Nothing is worse than thinking you’re doing a good thing and 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 healthily, you have to read the fine print. Here is a rundown of some of the sneakiest foods on the shelves.
The idea of nuts and dried fruit sounds healthy, but a bag of this stuff can do serious damage. And we aren’t even talking about the varieties with chocolate in them (that’s just candy, people). Most trail mix on the market is full of salt, sugar and processed products keeping them from going bad on the shelf. The worst part? They use salted nuts. Salt has been linked to high blood pressure and heart disease and needs to be consumed in moderation. Plus, they start at around 500 calories. Dried fruit is really high in calories and sugar, too. Instead, create your own using unsalted nuts in moderation and adding in unsweetened dried fruit. Portion it all out and keep it in the snack range of 100-250 calories.
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. Free radicals are the result of high-temp industrial processing of vegetable oil. They have been linked to health problems including heart disease and cancer.
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 is where it is 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. That is healthy, whole fat. 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. Best to make your own and control the amount of eggs, extra virgin olive oil, grass-fed butter or ghee you use to hold it together. 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.
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 or powder 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 “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.
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.
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- Brent Hofacker / Adobe Stock