The latest update for ‘Good’ Foods That Are Actually Bad for You is written by Lindsay Podolak.
Nothing is worse than thinking you’re doing a good thing, then realizing you were wrong. Loads of foods on the market are touting health benefits that just aren’t there. If you want to eat healthy, you have to read the fine print. Here is a rundown of some of the sneakiest foods on the shelves. (Plus some advice on alternative food choices you can make.)
The idea of nuts and dried fruit sounds healthy, but a bag of this stuff can do serious damage. Most trail mix on the market is full of sugar and processed products keeping it from going bad on the shelf. The worst part? Trail mix includes salted nuts. Salt has been linked to high blood pressure and heart disease and should be consumed in moderation. Not to mention, most options start at around 500 calories.
While the nuts in trail mix might provide a good amount of protein, Catherine McCabe, one of the certified nurse midwives at All Women’s Healthcare in Flemington suggests that, “expecting mothers should consider unsalted walnuts, which are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, necessary for the baby’s brain activity.”
This is another holdover from the ‘80s when everything fat-free was considered the way to go. When it comes to real foods, though, natural is the right choice. Spreads like margarine are full of unhealthy trans fats that can contribute to heart disease, cancer, bone problems and hormonal imbalance. These spreads also include free radicals, which are the result of high-temp industrial processing of vegetable oil. Free radicals have been linked to health problems as well.
The temptation to go fat-free when checking out yogurt can be big. Full-fat varieties can have upwards of 8-10 grams in a serving. Here’s where it’s time to get savvy about your fat. Studies have shown that the full fat in dairy products like Greek yogurt and sour cream is good for you. Don’t believe us? Check out the labels. Fat-free yogurt has to get its substance from somewhere, and it’s usually processed sugar. A tiny 6-ounce container can have anywhere between 12-18 grams of sugar depending on the flavor. Way too much to start your day and remember, it’s processed.
Veggie burgers start out healthy. Beans, veggies, brown rice – all good things. It’s the way most are finished that is the real issue here. Because the ingredients don’t bind together well (what with the lack of real fat in them), many brands and restaurants hold theirs together for cooking or freezing with enough vegetable oil and butter for a family of six. If you’re buying frozen burgers, look for a brand that avoids textured vegetable protein, or TVP. It’s full of artificial flavors, MSG and thickening agents your body doesn’t need.
Spinach, Beet and Veggie-Colored Pastas
It’s green so it’s got to be good, right? If you’re having a 4-6 ounce serving, then sure. But the idea that this pasta is giving you your daily recommended servings of veggies is madness. The amount of spinach in this stuff is minimal, so, in essence, this is just another bowl of pasta. Make the swap to whole wheat instead. Because it’s really the type of flour used that is important here. Want to add nutrients? Toss in some broccoli, spinach or broccoli rabe.
Flavored Milk Alternatives
Those suffering from lactose intolerance have no choice but to seek out milk alternatives. But don’t get fooled by the fun flavors in things like soy milk. Remember when you added chocolate or strawberry syrup to your milk as a kid? They are basically doing it for the flavored varieties of soy milk in the supermarket. It adds unnecessary calories and sugar that do more damage than a small glass of milk would.
If your bread doesn’t say 100-percent whole wheat, it might as well be processed white bread. Lots of companies are fooling consumers by calling their bread wheat and ensuring the slices are brown. That is not enough. Bread needs to be made with all whole wheat flour, not just enough to fortify one slice. Read the label and check for fiber content. Full whole wheat bread will also boast a healthy fiber content of at least two grams per slice.
Sure, you feel like you’re making a healthy choice over chips when you reach for these. But, pretzels are actually not that healthy. They are full of processed white flour and loads of salt. Want to know why you can’t stop at just one – the flour turns to sugar and forces an insulin spike that makes you want more. And want to know why “these pretzels are making me thirsty” was so accurate? The salt. Unless you plan on downing a liter of water for every handful you grab, best to avoid these altogether.
Fruit Juice and Bottled Green Drinks
Yeah, yeah, it says 100 percent fruit juice on the label. And in essence that should be good for you. The thing is, the amount of sugar and calories in one serving of a bottled green drink or blue smoothie is way too high for one serving. There really is no reason to be drinking these unless you’re looking to put on weight or run a 100-yard dash sprint. Opt for whole fruit which is full of fiber so it fills you up without all the added calories and sugar.
Overnight oats sound like the perfect breakfast – a healthy, hearty mix of oatmeal, milk, yogurt and whatever fruit and nut toppings you desire. And it certainly can be a smart option, provided you are making it yourself with the best ingredients. Oatmeal is a good source of fiber and healthy carbohydrates. But once you decide to purchase one of the many supermarket brands of overnight oats currently lining the shelves, you run into a landmine of poor nutritional choices. One serving of Quaker Oats’ Blueberry Banana & Vanilla Overnight Oats has a whopping 19 grams of sugar in it. Stick to preparing it yourself with healthy, full-fat yogurt and milk, plus actual fruits instead of dried ones.
Convenience foods have become a staple in today’s world. Brands want to make it easy for busy people to grab their product and eat it on the go. So how do they convince us to choose an energy bar over a bag of chips at the convenient store? Easy – by marketing it as “healthy.” Truth is, most energy bars are full of processed ingredients and loaded with sugar. Sometimes the sugar is naturally-occurring, as when it comes from fruit. It’s the added sugar you are looking for on the label that is bad, and some “all-natural” (a label which has no nutritional value) energy bars top out at more than 20 grams of sugar apiece.
Couscous is a sneaky little dish. It looks like a grain, so you assume it’s a wise choice for dinner. In reality, couscous is technically pasta…which means it is made from semolina flour. Is it terrible for you? No. Treat it as pasta and eat in moderation. Or, make whole wheat couscous and get double the fiber than you would from the regular kind.