning and increase fat production and affect your cholesterol profile. So don’t think that honey, dried fruit, maple syrup or agave (90% fructose so is actually just a natural HFCS) is any healthier. The body sees it as sugar. Yes there may be a small amount of nutrition in these compared to sugar, but many people tend to go overboard on them thinking they are a healthy alternative. The small amount of nutrients they contain, is not enough to outweigh the damage sugar does to our bodies.
      8. Processed meats – read the labels of the meat products you buy. Highly processed meats contain nitrites and nitrates which are controversial as the research hasn’t come to a clear conclusion. To be safe, buy meat that is unprocessed and fresh. If you do want processed meats such as bacon or salami, go for the brand which has the fewest ingredients. Buy the products which have the highest meat content, for example sausages should be at least 80% meat. Many of the studies done on processed meat have not made the distinction between hot dogs and bacon from the bone. They do not also take into account the damaging oxidised french fries served alongside and the high sugar ketchup.
      9. Breakfast cereals – read my entire post on cereals, and why if you understand what is wrong with cereals you will understand what is wrong with modern food production. How companies turn cheap grains into socially acceptable cereals, packed with sugar and fortified.
      10. Low Fat Foods– when fat is removed from products, sugar or HFCS is added as a cheap alternative. So low fat products are high in sugar and carbs. Look at the carb content of regular cream cheese 4% compared to low fat cream cheese which is 15% carbs. By removing the fat, you also remove the fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A, D, E and K. Fat makes you feel fuller for longer. Good fat improves our cholesterol profile and good fat is nutritious and necessary for good brain health.

10 Best Foods To Eat

  1. Oily Fish – incredibly high in Omega 3 fatty acid which helps reduce inflammation, improves brain function, heart health, skin health, and joint health. We should aim to eat oily fish such as salmon or tuna twice a week.
  2. Eggs – there is no restriction to eating eggs. I eat eggs most mornings for breakfast. They are little powerhouses of nutrition and incredibly filling. They contain almost every nutrient required, full of protein, good fat, Vitamins A, B2, B5, B12, E, zinc, folate, selenium, calcium, iron, potassium, manganese. The cholesterol in eggs improves your lipid profile. Eggs contain choline which is essential for cell membrane structure, methylation, precursor for the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, choline can protect the liver from certain types of damage and reduces levels of homocysteine (raised levels are linked with cardiovsascular disease). So start eating eggs again, and plenty of them. They are the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, and so versatile.
  3. Meat – packed with iron, protein and good fats. What’s not to love? Meat, and organ meat, are incredibly nutritious. Red meat contains Vitamins B3, B6, B12, iron, protein, fat, zinc, selenium. Meat is ZERO carbs. Many traditional cultures existed pretty much on meat and fat alone. Eating meat is one of the most nutritious things we can do for our health and vitality.
  4. Butter – poor old butter has got an undeserved bad reputation. It is full of saturated fat, so when the low fat myth and cholesterol myth is perpetuated, poor old butter is off the menu. Well start eating it again. Saturated fat is good, as long as you are eating low carb. Butter is full of nutrients and vitamins. Butter is made from churned cream, and maybe some salt. That’s pretty much it. Margarine is made from vegetable oils, which are often hydrogenated (to extended the shelf life and make liquid oils spreadable) and contain a number of colours and emulsifiers. Butter just makes everything taste good.Vegetables – we all know vegetables are good of us. High in fibre, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Try and go for more leafy green vegetables, and less starchy, root vegetables. Add as many low carb vegetables into your meal as you can. Serve with fat such as butter, sour cream or cheese, to absorb more fatty vitamins. Your children will eat more vegetables too when butter or cheese is on the table.
  5. Vegetables – choose low starch vegetables that are packed with nutrition. They provide us with probiotics, fibre, vitamins, trace elements, phytonutrients and they crowd out the junk!!!
  6. Nuts and seeds – are little bundles of fibre, vitamins and trace elements, especially zinc, magnesium and selenium. Some nuts are higher in carbs than others, so if your weight loss has stopped, just be careful which nuts you are consuming, avoid cashews as they are the highest in carbs.
  7. Coconut oil – is a wonderful source of medium chain triglycerides which help produce ketones, energy and increases weight loss. Coconut oil contains lauric acid which is anti fungal and antiviral. Studies are now linking coconut oil with the prevention and improvement of alzheimer’s disease.
  8. Full Fat Dairy – high in calcium, healthy fats and fatty vitamins (A, D, E and K). Don’t go for the low fat versions as they are high in carbs and low in nutrition.
  9. Natural Yoghurt – gut health is incredibly important. 95% of your serotonin (happiness hormone) and 70% of the cells that make up our immune system are found in the gut. Modern foods, alcohol, stress and preservatives all affect our gut health. We are the first generation to grow up with preservatives in so many of our foods. They stop bacteria forming in food products, so what is it doing to our gut? Eat more natural yogurt, full of live bacteria is a fabulous way to restore the flora in your gut. Eating whole foods and unprocessed foods also has a marked improvement. After taking a course of antibiotics, consider taking a probiotic to restore the good bacteria.
  10. Berries – berries are such a wonderful fruit. Low in carbs and fructose, but incredibly high in antioxidants, fibre, vitamins and minerals. They can be added to smoothies, grain free granola or serve with natural yogurt.

“But giving up carbs, wheat and junk is so hard and can be so expensive…..

I absolutely agree, it is hard to begin with, and yes it will take time to adjust, find new recipes, and to think differently, but once you start, you are making a real change for you and your families health. Who wants to be sick, overweight, unhappy and at high risk of serious ill health? Who wants an old age where your health is stopping you do the things you want?

How many times have you said you wish you started a diet a year ago because now you would be 10kg lighter or 50kg lighter? Find the courage to start now. We have choices in life, we either put up with things, or we change. Just start eating more of the good foods, and less of the bad foods. Decide on 1 or 2 “Worst Foods”, and pledge never to have them again. Then when you’re Ok with that, decide on another and so on, and so on. And look at how far you have come, not how much more you should be doing. Be proud that you are trying.

Cost of low carb eating

Read this post, it has 100 tips and tricks to make low carb cheaper. And this post explains how much does low carb cost? It has some great cost comparisons for low carb and high carb meals.

“Do what you can, with what you have”. I think we all agree that organic, grass fed, free range food is best, but realistically, that is out of so many peoples reach, especially the people who need help the most.

Don’t let this ‘ideal way of eating’ stop you. Go and buy the cheap eggs, the cheap cuts of meat, the fatty meats (which are actually the healthiest), go to the cheap vegetables shops, stock up at the butchers and shop around.

You will also save $$$ by not buying any junk food. No more cakes, biscuits, crisps, muesli bars, bread, soda, sweets and pizzas. No more takeaways. A McDonalds family meal easily costs $30 for a family of 5, for $30 I could buy a roast chicken, plenty of vegetables, and have enough money leftover to make a lowcarb dessert or some dark chocolate.

Invest in your health, and prevent big medical bills in the future.
Some of us pay for life insurance, so why not invest as much in your health?
It’s hard to lose weight, but it is so much harder being overweight.

Let’s get started …

The Top 10 Shanghai Dishes You Must Eat

Shanghai snacks

Shanghai boasts one of China’s best and most distinctive cuisines. Influenced by its position just south of the Yangtze River and at the mouth of the Huangpu River, the region abounds in a selection of dishes that are unique to Shanghai but also influenced from neighboring provinces.

The Shanghainese are known to have a ‘sweet tooth’, and more sugar is used in Shanghai’s signature dishes than in any other part of China. Shanghai’s neighbors also contribute to the diversity of the area’s cuisine: Hangzhou, known for its West Lake carp; Zhejiang to the west, for its vinegar; and Shaoxing, for its warmed rice wine. Below is our list of the best dishes or food items that are a must-try when you visit Shanghai.

1. Xiaolongbao or Soup Dumplings

Steamed buns

A Shanghai Classic – these soup dumplings should be your first meal in Shanghai. Delicate thin-skinned dumplings, with pork or vegetable or shrimp or crab fillings inside with a delicious hot broth, each is an explosion of flavor in the mouth.

Careful as these are served piping hot in those cute bamboo baskets (they make for a great souvenir too!) so give each dumpling a few moments in the soy sauce and vinegar baths before plonking into your mouth. You will find it hard to stop!

You could try the famous Din Tai Fung (many outlets of this Taiwanese chain – excellent choice nevertheless and hugely popular among expats, locals and tourists) but we would recommend another favorite of ours.

  • Chinese: 小笼包 xiǎolóngbāo /sshyaow-long-baow/ ‘little-basket-buns’
  • Recommended restaurant: Jia Jia Tang Bao
  • Address: 90 Huanghe Road, Huangpu/ 黄河路90号, 近北京路
  • Price: Starting at RMB 20 but overall very cheap

2. Steamed Crab

Shanghai streamed crab

Shanghai’s famed steamed crab uses a special type of crab found in rivers, and is normally consumed in late autumn and winter. The crabs are tied with ropes or strings, placed in bamboo containers, steamed and served. There few other artificial ingredients added to the dish yet it tastes fantastic. Da Zha Xie is usually consumed with vinegar.

Locals are also quite fussy about when to consume male crabs and when to consume female crabs. See “Hairy Crab — The Shanghai Delicacy Every Tourist Should Try”.

  • Chinese: 大闸蟹 dà zhá xiè /daa jaa sshyeah/ ‘big sluice crab’
  • Recommended restaurant: Xinguang Jiu Jia 新光酒家
  • Address: 512 Tianjin Lu (by Guangxi Bei Lu) 天津路512号(近广西北路)
  • Price: RMB 300-400 per person

3. Smoked Fish Slices

Smoked Fish Slices

Ideal for those who like highly spiced food, Shanghai’s “smoked” fish slices (fresh fish marinated and spiced to taste like smoked fish) make a tasty dish. The fish is usually a carp and is prepared in a way that it tastes smoked and delicious. This is also called Shanghai Shun Yu. It has a crispy outer skin and the meat inside is beautifully cooked and tender, thanks to all that deep frying goodness!

  • Chinese: 熏鱼 xūn yú /sshyoon yoo/ ‘smoked fish’
  • Recommended restaurant: Fu 1039 福1039
  • Address:1039 Yuyuan Road, Changning District 長寧区愚園路1039號
  • Price: RMB 300 per person approximately

4. Beggar’s Chicken

This dish has come strong folklore behind its origins. Beggar’s Chicken originated in the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) and calls for a stuffed and marinated chicken that is sealed tight with layers of lotus leaves, and then wrapped in wax paper along with mud. Then it is slowly baked in low heat taking up to 6 hours to prepare. This dish hails from Hangzhou.

This unique cooking technique produces tender, juicy, and aromatic chicken, with the original taste of the chicken perfectly retained and trapped. The bones just fall off the chicken after hours of baking, and the meat is bursting with flavor and fragrance. We recommend a very popular joint on the Bund that serves a perfect Beggar’s Chicken and is likely the best place for you to try your first one!

  • Chinese: 叫花鸡 jiàohuā jī /jyaow-hwaa jee/ ‘beggar chicken’
  • Recommended restaurant: Xindalu 新大陆
  • Address: 199 Huangpu Road, Hongkou District 虹口区黄浦路199号
  • Price: RMB 250-350 per person

5. Peking Duck

Roast Duck

Beijing roast duck or Peking duck has the name Beijing attached to it but it is also a Shanghai specialty. Shanghai has many places that serve some of the best Peking Duck in China. This dish prepares the duck in a way that it is bright in color, crispy in skin and tender in meat. Taken together with a special paste, scallions, steamed pancakes, it is very delicious. It is roasted in an open fire Cantonese style, combined with the culinary art of Beijing duck.

  • Chinese: 烤鸭 kǎoyā /kaow-yaa/ ‘roast duck’
  • Recommended restaurant: Da Dong Roast Duck 大董烤鸭
  • Address: 999 Huaihai Middle Road 淮海中路999号 (Inside IAPM Mall)
  • Price: RMB 300 for the duck

6. Braised Pork

This is a a classic Shanghai dish, sweet and caramelised pork belly cooked and served in brown sauce. The brown sauce is a mixture of Shaoxing sauce, light soy and dark soy sauce, in addition to sugar. It is typically served with hard boiled eggs. The meat will melt in your mouth! Our recommendation below is a long time favorite with locals and travelers and we promise you the most authentic Hong Shao Rou you can find in Shanghai.

  • Chinese: 红烧肉 hóngshāo ròu /hongshaow roh/ ‘red-cooked meat’
  • Recommended restaurant: Old Jesse Restaurant 老吉士酒家
  • Address: 41 Tianping Road 天平路41号
  • Price: RMB 270 per person

7. Fried Pork Buns

Fried mantou (steamed bread) is a plainer variation on Shanghai’s fried porrk bun.

Pan-fried pork buns, a local fried dim sum dish of Shanghai, has a history of over 100 years. The semi-fermented dough is fried in a wok, and water is sprayed on it several times during cooking. The fried bottom of this bun is absolutely yummy! Best eaten hot, the bottom of a hot fried pan-fried bun is golden and crispy while the rest is white and soft. The stuffing, fresh meat with sesame or scallion, is especially delicious. With its tempting color, crispy skin, tender meat and the gorgeous appearance, fried shengjianbao is a top Shanghai snack.

  • Chinese: 生煎包 shēngjiānbāo /shnng-jyen-baow/ ‘raw-fried bun’
  • Recommended restaurant: Xiao Yang Shen Jian 小杨生煎
  • Address: 1601 Nanjing West Road/ 南京西路1601号
  • Price: RMB 60-100 per person

8. Shanghai Snacks

Shanghai snacks

Shanghai boasts 1,800 snack houses and stalls serving various sorts of refreshments.

Taking breakfast foods by way of example, there is a total of some 300 kinds of dumplings and pastries including deep-fried twisted dough sticks, soy milk, glutinous-rice balls, fried cakes with green onions, noodles with topping, dumplings in soup, steamed buns, fried dumplings, glutinous-rice cakes and dumplings, sweet pasty soups.

Shanghai snacks are dainty and exquisite in shape with unique features.The eyebrow shortcake, date paste cake, shredded turnip cake, sweet Osmanthus steamed cake are known for their color, flavor, fragrance and shape. They have captivated many diners. The steamed dumpling with meat filling is a typical Shanghai snack. You will find it in every corner of Shanghai, in big restaurants and little food stalls. Steamed buns come in a variety of vegetarian and non vegetarian choices, from red bean paste fillings, spinach fillings to pork and crab, the spread is endless really.

Steamed Buns

Shanghai Snacks include nanxiang steamed buns 南翔小笼包; large soup buns 灌汤包; vegetarian stuffed buns 素菜包; Niangao or New Year cake; eyebrow-shaped shortcake 眉毛酥; crab shell cake 蟹壳黄.

  • Recommendations: the Yuyuan marketplace and the snack restaurants at the intersection of Tibet Road and Yan’an Road near People’s Square.
  • See also The Top-5 Pick of Shanghai’s Street Food Spots
  • How to Eat Like a Local by Day in Shanghai

9. Yellow Croaker Noodle Soup

Croaker is a popular fish in Shanghai, and so naturally the croaker fish soup with noodles is one of the most local authentic dishes you can try! This fish grows aplenty in the Yellow Sea and can be cooked in a variety of ways. It is easy to prepare and the meat is tender and juicy. The broth is creamy and delicious, from hours of boiling fish bones

  • Chinese: 上海黄鱼面 Shànghǎi huángyú miàn /shung-hi hwung-yoo myen/ ‘Shanghai yellow croaker noodles’
  • Recommended restaurant: Ding Te Le 顶特勒粥面馆
  • Address: 22, Lane 494 Huaihai Middle Road/ 淮海中路494弄22号
  • Price: RMB 50 starting per person

10. Chicken and Duck Blood Soup

Yes, you guessed it. This Shanghai favorite is soup (known as Jiya Xuetang) that contains solidified blood as its main ingredient. In fact, the blood rather resembles dark red tofu and has very little taste. The broth used is a very light or slightly salty clear chicken broth with some spring onion added for a nice flavor. All in all, this traditional Shanghai snack is quite tasty. Don’t be scared. If you are not totally disgusted by the idea to begin with, you may like it. This dish has its origins in Nanjing but Shanghai has made it its own.

This soup is said to be very healthy and good for you. The Chinese claim eating certain parts of animals strengthens the corresponding part on one’s own body.

  • Chinese: 鸡鸭血汤 jī yā xuè tāng /jee yaa sshwhere tung/ ‘chicken duck blood soup’
  • Recommended restaurant: Zhouli Laoya Fensi 妯娌老鸭粉丝
  • Address: 379 Xietu Road/ 斜土路2379号
  • Price: under RMB 50-60 per person

Tour Shanghai Your Way

Enjoy Shanghai food with help ordering what you would like from our expert Shanghai guides.

Our tours are developed through years of experience and customer feedback, can be customized to your requirements, and are still reasonably priced. Below are two ways to tour Shanghai and the surrounding area for your consideration.

Shanghai Food Tour: Your local guide will take you to try authentic local snacks which can not be founded on your own.

2-Day Essence of Shanghai Tour: Beyond must-see sites, you will wander through alleyways and eat like a local in a local restaurant.

More on Eating and Dining in Shanghai

  • How to Eat like a Local in Shanghai by night
  • Enjoy Shanghai snacks
  • Author: Anusuya Mitra
  • Update: June 17, 2019
  • See all my travel articles
  • Send feedback

Foods never to eat

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