So we are surrounded by ‘health’ food every day. “Low-fat” this, “organic” that, it’s really overwhelming. The trouble is, most people are easily fooled by the labels on their food. Not you guys. Here are a list of my most pet-peevy “healthy” foods to avoid — they’re not so healthy after all!
1. Anything with the words ‘low-fat’ or ‘non-fat’ in it!
Foods that have those trigger words are typically heavily processed. This processing takes out the fat and replaces it with chemicals and sugar to maintain taste. Trust me, if choosing between fat and sugar/processing, choose fat! (More on enjoying dairy fat here!) All that craze over fat intake? Was totally wrong.
2. Energy bars.
Some energy bars are even worse than candy bars for your health! They are packed full of calories from carbs and sugar, and even though some pack in the protein, it usually isn’t enough to keep you full enough to use it as a meal replacement. They end up being 500 calories of a snack, only to be followed up by a 500 calorie meal a few minutes later! Even if a bar has lots of soy protein (which is full of nutrients), the processing the bars have to go through flushes out the beneficial nutrients!
3. Brown Rice Syrup.
When most people hear the word ‘rice’ or ‘brown’ they think it’s going to be healthier than regular syrup. Brown rice syrup has no refined fructose, which is a good thing, however, it is full of glucose. The GI of rice syrup is 98, meaning that it will cause blood sugar to shoot up at a crazy high rate (we call that very ‘insulinemic’). Insulinemic foods are bad (duh!) and you want to avoid them as much as possible. Plus, brown rice syrup has like no nutrients, so it’s really just empty sugar calories.
4. Gluten-free or Vegan Junk Food.
Trader Joe’s does a fantastic job of making junk food look and sound super healthy. Gluten-free pasta, vegan cookies, etc etc etc. I mean, have you ever tried their gluten-free pizza dough? Drool. It’s delicious. BUT, unhealthy. All these foods are so highly processed that they are striped of their nutrients and end up being just as bad for you as their evil gluten-y counterparts. Just think about all the machines those foods had to go through to be in your grocery aisle. Gross.
My whole family eats margarine and it’s SO frustrating. Butter used to be thought of as unhealthy because of the high amount of saturated fat, but now that the saturated fat in dairy myths have been debunked, it’s time to get back to it. Margarine is not real food. Let me repeat. Margarine. Is. Not. Food. Similarly to gluten-free or vegan junk food. It’s an amalgamation of chemicals that have been thrown together in a factory to taste like butter. Even worse? People avoid butter to avoid heart disease, when in fact, consuming margarine instead showed an INCREASE in heart disease! Crazy, right?
6. Agave nectar.
A lot of people use agave nectar as a more healthy sweetener option. Wrong. Sugar is considered bad for you because of the fructose content, right? Well, sugar is about 50% fructose. High fructose corn syrup ranges around 50-60% fructose. What’s agave nectar? Up to 90% fructose. 90%!!! So, even though it’s ‘natural,’ doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy.
7. Sports drinks.
Sports drinks are basically just electrolytes and sugar. Electrolytes are salts. There is pretty much no difference between sports drinks and soda for the average person. If you’re in a triathalon or are a professional serious athlete, by all means, reload your electrolytes with a Gatorade! However, the average person — even if you’re a crazy crossfitter or something — does not need to replenish their electrolytes after a workout, and they certainly don’t need to drink liquid sugar for energy. Stick to water, it’s perfectly acceptable to rehydrate you after your run.
8. Store-bought smoothies.
So whole foods has this amazeballs strawberry cleanse smoothie? Great, enjoy. However, it may not be as healthy as it sounds. Premade smoothies are typically made with tons and tons of sugar, purees, and even ice cream! Plus, smoothing and processing them to last on a shelf strips nutrients right off them. Smoothies can be made the healthy way in your blender at home. (My favorite healthy smoothie that’s so good it would fool anyone to thinking it’s unhealthy here. Quick tip to make homemade smoothies easier here.)
9. Frozen diet meals.
You heard me, I’m-too-tired-to-cook Lean Cuisine lovers. These frozen entrees are PACKED with sodium — seriously, it’s nuts. They might be low in calories and super convenient, but they are pretty much empty of nutrients. Gross. So much gross.
10. Frozen yogurt.
At USC, girls went ape-shit over frozen yogurt. My friends would constantly replace meals with a trip to PinkBerry because they were on a ‘diet’. I cannot even tell oyu how frustrating that is! Frozen yogurt is not much better for you than ice cream. Yes, it is lower in saturated fat. But in regard to sugar, carbs, calories, and processing, they’re pretty close. Plus, didn’t we all learn to prefer the saturated fat over sugar?!
Anyway, that’s my list! Really, it’s all about keeping it simple. Cook real, whole foods and you will be your absolute healthiest. Do any of you have things to add to it? I had to stop at 10 but could probably go on all day…
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