Whether or not you are on a diet, I’m sure you’ve seen foods marketed as “healthy.” These are typically things like pre-packaged smoothies, anything organic or free-range, whole wheat pasta, and protein powders. They are all associated with eating and being healthy– but are these foods as healthy as they seem? Are there foods that are healthy for you, but that have a bad rap? Follow us on a journey through the health food aisles, your refrigerator, and a reflection of the multi-million-dollar weight loss industry in the pursuit of the truth about your diet.
When it comes to food, the less processed something is, the better it will be for you. But how do you wade through all the processed protein bars and weight loss shakes to find healthy snacks and meals that meet your nutritional needs? Take a more in-depth look at the ingredient lists and nutrition facts before you throw that chicken that claims it is “free-range” and “antibiotic free” into your cart. Try to cut down on your fat and sodium, primarily, and stay away from any foods (if you can help it) that have chemicals as one of the first three ingredients.
Some foods rely heavily on the appearance that they are healthy. However, many of these foods have high levels of sugars, artificial chemicals, and other unhealthy additives. Before you reach for that smoothie or protein bar, check out the list of foods to avoid– or at least be smarter about purchasing.
Prepackaged Smoothie Drinks
From Bolthouse to Naked, and everything in between, packaged smoothies look like an easy way to pump up your fruit and vegetable intake without having to buy, prepare, and eat any produce. But do you know how much sugar is in your smoothies? The answer might surprise you. Naked’s 15.2-ounce Blue Machine smoothie, which supposedly contains three apples, a banana, and 27 blueberries, has a whopping 320 calories, 55 grams of sugar and 75 grams of carbohydrates, making it less healthy than a McDonald’s ice cream cone. Those delicious treats only have 200 calories, 25 grams of sugar, and no carbs. Scary considering Naked’s “all natural” labeling and healthy feel. If you are after the all-natural sweetness that these smoothies promise, try making your smoothies or indulging in the whole fruit, which often has more nutrients than the bottled version anyway.
Fast Food Salads
Speaking of the golden arches, you’d be better off just eating a Big Mac than their Cesar Salad. The Cesar salad, which contains more fat, more calories, and less protein than the fabled Big Mac, is something to be avoided when you head out for a quick dinner. Other fast food salads echo this trend– although they contain healthy amounts of veggies, the fatty salad dressing more than makes up for the lost calories. If you don’t plan on avoiding these altogether, at least plan on ditching the salad dressings that crown these marketing masterpieces. If you are looking for another slightly-healthy option in the drive-thru, try grilled chicken options (if they have them available.)
Depending on the brand and flavor of yogurt that you go for, you could be eating yogurt that is unhealthier for you than ice cream. Flavored yogurts, like the Yoplait whips, have more sugar and carbohydrates per serving than some brands of ice cream. If you must have your yogurt, reach for plain yogurt, and flavor it with a little bit of honey, jelly, or fresh fruit. If you are looking to bulk up, or want yogurt with a thicker consistency, plain yogurts from brands like Okios, Fage, and Chobani are all healthy breakfast and snack options. But be aware– the flavored Chobani yogurts are high in calories when compared to the plain version.
“Healthy” Microwaveable Entrees
Before you reach for that Lean Cuisine meal, consider this– many microwave entrees are high in saturated fats, sugars, and artificial preserving agents. The small sizes paired with the expectation of being a full meal can lead to disillusionment later in the day. If you can’t live without your Lean Cuisine Sesame Chicken, try grabbing a salad or other vegetable side dish to go with it on your way out of the grocery store. Having something else to go along with your TV Dinner can add well-needed fruits and veggies to your diet, and help you get the nutrients that you need to stay full and lose weight.
Veggie chips, “baked” chips, or cracker chips– all are still unhealthy and contain lots of fats, sodium, and even can’t measure up to the salty goodness of plain old potato chips. If you are looking for a well-rounded crunch, try tortilla chips– many have just a few ingredients, and when paired with a healthy salsa or guacamole dish, can be a much better snack for you. Don’t like tortilla chips? Try alternatives like roasted chickpeas, which are a source of healthy fats, protein and a fairly high dose of fiber, making them the all-around snack. If you must have your potato chips, try buying them in a package of individually packaged bags to keep servings as low and as consistent as possible.
Do you have any “healthy” foods that shocked you on this list, or have any substitutions other than the ones above? We’d love to hear them! Leave a comment in the comments section below with what you think!