My Least Favorite Thing on the Internet: “Never” Food Lists

When it comes to food and nutrition, the Internet can be a fantastic resource. Endless pages of easily prepped meals and cooking tips can help even the most inexperienced home cook put a balanced and Instagram-friendly meal on the table.

Of course, there’s always a darker flip-side online, and there are plenty of examples in the realm of food. From food extremism (like the carnivore diet) to every fad diet you can think of, there’s a lot of wrong turns to take.

One of my least favorite things on the Internet are “never” food lists. If you’ve spent any time online at all (and if you’re reading a blog, you have), then I’m certain you’ve seen examples of this. Some examples of these headlines include:

  • 18 Things You Should Never Eat or Drink if You Want a Flat Stomach

  • 12 Health Foods You Should Never Eat

  • 15 Foods You Should Never Eat After Age 30

These types of headlines probably look very familiar. As a dietitian, I like to scroll through and see just which foods are so terrible that we should “never” eat them. One exercise I’ve done is to give myself five minutes on the Internet to compile a list of the most ridiculous entries on these pages. Here’s a partial list:

  • Sushi

  • Shrimp

  • Soy

  • All foods with gluten

  • Gluten-free foods

  • All dairy

  • Low-fat dairy

  • Full-fat dairy

  • All potatoes

  • Oatmeal

  • Olive oil

  • Canola oil

  • All vegetable oils

  • Rice

  • Apples

  • Asparagus

  • Garlic

  • Onions

  • Beans

  • Nuts

Confusing, right?

Many of these are foods I commonly recommend to clients. Beans? Nuts? Garlic? Barring an allergy, intolerance, or other medical condition, I’d never recommend someone avoid these foods, let alone “never” eat them.

Please know that these types of articles are typically designed as slideshows, to create maximum ad exposure for the reader. And the advertisers are keen on how to target these marketing messages, so you’re more likely to see an ad for low-carb Atkins bars on an article recommending to “never” eat otherwise nutritious carbohydrate-rich foods like beans.

The bottom line is this: these lists are very rarely reliable or accurate. If every slide comes with an ad for a food or diet product, you’re better off just closing the page.

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