10 Foods Ottawa Nutritionist Rachel Caven Will Never Eat

Following a healthy, balanced diet is the key to keeping our bodies working in tip top shape, but unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Often cravings kick in or our busy schedules force us to grab the ‘quick’ option while rushing out the door (which is rarely the healthy option), and next thing we know we are stuck in same cycle of feeling anxious, unable to concentrate, and further away from our goals. All of these feelings are completely avoidable and simply due to our lack of preparedness to fuel our bodies properly. It is important to practice good nutrition as it provides us with not only a ton of physical benefits but a whole slew of mental ones as well.

“When I was in University and deciding what I wanted to do for a living, I really wanted to help as many people as possible and I felt like nutrition was the best way to do that! Eating is something that everyone does every single day, and usually multiple times per day. Whatever you eat your body breaks down and uses as the building blocks of everything in your body- your cells, enzymes, neurotransmitters. This affects everything you do! Your mood, energy, productivity, concentration, the list goes on. You literally are what you eat! So that means that everything you put in your mouth can either build your health or slowly destroy it”  explains Rachel Caven, Nutritionist and Clinic Director of Caven Nutrition Group.


Caven believes that the advancements of technology and the greater availability of information has made us, as a society, genuinely confused about food and nutrition. This is evident by the way that a simple Google search on dietary fats provides you with endless results bouncing back and forth between advising individuals to avoid fats altogether, to consuming more fats than any other macronutrients, to acknowledging that fats can be both good and bad depending on their type.

Food should be nourishing, pleasurable and health promoting. Healthy eating should not be a chore or a taboo subject that is continuously misunderstood, because healthy eating is in fact quite simple. Caven agrees—

 “The field of nutritional sciences is relatively new (the last 100 years), and the more we find out about food, the more complicated and confused we get.  One thing to remember is that it’s extremely difficult to study food and eating habits. There are so many factors involved such as a person’s health, genetics, culture, gut bacteria, climate, age, sex, activity, stress level, etc.  Food also changes throughout the years and in different climates. I’m reminded of this every fall when the one apple tree on my parents’ farm is ready to be picked. The apples are small, misshapen, and very sour (but still delicious).  Now compare that to the Costco Royal Gala apples that are huge are very sweet. Yes, they are both apples, but very different sugar levels and nutritional content. There’s also the synergistic effect of nutrients. It’s almost impossible to measure the effects of one vitamin or mineral because they are never found in isolation in nature. A good example of this is vitamin C.  It is always found with bioflavonoids in nature and adding bioflavonoids to a supplement will 10X its effect. A good rule of thumb is to always go back to the way nature made things. Eat foods that come from a plant, not ones that are made in a plant. Don’t overcomplicate things. Keep it simple. Go to the Farmers’ Market, shop the perimeter of the grocery store, choose whole foods (foods with no labels), eat like a hunter gatherer…and always have cake on your birthday!”

Here are the 10 foods Rachel Caven will never eat , and recommends all of her clients avoid as well, in no particular order:

Regular Peanut Butter

Processed Peanut butter is full of hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is a source of trans fat, which have been found to harden cell membranes, such as your arteries. Even if your processed peanut butter label claims to have 0 grams of trans fat, this is not always the case. If a product has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, by law, companies are allowed to label their product as being trans fat free. It’s a loophole that tricks consumers every single day!

Choose Instead:  Natural Peanut Butter. Your peanut butter should have only one ingredient: peanuts. Natural PB is super easy to find and inexpensive, and although it does taste slightly different, once you get used to the taste you’ll find the old stuff way too sweet and creamy (thanks to those trans fats).  Oil separation is natural for this type of peanut butter, so be sure to flip the jar upside down for a couple days before using, and give it a good stir before each use!


Low-fat, Sugar-free Yogurt

These types of yogurts may seem like the healthier option, but they are really full of artificial sweeteners and thickeners that give it the texture of regular yogurt.

Choose Instead: Plain, full fat yogurt or Greek yogurt is great, especially when you add your own berries, vanilla, cinnamon, honey or maple syrup.


Specialty Coffees and Lattes

These drinks have so much sugar, sometimes reaching up to 60 grams in a single latte. To put this into perspective, a can of pop has 35 grams, meaning your morning coffee has nearly double that. The matcha green tea latte is the worst, although some people think it’s the healthiest option on the menu just because it’s green tea.   

Choose Instead: You can still keep your coffee shop habit… and save money while doing so!  Choose regular coffee or tea and add 1-2 packs of sugar if you want (this will have only 4-8g of sugar compared to 60+).


Orange Juice and Bottled Smoothies

These drinks have just as much, or more sugar than a pop! If you’re drinking orange juice for the vitamin C, you’re better off eating an actual orange.

Choose Instead: water!  It’s always better to keep it simple, but if you’re really craving one of these drinks, make them at home and skip adding in extra sugar.


Lunch Meat

Cold cuts and other lunch meats are a huge source of nitrates, which are known carcinogens. Carcinogens cause cancer, so it is evidently better for you to avoid lunch meats completely, no matter how ‘convenient’ they may seem.

Choose Instead: Convenient sources of protein are awesome for very busy individuals like myself, so choose nitrate free meats, leftovers, hard boiled eggs, canned salmon or tuna.


Sugary Alcoholic Drinks

Once again, there are lots of sugar in these, especially if you’re having a few! Sugary alcoholic drinks are what is referred to as ‘empty calories’. They are full of calories and sugar and have absolutely no nutritional value.

Choose Instead:  Red wine or light beer, and make sure you drink water!  Your liver can only detoxify one drink per hour, so try to have one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage if you are planning a big night of drinking.


Lemons and Peanuts at Restaurants

Ask anyone who has every worked in the restaurant industry…they have been touched by so many different hands, ick!

Choose Instead: Have lemons at home!  They are alkalizing and a great way to flavour your water with no calories. They’re essentially a food you should always skip at a restaurant or bar, but always have in your kitchen! As for the peanut alternative, if you’re hungry, order a meal instead of snacking on the communal bar snacks.


Diet Pop

This is full of aspartame and a slew of other chemicals! Studies show that people who consume diet pop actually gain more weight than those that drink regular pop. This is not to say that drinking full sugar pop is okay either, as these empty calories should be avoided as well.

Choose Instead: Again, water! Keep it simple!  Or coffee/tea.


Candied Nuts

Don’t be fooled by believing these are healthy just because they are nuts. This snack food is packed full of sugar and fats,  a combo you would never find in nature! They are extremely high calorie and addictive, which makes them best to avoid entirely.

Choose Instead: Raw nuts or portion-controlled packages.


The Bread Basket

I put this on the list for two reasons. First, because when I eat gluten my joints make me feel like I’m 95 years old (but maybe that’s just me). Second, it’s just cheap empty calories that the restaurant is trying to fill you up on!

Choose Instead: your main meal.  Try not to go to the restaurant starving so you will be able to make better choices.  Look at the menu before going and decide what you want. Tell the waiter/waitress to not bring the basket so it’s not staring you down using up your willpower!


Cover photo: @caven_nutrition

By Julia Solimine


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