Are you eating any of these foods that are actually more unhealthy than you think?
Happy Thursday my friends!
One more blissful day til the weekend. Any big plans for you?
Mine include the usual suspects of long run Sunday followed by football. But the rest of the weekend is fair game.
This week I wanted to focus on those foods that have stolen the health halo from the the humble fruits and veggies, when they really are the devil in disguise.
I'm thinking I have Halloween on the brain after that analogy. Can we get a menacing cackle and Vincent Price over here please?!
Okay let's get on with it. Here's 10 health foods that are really not that healthy as you may think.
Granola just screams healthy doesn't it?! Like a handful of it will automatically transport you to a mountaintop that you scaled to help raise money for the homeless shelter kind of healthy.
Or is it?
Truth is, most granola and granola bars are loaded with sugar. A half cup serving of most store-bought granola has about 200 calories and 14 grams of sugar. That's almost 4 teaspoons in just half a cup. Now really, who can eat just half a cup of granola?!
Granola bars? Even worse. In order to make these babies hold their shape, more sugar in the forms of syrups or honey is added, resulting in more sugar and more calories with not a whole lot more nutrition.
Healthy Swap: Make your own. This way you can control and know just how much added sugar is going into them, and allows you to add more filling and nutritious foods like nuts and seeds, nut butters, or ground flaxseeds. Try out some maple walnut breakfast cookies or pumpkin cranberry energy bites for quick snack. If you're in a pinch, look for a bar or granola with 7 grams of sugar or less.
It seems like everyone is so smoothie-obsessed these days. If it comes from a blender, is a crazy vibrant color, and can be consumed through a reusable stainless steel straw, IT'S A HIT.
Before you take the next nonstop ticket on the train to Smoothie town, take a step back and sip on this first.
A lot of the smoothies sold in stores and specialty smoothie stores are not much better than a giant cup of soda...drank through a reusable stainless steel straw.
Get this, a small, 16 oz smoothie from a famous-but-will-remain-anoymous smoothie joint has 59 grams of sugar! That's actually more sugar than is in a 16 oz bottle of Coke!
"A 16 oz smoothie has more sugar than the same size bottle of soda!"
I know what you're going to say. "But it's from fruit!" While fruit sugar is processed in the body differently than regular sugar, it's still sugar to the body. And that means a sugar high and crash. And a rumbly stomach an hour after you just cashed out six bucks for a orange-you-glad-you-didn't-chose-a-filling-breakfast..in a cup.
Healthy Swap: Again, MAKE YOUR OWN! It takes literally less than 5 minutes to whip up a healthy and satisfying smoothie. That way you can control how much sugar goes in, and add some filling protein and fats to keep you going.
Here's some ideas to get you started
If you are even short on time, put everything in the blender the night before, then pop it in the fridge. The next morning all you have to do is wake up the neighborhood before breakfast!
Sure. That bowl of rice krispies has a small amount of calories. But please point me to someone who isn't ravenously hungry that even the cardboard box plastered with those cereal-loving elves is looking pretty appetizing.
While you may think you're being good and cutting out some calories, most breakfast cereals are either loaded with sugar, and/or fill you up for about 5 seconds..IF you're lucky. Ever wonder why it's so easy to belly up to an entire box and STILL be hungry?
Even the cereals you thought were the good kind, eating it just because it was healthy..well another imposter. Raisin Bran. Sounds like a prescription for a healthy colon, yes? Sure it has a good dose of fiber, but it also has more than double the amount of sugar. For all that sugar just give me a box of Lucky Charms.
And those whole grain versions of childhood favorites? Another con artist. No matter how whole grain these cereals are, they are still chock full of sugars.
Healthy Swap: If you MUST have cereal, try going for one that has a lower amount of sugar, and maybe some added protein. Add some healthy fats like nuts to the mix, and have some protein with it such as a hard-boiled egg or Greek yogurt. My favorite way used to be to mix the cereal with half almond milk and half Greek yogurt. SO much more filling and satisfying!
Traditional Nut Butters/Spreads
Now if you know me, you know I love me my peanut butter. But the traditional kinds contain more additives and sweeteners than ACTUAL peanuts it seems. Things like trans fats, hydrogenated oils, palm oil, and a list of sugars make peanut butter the enemy. I don't like that.
Same goes for the beloved hazelnuts spreads aka Nutella. Those adds make it seem like such a healthy choice with the skim milk and hazelnuts. In reality, it's not much different than spreading a Hershey bar on a slice of toast and calling it breakfast.
"It's not much different than spreading a Hershey bar on toast."
One serving has 21 grams of sugar. Conveniently about the same as..you guessed it a Hershey bar. Natural peanut butter? 2. The same as about half a nibble of that chocolate bar.
Healthy Swap: Opt for the natural variety of peanut butter. Turn that jar around and look for two ingredients: Peanuts. Salt. If you want a good alternative to nutella, VTPB's Good Karma gives it a good run for it's money. And it only has 4 grams of sugar!
I'll spare you another rant about fruits and stainless steel straws, but juices are just the same as smoothies if not worse. A lot of juices out there plaster how much fruit is packed into one bottle, looking like a good option, but all that sugar with no protein or fat is gunna leave you tired and hungry in no time flat.
I always think, would I eat all of this fruit in one sitting? Most likely not. And even if I tried to, I think I would fail. Juices leave out the fiber that whole fruits have in their skin, which is another nutrient that helps keep you full.
Healthy Swap: Opt for water instead. If you want that fruit flavor, add in some fresh fruit like berries or orange slices. That way you can have a snack along with it too!
Are we over the fear of fat yet? Please? Fat-free does not equal healthy! Look at the above. Do you REALLY think marshmallows are a healthy option just because they are fat-free? Not even if you added them to a salad. But please don't try that.
Most products that take out the fat have to add something back in to make it taste good. Fat = flavor. Most of the time, the swap it out for the real bad guy, sugar.
Things like salad dressings, crackers, chips, flavored yogurts, they all have added sugars where the fat used to be. That added sugar is doing nothing for you, but ruining your health.
Healthy Swap: Buy the full-fat version or only thins without added sugar. I find that most plain low-fat/non-fat dairy products don't add in any sugars. Salad dressings are a pinch to make at home. Just be aware that the anything with the label, "Fat-Free" is worth questioning. I mean, spinach is fat free but you don't see a big label saying that do you?
Sorry for that sad airplane dinner pic, but it was the closest thing to a frozen dinner I have had in a long time. I used to go for the lean cuisines and other frozen meals when I first became vegetarian, but once I started cooking for myself, I realized how much I had not lived when I was eating those.
A lot of those frozen entrees are chock full of sodium, additives, and preservatives that it doesn't leave a lot of room for ACTUAL food. If I had a dollar for every time I was stuffed after a microwavable tray of what was to be vegetable lasagna, I'd be living in a luxury HDTV...cardboard box because that NEVER happens.
Healthy Swap: Make extras at dinner! Instead of making just enough for that one meal, double the recipe so you have enough for lunch the next day, and is just as easy to heat up as those less filling frozen entrees.
If you are in a pinch and want a frozen meal for a back-up plan, opt for a more natural version. my favorites are Kashi and Amy's brands.
Oh fro-yo. If you weren't a semi-frozen mass that I engulf in two seconds flat, I would give you the "Best" of my best friends 4 ever necklace.
But I know you are a treat, not a health food. Frozen yogurt is one of those "health halo" foods that are so easy to mistake for a healthy option. "But it's frozen yogurt!" I've heard it many times, even out of my own mouth.
Truth is, frozen yogurt is just as high in sugar if not more than regular ice cream. Remember, you take out the fat what goes in? Same rule here.
A lot of commercial frozen yogurts don't actually contain the "live and active cultures" that yogurt is so beneficial for.
Healthy Swap: You can still eat your frozen yogurt. Just keep in mind, that it is not a health food and is just the same as ice cream. Stick to a regular portion size, or if you want a non-dairy version you can whip up at home try my Banana Bee-Nut Butter ice cream!
Oh my gosh, I could go to town on some trail mix. Salty. Sweet. Grab-able little handfuls of stuff my face but in a healthy way goodness.
Except, a lot are full of chocolates, yogurt covered raisins, sugar-coated dried fruits, so you guessed it a lot of sugar.
Healthy Swap: I've said it before and I'll say it again, make your own! Get creative with different nuts and seeds and add in dried fruit. Try my red, white, and blue on for size, or if you do buy trail mix, look for one without a lot of added candies or sugar.
Now I'm not saying if you don't eat gluten you aren't healthy. What I am saying is that a lot of people who are intolerant to gluten or have Celiacs think that any thing labeled gluten-free is automatically healthy.
I've heard it many times. "I bought this gluten free mac and cheese since I'm trying to eat better." Newsflash: GF mac and cheese is STILL mac and cheese. Same goes for the brownies, cookies, cakes, pastas, or whatever new product decides to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon.
Healthy Swap: Be aware. Just know that products labeled gluten-free aren't automatically healthy. They probably have about the same nutrition facts as the regular version, but twice as much money. If you are not following a gluten-free diet, you do not have to buy GF products, but rather look at the nutrition facts to determine if it is a good choice or not.
Now all this talk about how sugar is the bad guy, you would think that a "sugar-free" label is a good thing right?
Truth is most products that are "sugar-free" aren't free of all sweeteners. A lot will add in artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, or neotame, which aren't any better than the sugar it replaced.
Healthy Swap: If you see a "sugar-free" or "no sugar added" label, flip the product over to check out the ingredients list. A big shiny label or health claim on the front, makes me more suspicious and read the label more carefully. Look for products without artificial sweeteners (for a list of all sweetener names, check here).
Phew! That was quite the long post in the land of Sinful Nutrition. Thanks for staying with me!
Make it a great day!
What foods did I forget?
Do you read the ingredients list on new foods you buy?