By Debra Soufleris, B.S., DTR
Try to navigate between healthy and unhealthy foods. It’s not always easy! Even the most nutrition-savvy experts can get confused. Marketers are extremely good at slapping on wholesome-looking food labels and catchphrases to trick consumers into thinking a product is healthy when in reality it is full of excess calories, fat, sodium, and added sugars.
Once you learn how to outsmart marketers, you can be confident that you’re making healthy decisions about the food you consume. Healthy eating habits can provide you with a whole host of wellness benefits. They contribute to reduced risk of chronic diseases, weight loss, better sleep, improved mood, a healthy heart, more energy, increased productivity, improved eyesight, and strong bones and teeth. To help you navigate through all the confusion, here is a list of 10 foods that appear to carry a health halo but are not the healthiest choice to consume regularly.
That tiny little fruit-flavored yogurt container you grab on the go thinking it’s a healthy choice is no more than a sugar bomb. Most flavored yogurts can have around 20 grams of added sugar, making your blood sugar levels rise quickly. A better option would be plain Greek yogurt topped with fresh fruit and a few nuts or seeds. Be sure to read about the benefits of yogurt.
This may seem like a good option for a quick hearty breakfast, but those single-serving packs of flavored oatmeal are loaded with a ton of added sugar. Stick with less processed varieties like plain steel-cut oats. Add berries, spices, and nuts for a more satiating breakfast that won’t spike your blood sugar levels and leave you hungry an hour later.
This may surprise you, but your favorite Starbucks drink made “skinny” isn’t a healthy choice. Your beverage will still be packed with a ton of sugar and artificial flavors that can mess with your gut health. You’re much better off ordering a regular drink without any added flavorings. The naturally occurring fats in whole-milk will help keep you fuller and will make your drink more indulgent so you won’t miss all the extra added sugar and flavorings. Top off with a sprinkle of cinnamon for additional blood sugar-stabilizing benefits.
This may seem like the perfect on-the-go lunch option, but grain bowls are usually packed with a ton of carbs. Most ready-made grain bowls can contain about 2 cups of grains, which is about the equivalent to 8 pieces of white bread in carbs! A great substitute would be to replace the grains with cauliflower “rice”. These bowls are becoming more and more popular and can provide additional fiber to your diet. Do you want to know more? Read up on the benefits of fiber.
Although this can be a healthy option if made correctly, most store-bought pre-packaged trail mix snacks are full of extra sugar and artificial ingredients. You are much better off making your own. Not only can you customize it to your liking, but you can save some money as well. I love this simple homemade granola recipe by Paola Marquez.
There are some health benefits to consuming dried fruit, such as additional antioxidants and a fiber boost. But if eaten in excess, you could be adding a lot of concentrated sugar and calories, which can spike blood sugar levels. It’s best to consume whole fresh fruit or just eat a small amount in moderation.
A balanced smoothie made properly can make for a healthy quick breakfast option or mid-day snack. Unfortunately, most store-bought smoothies are not balanced and tend to be full of sugar. Take it to the next level and learn how to make a balanced smoothie that can be part of a healthy diet.
When we think of unhealthy foods, energy bars are often low on the list. Most of them would lead you to believe that you are consuming the most nutritious snack out. However, if you take a look at the lengthy ingredient list on the side panel, you will soon realize you are consuming a bunch of artificial ingredients. Energy bars are often full of fake fiber and preservatives that may leave you feeling bloated and tired shortly after consuming. Not exactly what you were looking for. Thankfully, there are some good options on the market. If you have a little extra time, try this DIY Protein Bars Recipe that will keep you energized and tastes great.
So you think you’re being smart choosing frozen yogurt over traditional ice cream, right? Not so fast; frozen yogurt can be yet another one of those hidden, unhealthy foods. You usually end up with double the sugar and calories thanks to all those crazy delicious toppings and oversized portions. You’re much better off sticking to the smallest size of your favorite flavored ice cream or gelato. You’ll save a ton of calories without feeling deprived.
Say what? How can sports drinks be on this list? Turns out for most exercise lasting less than an hour, no additional electrolytes or carbs are necessary. Most of us are not elite athletes training for an event, so plain old water is best when working out.
Although marketers would have you believe their products are healthy, knowing what to look for can help you make the best food decisions for your health. You can maintain a healthy diet if you steer clear of many of the processed, high-sugar items mentioned above. Focus on whole foods that provide nutrients that will help you feel your best. There are plenty of ways to make them tasty and healthy.