What are the 10 most unhealthiest foods?

In the opening paragraphs, we will answer some key questions about unhealthy foods:

What makes a food unhealthy?

Foods that are high in calories, fat, sugar, and salt are generally considered unhealthy. These foods provide lots of energy (calories) but often lack the vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients your body needs. Eating too many unhealthy foods on a regular basis can lead to weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems.

Why are processed foods often unhealthy?
During processing, healthy components like fiber are removed and large amounts of salt, sugar, and fat are added to improve taste and prolong shelf life. This makes them hyper-palatable and easy to overconsume.

What are some examples of unhealthy foods?
Some of the most unhealthy foods include fast food, fried food, sugary drinks, processed meat, crackers, cookies, cakes, candy, ice cream, and frozen pizza.

Now let’s dive into the 10 most unhealthy foods:

1. Fast food burgers and fried chicken

Burgers, fried chicken, french fries, and other fast food items typically contain excessive calories and fat while lacking fiber and micronutrients. A burger may contain over 500 calories and 25 grams of fat while fried chicken can pack over 800 calories and 40 grams of fat in just one serving. The high sodium content also makes fast food very unhealthy.

Why it’s unhealthy

– High in calories and fat, which promote weight gain
– Often made with unhealthy cooking oils high in omega-6 fatty acids
– Large portion sizes promote overeating
– High sodium content from salt, sauces, and condiments
– Lack beneficial nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals

Healthier alternatives

– Grilled chicken or fish
– Vegetarian burgers made from beans, lentils, or mushrooms
– Fresh green salad with lean protein
– Fruit salad

2. Sugary drinks like soda and sweet tea

Sodas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, sweet teas, and other sugar-sweetened beverages provide excessive calories with no nutritional value. Just one 12-ounce can of soda contains around 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking large amounts on a frequent basis can promote weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and tooth decay.

Why it’s unhealthy

– Packed with added sugars, providing empty calories
– Large amounts quickly add up to excess calories and weight gain
– Increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, and tooth decay
– Rapidly raises blood sugar levels
– Can be addictive – the more you drink, the more you crave

Healthier alternatives

– Plain or sparkling water
– Unsweetened tea
– Coffee
– Low-fat milk
– 100% fruit juice in moderation

3. French fries and potato chips

French fries and potato chips are unhealthy sources of carbohydrates and fats. One large serving of fries contains over 500 calories and 25 grams of fat. Fries and chips are often loaded with salt and provide no fiber, vitamins, or minerals.

Why it’s unhealthy

– High in calories and fat
– Fried at extremely high temperatures which can create carcinogens and AGEs which cause inflammation
– Often cooked in unhealthy oils like soybean or hydrogenated oils
– Loaded with sodium
– Lack of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients

Healthier alternatives

– Baked sweet potato fries
– Roasted or baked potato wedges
– Veggie chips made from ingredients like green beans, beets, or jicama
– Plain popcorn

4. Processed meat like bacon, sausage, hot dogs

Processed meats are preserved with smoking, curing, salting, or the addition of preservatives. Eating processed meats regularly has been linked with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Just 2 slices of bacon contain over 250 calories and 18 grams of fat.

Why it’s unhealthy

– High in sodium, which increases blood pressure
– Full of artery-clogging saturated and trans fats
– Contains preservatives like nitrites that form cancer-causing compounds when cooked at high temps
– Associated with heart disease, diabetes, and colorectal cancer

Healthier alternatives

– Lean chicken or turkey sausage
– Grilled chicken or salmon
– Tofu or tempeh
– Beans or lentils
– Nuts and seeds

5. Packaged snack foods like chips, cookies, and candy

Packaged snack foods are typically made with refined flour and added sugar while being high in calories and low in nutrients. Just a small bag of chips or a couple of cookies can contain over 250 calories. Regularly eating packaged snacks can cause weight gain and promote chronic disease.

Why it’s unhealthy

– High in calories, fat, refined carbs, and sugar
– Low in beneficial nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals
– Often contain unhealthy trans fats
– Easily leads to overeating since these foods are hyper-palatable

Healthier alternatives

– Fresh fruit
– Vegetables with hummus
– Plain yogurt with berries
– Handful of unsalted nuts or seeds
– Air-popped popcorn

6. Pizza (especially frozen)

Pizza is an incredibly popular food, but with its high fat and carb content from the dough, cheese, and meat toppings, it is very calorie dense. One slice can contain 300 calories or more. The combination of fat and refined carbs is the perfect storm for weight gain and metabolic disease.

Why it’s unhealthy

– High in calories – it’s very easy to consume excess calories eating pizza
– Contains large amounts of fat from cheese, fatty meats like sausage or pepperoni, buttery dough
– Refined carbohydrates and sodium in the crust
– Often lacks fiber and micronutrients, aside from lycopene in tomato sauce

Healthier alternatives

– Veggie pizza with whole wheat thin crust, lean protein, loads of veggie toppings
– Other meals balanced with protein, healthy fats, veggies, and fiber

7. Donuts, muffins, and pastries

Sugary baked goods like donuts, muffins, croissants, danishes, and cookies provide a lot of calories with little nutrition. A glazed donut can contain over 220 calories and 12 grams of fat. All those refined carbs and fats can cause your blood sugar to spike, leading to a crash later.

Why it’s unhealthy

– Packed with refined flour and sugar – a glazed donut can contain 15g added sugar
– High in calories that quickly add up, often 400-500 calories for a pastry + coffee
– Low in fiber, vitamins, minerals – essentially empty calories
– Can lead to a blood sugar rollercoaster due to refined carbs

Healthier alternatives

– High-fiber bran or oat muffin with fruit
– Whole grain toast with peanut butter
– Oatmeal with berries
– Greek yogurt with nuts and seeds

8. Creamy pasta dishes like alfredo, mac and cheese

Creamy pasta dishes like fettuccine alfredo are an unhealthy source of carbs and fat. The cheese, cream, and oils make these dishes extremely high in saturated fat and calories. Even a single restaurant serving may contain over 1,000 calories.

Why it’s unhealthy

– Very high in calories, easy to overconsume – a large restaurant portion can be 1,000+ calories
– High amounts of saturated fat from cheese, cream, butter
– Refined carbs from white flour pasta with little fiber
– Often contains unhealthy oils or trans fats
– Extremely low in nutrients

Healthier alternatives

– Pasta with tomato sauce or pesto
– Zucchini noodle pasta dishes
– Whole wheat pasta with veggies
– Lentil or bean-based pasta dishes

9. Ice cream and frozen treats

Ice cream and frozen treats like popsicles might be refreshing in the moment, but their high sugar and fat content make them an unhealthy choice. Just half a cup of ice cream contains over 250 calories and 15 grams of fat. The sugar causes your blood glucose to spike rapidly.

Why it’s unhealthy

– Very high in refined sugar, providing empty calories
– High in both saturated and trans fat
– Easy to consume large portions that add excess calories
– Sugar rush followed by crash
– Provides little to no nutritional value

Healthier alternatives

– Fresh fruit like berries, banana, mango, pineapple
– Frozen yogurt with fresh fruit
– Small portion of dark chocolate
– Frozen fruit bar with no added sugar

10. Fancy coffee drinks

Fancy coffee drinks like frappes, lattes, and macchiatos sound innocent enough. But these often contain excess sugar from flavors, sweetened creamers, and toppings like whipped cream and caramel drizzle. A 16-20 oz coffee drink can pack over 300 calories.

Why it’s unhealthy

– Large serving sizes around 300 calories or more
– Packed with added sugars – some contain over 50 grams!
– High in fat from whole milk, cream, sweetened creamers
– Sugar crash after initial jolt
– Extremely low in nutrients

Healthier alternatives

– Plain coffee or espresso
– Coffee with just a splash of milk/cream
– Sugar-free flavoring like cinnamon
– Smaller size drink


Eating the foods on this list occasionally as part of an overall healthy diet is perfectly fine. But regularly consuming these calorie-dense, nutrition-poor foods can lead to weight gain, chronic disease, and feeling tired/sluggish. Take a close look at your diet and try to limit intake of these unhealthy foods as much as possible. Focus on more whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, veggies, lean proteins, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats from foods like olive oil, avocados, and fatty fish. Your body and mind will thank you!

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