“Bad” Foods That Are Not Really Bad

I’m not a fan of labeling foods as good or bad. In reality, those bad foods are the ones that taste the best and are the hardest to resist! But, I get it. There’s no shortage of “advice” on what foods we should and shouldn’t eat. But what if we could adopt a different approach to eating better? What if we could accept all foods, in moderation, into a healthy diet plan instead of banning or restricting certain offenders?

So let’s debunk some misconceptions and talk about how to incorporate common “bad foods” into a perfectly healthy diet.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Lava Cake


Potatoes get a bad rap because of how we eat them. Think French fries or loaded baked potatoes. However, plain potatoes offer some impressive nutritional qualities! Potatoes are packed with magnesium, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. One medium potato has 36% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin C. It’s true potatoes are high in carbohydrates, but if eaten with the skin, they also are a good source of fiber. In order to maximize their goodness, be mindful of the serving size and eat them baked and loaded with vegetables, or diced and roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Bowl of Potatoes

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is one of those foods that tastes so delicious, there’s no way it can be good for you, right? But, have no fear, peanut butter can be a healthy choice. Two tablespoons of peanut butter (1 serving) give you 2 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein which helps you stay full longer. But the trick is to stick to 1–2 tbsp. And, it’s important to read the labels. Some low-fat peanut butters actually contain added sugar. To reap the heart-healthy benefit of monounsaturated fats, the best option is all-natural peanut butter that contains minimal ingredients. A great way to control what’s in your peanut butter is to make it yourself.



Bananas are often shunned for being high in sugar and calories—one medium banana has 105 calories and 14 grams of sugar compared to a cup of strawberries that has 47 calories and 7 grams of sugar. It’s important to note that the sugar in bananas is better for you than the type of sugar you eat in candy or cookies. Bananas are a good source of antioxidants and vitamin C, and are rich in potassium, an electrolyte that helps promote healthy blood pressure and regulates nerve and muscle function. So, if you suffer from muscle cramps after a workout, eat a banana. A benefit of slightly underripe bananas is they contain prebiotics which feed probiotics in your gut. If you aren’t a fan of underripe bananas, to get the same benefit, you can add a powder with prebiotic fiber to your smoothies and meals.



Life without pasta would be pretty sad! But people avoid pasta because it’s packed with carbohydrates. One objection against foods high in carbohydrates is that it’s easy to overeat them. In addition, many people follow diets that require limiting carbohydrates due to their effect on blood sugar levels. Unlike most simple carbohydrates and refined grains which cause a rapid spike of blood sugar, pasta has a low glycemic index (GI), meaning it causes smaller increases in blood sugar levels. Plus, it supplies 6–7 grams of protein and about 2 grams of fiber per cooked cup. Most brands are enriched with B vitamins too, such as folic acid, and iron. 

For a meal you can feel great about, here are some ideas:

  • Be mindful of your portion size. Believe it or not, the recommended serving size is ½ cup of cooked pasta. 
  • Consider what you add. Cream sauce, cheese, and meat will bump up the calorie and fat in your dish. Instead, boost your portions with some cooked vegetables. For some added protein, try chicken, or beans like cannellini or chickpeas. 
  • Give whole-wheat or a plant-based bean pasta a try. It has more protein, fiber, and additional nutrients. 
  • Cook your pasta until al dente, which means it still has some “bite” to it. Not only does it taste better this way, but it actually takesthe body longer to digest, keeping you fuller for longer.  


Chocolate, more specifically dark chocolate, has been extensively studied for its health benefits, with positive results. Cocoa is rich in plant chemicals called flavanols that may promote heart health. Dark chocolate contains up to 2–3 times more flavanol-rich cocoa solids than milk chocolate. Dark chocolate has been show to help improve cholesterol levels and reduce blood clots. As a general rule, look for dark chocolate with a higher cacao level (60 percent cacao or higher), as it will have more antioxidants and less added sugar. Also, because all chocolate, even the dark kind, is calorie-rich, stick with one to two ounces per day. Portion out your favorite chocolate snacks so you eat just the amount you need to be satisfied. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Lava Cake

Life’s too short to cut out foods that you enjoy! The all or nothing strategy never works. Understanding the best ways to prepare foods so they fit into your overall diet lets you eat what you love and really enjoy it. 

Sandy Wolner

Sandy Wolner, Pampered Chef Food & Trend Innovator & Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. At Pampered Chef, Sandy is able to combine her love of nutrition with her passion for cooking in order to offer simple, nutritious solutions in the kitchen. Sandy believes that food is meant to be enjoyed, especially with the ones you love.

Learn how to create a weekly meal plan with a "Comfort Foods Made Better" meal planning party.

30 Responses to “Bad” Foods That Are Not Really Bad

  1. Claudine March 21, 2020 at 12:47 pm #

    Love this realistic approach!

    • Norma Goto May 22, 2020 at 10:52 am #

      Thank you for the clarification on these foods, especially the pasta. One food many people still believe is “bad” is avocados. Many years ago avocados were labeled as full of fats, the word hasn’t reached those people the fats are good fats. I find this very sad.

      • Debra March 26, 2022 at 5:43 pm #

        Learned a few good tips thanks

  2. jackie thompson April 27, 2020 at 1:41 pm #

    I’m eating like this now. It’s a different process but if it works for you do it… thanks for the information.

  3. Clara Lohse April 27, 2020 at 1:43 pm #

    Good reminder!

    • Melva May 22, 2020 at 10:40 am #

      Thank you for the healthy tips

  4. Lorrie Cizewski April 27, 2020 at 9:14 pm #

    Great tips, Sandy!

  5. Leslie Rogakis April 29, 2020 at 3:40 am #

    I love that you emphasize portions are the key! Hard for some, but it is something that I have been working on and have been doing pretty well!

    • Ella M. Mercier May 22, 2020 at 3:51 pm #

      I can easily limit myself to 1/2 cup pasta because I’m used to avoiding it altogether. But my husband usually piles on 2 cups easy!!! I do serve a lot of vegetable, so he has no excuse!!! When I cook, I cook just enough. When he cooks, all bets are off.

  6. Jessie May 20, 2020 at 4:10 pm #

    Appreciate the wisdom behind these tips, especially this: “Consider what you add. Cream sauce, cheese, and meat will bump up the calorie and fat in your dish. Instead, boost your portions with some cooked vegetables. For some added protein, try chicken, or beans like cannellini or chickpeas.” … When we get what our body needs to thrive through proper amounts of nutrients from vegetables and other plant-based whole foods at each meal, our bodies will be fueled properly to overcome the occasional weekly “imbalanced meal” or a small daily “extra”. … I’ve appreciated Pampered Chef offering more and more food suggestions like this move us away from overly processed foods and sugars which are known to cause and feed cancers and animal fats which have been proven to be linked to heart disease in America (nutritionfacts.org another great, free resource)! Thank you, Pampered Chef, for letting nutrition health speak through your recipes and blog articles!

  7. Jan Mirassou May 22, 2020 at 10:26 am #

    Common sense nutrition tells us to eat a rainbow, shop the perimeter of the stores and portion size to maintain a healthy life. Variety and not eating the same “bad” for you also helps. Increase activity, decrease bleached products and eat as close to nature as you can manage. Nuts for nutrition is my motto. 80% of the best for you and 20% of the foods that can cause issues. Everyone is slightly different. Foods that irritate my joints do not bother my husband. Foods he must eat cooked because of allergies, I eat raw by the truckload.

    Enjoy your life, eat up, get some sunshine and love everyone!

  8. Mary Ann Flinn May 22, 2020 at 10:39 am #

    Thanks for the information. Will copy and use especially the pasta.

  9. MaryBeth May 22, 2020 at 10:42 am #

    Rule of thumb- You are what you eat! Live by the 90/10 rule. 90% of the time you eat healthy- mostly vegetables- eat color! Sweet potatoes are better than white! No white flour or sugar=cancer! Use whole grain pasta and breads. Chocolate- high cacoa and organic.

  10. PATRICIA ANDREUCCETTI May 22, 2020 at 10:51 am #

    I don’t pay much attention to what people say about any foods. We all know that eating too much of any one food probably isn’t the best thing to do….all things in moderation, as they say.

    I love my foods plain and not all doctored up with a bunch of butter, mayo, etc. (and light on my salad dressings). I treat myself to butter and a little sour cream on my baked potatoes when I go out to eat at a restaurant and will get French fries with a burger. If I’m someplace that allows me to have fruit instead of potatoes I do that; OR….if I’m with my husband out for breakfast or lunch, one of us orders potatoes and the other orders fruit and we share.

  11. Ellie Quiring May 22, 2020 at 10:58 am #

    I have read some negative statements about the above but do agree and have tried to be very conscientious about portion size and it does work. Thanks for your incites. Ellie

  12. Marcia May 22, 2020 at 10:59 am #

    Great tips… Thank you!

  13. Marnie May 22, 2020 at 10:59 am #

    Love this information! It is easy to look at these items as bad because of what a lot of “diet advice” portrays. Thanks!!

  14. Lynn M May 22, 2020 at 11:09 am #

    This is excellent! Good info!

  15. Kris Dotson May 22, 2020 at 11:28 am #

    Thanx so much 4 this info, I actually learned something & will add this 2 my diet regiment. Always worthwhile e-mails thanx again Sandy.

  16. Elaine May 22, 2020 at 11:28 am #

    Don’t forget the reservatrol in a wine glass with the dark chocolate! Moderation is the key for all these “bad” foods! 😊

  17. Sally Gordon May 22, 2020 at 12:44 pm #

    Do you have recipes for the pictures shown in this article? Everything looks delicious!

  18. Carry Post May 22, 2020 at 1:08 pm #

    My new favorite way to eat pasta is to make a green salad with whatever veggies and seasonings are in the fridge, then throw some cooked pasta into it. It’s not like eating a pasta dish exactly but it sure does make the salad taste yummy and is more filling too! This is an easy main dish for me. Only have to add protein on the side and my husband is good with it too!

  19. Teresa Kennedy May 22, 2020 at 2:32 pm #

    Great information and reminders. Thanks.

  20. Jackie Thomas May 22, 2020 at 5:17 pm #

    Great tips! Life is hard enough, especially with COVID-19. Moderation and exercise is
    the key.

  21. Mary May 23, 2020 at 6:10 am #

    This information is a great start! Thank you for being portion conscious and nutrition focused. I would love to see more whole food plant based recipes using PC cookware and gadgets!

  22. Marcia Burdick May 23, 2020 at 5:08 pm #

    Thanks for the information! Very helpful. I especially appreciate the information on portion control. Just a good reminder that we are how much we eat!

  23. Mallory May 23, 2020 at 5:52 pm #

    Pretty good approach. However, sometimes people don’t need to add bad foods into their diet. For instance, even if I have a tiny piece of cake, my mind and emotions go crazy, and I get really negative and on edge. But everyone is different! That’s just me. You are what you eat!

  24. Gwen Johnson May 23, 2020 at 10:51 pm #

    Great tips ! Great news ! Learn something today.
    Thank you

  25. Maria Mackin May 26, 2020 at 11:53 am #

    Thank you, this is great information

  26. Mary Donaldson February 16, 2022 at 10:31 am #

    Thanks for the reminder!!

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