Part of the battle of healthy eating is finding good-for-you foods that you actually like to eat. And when you do, your instinct may be to latch on to them. After all, having a go-to list of healthy foods makes everything easier, from meal planning to grocery shopping.
But, as they say, variety is the spice of life. And that goes for healthy food, too.
“You may have heard 'eat the rainbow,' meaning all the different colored fruits and veggies, and there is truth to that,” says Ginger Hultin, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It's important to eat a large variety of foods so you get access to different vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.” Not to mention, varying your diet can help with weight loss and even maintaining the loss over a two-year period, according to recent research.
So without further adieu, here are six foods that you shouldn’t eat every day.
Salmon seems like a can’t-go-wrong superfood. But when it’s smoked, there are some limits. “Smoking fish generates polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and dietary exposure could result in excess lifetime cancer risks,” says Hultin, so keep it to once or twice a week. But the good news, Hultin says, is that you can safely enjoy salmon many other ways such as poached, braised, or roasted—as often as you'd like!
While everyone’s favorite drink is full of gut-friendly probiotics, you may want to consider it a treat and not an everyday beverage. That’s because kombucha is acidic. “Too much kombucha can leave you with heartburn,” says registered dietitian Julie Harrington. While you may like to savor your bubbly elixir, Harrington warns that it's not a great idea. Sipping it throughout the day regularly exposes your teeth to the sugar in kombucha, which can lead to cavities. People who are pregnant or have compromised immune systems should also avoid it—the bacteria it's made from might make them sick. Choose a booch that's not loaded with added sugar and calories. Stick with one to two drinks per day (or roughly 50 calories from kombucha per day).
There are tons of reasons to love tuna. It’s high in protein and minerals like iron, calcium, zinc, and magnesium. But, thanks to its high mercury count, you shouldn’t eat it every day, especially if you’re pregnant or nursing. “An excessive amount of mercury can lead to mercury poisoning, which can cause vision problems and muscle weakness,” says Harrington. “Whether you fall into the higher risk category (pregnant and nursing women and children) or not, consider your mercury intake and choose the lowest mercury type of tuna,” says Hultin. Stick with canned light tuna, for up to two to three servings per week.
Coconut oil is a darling in the healthy-eating world, but that doesn’t mean you should have it every day. "Coconut oil is a saturated fat, but it is abundant in medium-chain triglycerides that may decrease levels of overall cholesterol and triglyceride,” says Harrington. But it's still calorically dense, with 121 calories per tablespoon, according to the USDA. “Be mindful of portion sizes as it can add excess calories in meals,” Harrington says. Aim for two tablespoons per day max.
While soup can be a great way to sneak extra veggies and fiber into your day, prepared or canned soup can pack a sodium punch way beyond the recommended 2,300 mg or one teaspoon per day recommended by the American Heart Association. “People may think they don’t eat much salt if they don’t use a salt shaker, but the majority of sodium intake comes from prepared foods,” says Hultin. “French onion condensed canned soup can contain as much as 1,560 mg of sodium in a cup.” If you’re a soup fiend, choose lower-sodium varieties. "It's important to make sure that you're not getting more than one-third of the daily needs per meal," which is less than 800 mg of sodium (or less if you're on a low-sodium diet), says Hultin. Better yet, make your own, using herbs and spices to add more flavor.
Hultin says that when meat—including beef, pork, fish, and poultry—is cooked at high temperatures, like during pan frying or grilling, it can create cancer-causing compounds like heterocyclic amines (HCAs)—a good reason to limit your intake. “HCAs are not found in significant amounts in foods other than meat cooked at high temperatures, so feel free to grill veggies, fruit, and meat alternatives like veggie burgers or tofu daily,” she says. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends keeping grilled and processed meat consumption to 18 grams per week—roughly three six-ounce burger patties a week. So, make it an occasional indulgence. When you do, follow these tips to limit your HCAs.