New year. New me. I tell myself this every year as I settle on the age-old resolve to eat a little healthier.
At some point, we’ve all set out to start taking our health more seriously. Maybe you’ve even reached the point where you do start eating healthier. Trying to eat right and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle are certainly noble goals. But there are many a brand in the health food aisle only pretending to be healthy.
Manufacturers are eager to package foods with buzzwords such as “healthy,” “smart,” “natural,” and “organic.” These are words that sell. After all, a manufacturer’s goal is to make a profit. But how healthy, smart, and natural are these foods? We took a look at seven types of common “healthy” foods that aren’t quite as nutritious as we’re led to believe.
01. Veggie Chips
Don’t let the moniker mislead you. Many veggie chip brands are glorified potato chips with a bit of veggie powder sprinkled in. Just turn to the ingredient list before purchasing a bag. According to FDA guidelines, ingredients are listed in order of descending weight. This means that whichever ingredient is listed first is the one that makes up the majority of the food. It’s also important to consider other factors such as calories, fat, sodium, and carbs. Many veggie chips are just as fattening and salty as the potato chips you’re trying to avoid. If you want an honest-to-goodness veggie chip, you are better off going homemade. You’ll know exactly what you’re getting, and they will taste yummier, too.
02. Organic Cereals
We shouldn’t trust food just because it claims it is organic. According to Consumer Report, some cereal brands, like Nature’s Path, are masquerading as healthy. Yet they are really just a ruse for some pretty unhealthy ingredients. Many organic cereals are sprinkled with whole grains, fiber, and flax seeds. Sounds good, right? Not always. Despite the healthful ingredients, theses cereals may be chock full of sugar. Even if it’s organic sugar, a dose of sugar is still a dose of sugar (and you know how we feel about sugar). Plus, many cereals are actually supplemented with added fiber to make up for the fact that they are filled with over-processed, refined grains. This is the kind of fiber that isn’t as absorbable by our bodies. If you’re looking for some true-blue healthy, low sugar cereals, try these ten that don’t taste like twigs.
03. Fruit Yogurts
Yogurt is healthy. Fruit is healthy. So yogurt—especially fruit-at-the-bottom yogurt—seems should be healthy, right? Wrong. These snacks have insane amounts of sugar. A 6-ounce yogurt cup can contain anywhere from 15 to 24 grams of sugar. For women, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 24 grams of daily added sugar. A healthy alternative would be buying plain whole milk or 2 percent yogurt (more fat content means you’ll stay fuller longer) and adding your favorite fresh fruit. You’ll nix the added sugar that comes with the fruity syrup used to preserve the fruits in these yogurts.
04. Multigrain Breads
This one is pretty deceiving. Multigrain only means that there is more than just one grain in the bread. Yet the name doesn’t account for all of the refinement and processing those grains go through. All that processing and refining leaves this bread without its natural bran and germ, like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. All that’s left are the simple carbs that end up causing weight gain. The key ingredient to look for in bread is that it contains whole wheat. As long as whole wheat is the first or second ingredient in the list, you can have your dough and eat it too.
05. Energy Bars
Not to rob you of your go-to on-the-go snack or meal, but snack bars like protein and granola bars are often not so healthy. They can be packed with added sugar, refined oils, artificial colors and flavors, and preservatives. And just like organic cereals, many nutrition bars are loaded with added fibers as fillers. Unless you actually need the extra calories right away (say, after a particularly demanding workout session), you’re better off keeping these out of your purse or cupboard. Instead, stick to energy bars that have short ingredient lists like Health Warrior and KIND. Try these homemade granola bar recipes, or pack a trail mix of whole nuts, seeds and dried fruit without added sugar.
06. Gluten-Free Snacks
There’s a gluten-free craze going on right now, and manufacturers know it. Brands are capitalizing on this growing trend and pasting “gluten-free” on their products to attract unwary customers. But keep in mind that lots of gluten-free foods use four main replacements for wheat flour: rice flour, potato flour, cornstarch, and tapioca starch. All four of these are “junk carbs,” as cardiologist, author and “health crusader” Dr. William Davis calls them. Unchecked, they can lead to unwanted weight gain. Make sure to look for these ingredients on the labels of gluten-free foods before you buy.
07. Pre-Prepared Salads
It may feel like we are choosing the healthier option when we choose a salad, and perhaps we are when the other option is a giant cheeseburger. But packaged salads aren’t as good for us as we may think. Many restaurant, airport, and grocery store salads that come pre-made and packaged are actually upward of a thousand calories if you consider the dressings and components that go in them. The processed meats and cheeses on top are so full of preservatives that they up the sodium content by a crazy amount. Not to pick on Subway, but as an example, its Turkey Breast Salad has 560 mg of sodium—more than a third of the recommended daily amount of sodium for women, which is 1,500 mg. Unfortunately, these salads often don’t come with an ingredient list. So skip the salad and choose something you can see is surely a healthy option. If worse comes to worst, limit the amount of dressing you use, buy a vegetarian version, and add your own healthy fats and proteins such as avocado, nuts, eggs, and chickpeas.
If you’re serious about cleaning up your diet this year, steer clear of these “healthy” impostors. While you’re at it, load up your shopping cart with these ten healthy items every grocery list needs.
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