Unhealthy foods that seem to be healthy
Go to any supermarket and you will see tons of food labeled as “organic”, “healthy”, “low fat”, “free fat” to name a few. It is crucial to understand that the food industry wants us to buy products that are actually not so healthy but seem to be to the average customer.
There are some rather unhealthy foods that seem to be healthy and that people are actually buying once they decide to take care of their bodies. Here we will name a few and give you a guideline what to read on labels so you don’t get fooled. Calories are important to read but that is just one part of the puzzle. The amount of sugar, saturated and Trans fat are way more important to keep in mind. We will come back to that later.
Let’s take a look at the usual offenders we eat on daily basis.
- Energy bars: Energy bars are loaded with sugar and it is still a mystery to me how they got such popularity among an average customer. Read the label and pick an energy bar with less than 200 calories and less than 20g of sugar. You will see that there aren’t that many around. Look in the label the list of ingredients. The more ingredients, the worse the energy bar is. Try to find an energy bar with the less ingredients possible. Secondly, look for the order of ingredients. The order is made by the present amount of an ingredient. If sugar is first or second it means that unfortunately your bar is loaded mostly with sugar.
- Multigrain bread: This is something that happens all the time. Usually it is the “white” bread that people cut out of their diet and go for the brown, multigrain version. Keep in mind that many breads labeled as “multigrain” actually contain refined grains, which lack the fiber of whole grains and can make your blood sugar spike faster after eating, leading to cravings. What you need to look for in the label is the work “refined” that it is not really what you are looking for.
- Oatmeal in a package: Usually these readymade oatmeal are super practical but the issue again is the amount of sugar. Same goes to your cereals boxes sold as “healthy”. It is better to buy separately unrefined oats, add some milk and berries on top rather than the pre-packaged form.
- Anything fat-free: Don’t be afraid of eating full fat foods. They are not making you fat, sugar is. Whenever you see a label “fat-free” is it yoghurt, milk, cookies, chocolate, nut butters be aware that there must be a replacement for the fat in it in order to be tasty and yes it is sugar. If we talk about calories fat-free or reduced fat and full fat won’t have a huge difference between them but the amount of sugar is doubled in the fat free products. Feel free to buy products such as nut butters or full fat milk but if you are paying attention to your weight keep your daily intake up to two spoons of nut butter and 1 glass of milk.
- Sport drinks/Juice drinks: Sports drinks are basically just sugar water and artificial food coloring. If you are working out and you want to restore your electrolytes, it can be done with food or drinks such as coconut water, bananas. Just skip them! In the same range are juices from the shop are loaded with sugar. I have an issue with juices in general for couple of reasons. First of all juicing makes you lose the fiber, vitamins, and nutrients of fresh fruits that is lost in juice form. Secondly, chewing your food makes the sugar load go to your liver rather fast where it can be stored as fat. Lastly, think about it when you buy a juice that has 2 apples, 3 oranges, 1 pear and half cup of grape how much sugar is in it. I wonder if you would ever eat that amount of fruit in a day. Probably not?. Although it is better version of sugar that comes in natural form, over a course of one day it all adds up and affects your health.
- Frozen yoghurts: If you think that having a yoghurt with some fruit on the bottom is healthy, think again? It is again loaded with sugar, more than 16g usually. Instead of that have a regular Greek yoghurt and top it with some fresh fruit and nuts/seeds for a healthy breakfast.
- Salad dressings: It is way better for you to make your own dressing than to buy a readymade one. Use a bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar as a combination rather than dressings full of sugar, potassium, sodium. Usually the list of ingredients in salad dressings is so big that no wonder they are unhealthy. Do it yourself is a better option.
- Flavored nuts: Having a handful of nuts is healthy but the pre-packaged nuts that are flavored with salt, sugar are anything but. Try to eat your nuts plain and if you are looking for some flavor put them in the oven drizzled with spices such as cinnamon or turmeric for example.
- Prepared salads: Yes we are often on the go, but keep in mind that the prepared salads are not usually that healthy. We often grab a salad thinking that it must be the best option. Most salads contain croutons, dressings that can add up to 40g of sugar to your daily intake. It is better to ask for a salad without the dressing at least and just drizzle some lemon or balsamic vinegar on top.
- Rice cakes: Although they don’t have a lot of calories, they also don’t have that much nutrients so stay away from them because the only thing rice cakes give you is a short-lived sugar rush that can increase your cravings later on.
We can’t go over all foods that re actually not very healthy but here are some tips when reading labels:
- Look for hidden code names for sugar. There are 50 of them in the table below.
- Saturated fat – Raises cholesterol and risk for heart disease. Limit to 20 grams or less per day and try to avoid food usually processed food as it contains quite a bit of saturated fat
- Trans fat – Most harmful kind of fat; raises your bad cholesterol and at the same time reduces the good one. Think of margarine or food solid at room temperature.
- Cholesterol –Consume less than 200 mg per day.
- Sodium –1 teaspoon is all you need. Too much of it leads to high blood pressure. Advice: don’t salt everything, try the food first?
- Dietary fiber – Serves as a pre-biotic and good for the digestive system. Men should strive for 38 grams per day and women should aim for 25 grams per day
- Sugar – Consume 30 grams or less per day (different from carbohydrates).
- Protein – .33 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Increase or decrease according to physical activity.
- Ingredients appear in order of amount – largest quantity ingredient comes first.
- Longer list of ingredients usually means fewer nutrients and more additives.
- The closer the ‘calories from fat’ number is to the ‘calories’ number, the higher the fat content.
- When total carbohydrates grams don’t add up, the reason is hidden starches and sugars?
- Always check serving size.