We live in a time where manufacturers know that foods considered or labeled as “healthy” will sell better than those that aren’t (or they can at least jack up the price on those items!). All over the packaging you’ll see health related claims without the nutritional substance to back those claims up, but 99% of people will usually just go by whatever the package says, rather than look at the nutrition label and ingredients list themselves. For the sake of this article, I am going to cover some foods commonly accepted as being “healthy” and tell you why they are not the end all be all of health foods.
1) Yogurt- This is usually one of my go-to examples for a food that most americans consider healthy, but is really not. Regular yogurt has upwards of 15-20g of sugar per serving, which is quite a bit! Although they now have Greek Yogurt, which does provide more protein, it still has the same amounts of sugar. If buying yogurt I recommend always checking out the nutrition label and finding one under 10g of sugar. Plain yogurt is the way to go, if you can stand the taste.
2) Smoothies and Shakes- Just like a lot of the other foods that will be on this list, this food CAN be healthy, but it really depends on a number of factors. If you tend to go overboard on the added fruits the sugar levels are way too high for it to be considered healthy. Making a smoothie with just one cup yogurt, half a banana, and a ½ cup of strawberries totals over 50g sugar! I find the best, easiest, and healthiest way to make a smoothy is with flavored whey protein powder (because almost no one gets enough protein in their diet), milk, and ice in a blender, for a high protein, lower sugar smoothie.
3) Trail Mix and Granola- Most trail mixes and granola are simply too high in calories to be a healthy go-to snack. Let’s be honest, who really stops at the serving size of ¼ cup? Most are also riddled with candy pieces, yogurt covered raisins, chocolate chips, and dried fruit. Even most plain granola brands are loaded with unhealthy fats and sugar, and again we tend to eat way more than the serving size of these addictive snacks.
4) Frozen Diet Meals- Aka “Smart Ones,” “Healthy Choice,” etc… These meals usually pack at least 600g of sodium, and while they may be low in calories, they are also low in nutrients. Usually it’s the foods that are this quick and convenient that don’t provide much nutritional value.
5) Energy, Fiber, and Protein Bars- Another option here that CAN be healthy, but there are also many brands on the market that are not healthy at all, in fact they’re often right on par with a straight up candy bar! Always check the nutrition label on these before you buy.
6) Muffins- Think that bran muffin is the better choice instead of your 2 slices of toast? Think again, most commercially sold muffins contain anywhere from 400-800 calories comprised mainly of fat and carbs, not to mention the ridiculous amounts of sugar in most! Again, read the nutritional information! Some muffins are definitely far better than others.
7) Frozen Yogurt- Almost all at once, everyone hopped on the frozen yogurt train with the belief (because they heard it from someone else, who heard it from someone else… do your own homework here people!) that it was so much better for you than ice cream, and still tasted super good! Sure, it has less saturated fat than ice cream, but the fact is most frozen yogurts have comparable amounts of sugar. Then if you add all those delicious candy toppings… well you can just throw any idea of “healthy” right out the window.
8) All “Healthy” Cereals- Just because something is labeled and marketed as being healthy, does not make it so. Even these so-called healthy cereals are usually loaded with sugar and carbs, and lack any real protein or nutritional value. If buying cereal, look for a brand that has under 6-8g sugar per serving, and has a short ingredients list. (Hey weird, checking the nutritional label again? Must be important to do that! Yup, you’ve got it now).
9) Veggie Chips- These have to be healthy, because they have the word “veggie” in them, right? Wrong. This is a great example of companies trying to sell by simply using healthy terms even though their product can not back it up. More often than not, veggie chips are simply potato chips with veggie powder sprinkled in for coloring, and contain just as much fat as regular potato chips. If you really want to know how much veggies are in your chips, check out the nutrition label and ingredients list. if you don’t see real vegetables anywhere near the top, it’s not a healthy option.
10) Multi-Grain Bread- Seeing “multi-grain” on the label simply means that the bread is made up of multiple grains, which does not necessarily make it any healthier. You want to buy breads that have whole grains- whole oats, whole wheat, whole rye- as their first ingredient.
11) Nut Butters- While not inherently bad or unhealthy, nut butters often have added sugars and trans fats. Before you buy, check the ingredient list (DUH!) and make sure it contains only nuts and possibly salt.
12) Salads (dressing)- I have seen so many people turn a perfectly healthy salad into a 1000 calorie mega-meal by adding way too much dressing. Salad dressings are often very high in calories and very high in fat, and need to be used in moderation. Any type of vinaigrette is usually a good choice for a healthier dressing option. When buying a salad, get some variety of protein and vegetables in there, not just the lettuce, which provides little to no nutritional value.
I hope you all have seen a recurring theme throughout this article, if not… then you didn’t read very closely! The main thing I wish more people would do is to check the nutrition label and the ingredient list. Watch out for very high fat foods (especially trans fat), very high sodium foods, very high sugar foods, and foods with crazy long ingredient lists. Just make sure you don’t always believe the label when they try to tell you that their product is “healthy.” Truth is, these companies do not care at all about your health, they are only trying to do what will make them the most money.
If you ever have any questions about what foods might or might not be healthy, or would like to sit down and talk about nutrition, I am more than happy to help.
Fitness Fusion Easthampton is now offering Nutritional Consultations where members (and non-members) will sit down with a coach and go over everything from their current diet habits, to what they need to do and eat to start seeing better results from their training! If you or anyone you know would be interested let me know!
Thanks for reading. Until next time, keep it healthy!
Fitness Fusion Easthampton