There is little worse than thinking you are eating healthy when you’re really not. Most people need to revamp their eating habits– and the quest for “healthy choices” can become nearly all-consuming. The advertising and food myths out there make it easy to choose foods that have a reputation for being healthy but really aren’t.
You’re smart, so you already know that drinking fruit juices isn’t healthy. But what about other so-called “healthy” foods?
Here are Ten Food to Avoid and Why:
Fish, rice, and seaweed sounds healthy. And in fact, sushi from exceptional Japanese restaurants is just that. It’s also brutally expensive. What most of us consume is grocery store or “to go” quality sushi that ends up being high in carbs, low in protein, and free of vegetables. This will usually leave you hungry and craving more sugar.
Think about it. Sushi rice is short-grain white rice dressed with sugar and rice vinegar. It’s high in sugar. Most “rolls” are 60-75% rice which is equivalent to two slices of bread. And the amount of fish in a roll is pretty slim. If you are trying for a deck of cards sized serving you’ll need to swallow a whole lot of sushi rolls.
To up the quality of your sushi supper, consider ordering sashimi and avoid too much soy sauce to keep your sodium down.
- Trail Mix
A handful of trail mix seems like the ultimate power snack but there are nearly 700 calories lurking in a cup! It’s lightweight, tasty, and portable but if weight loss is your goal, trail mix should not be your go-to snack.
These days packaged varieties are oiled up to keep them from sticking and packed with extras like chocolate and fried banana chips.
If you are a trail mix fan and you can limit yourself to a single serving, consider making your own using raw, low, or no-salt almonds, walnuts, or peanuts and naturally dried raisins, apricots and cranberries. You can even add pumpkin or sunflower seeds and dried coconut. Always keep in mind that trail mix is calorie dense so when you eat it, keep your serving snack-sized!
- Spinach Wraps, Pasta, etc.
Dude, just because it’s green doesn’t mean it’s healthy. The allure of green pasta and wraps is undeniable. I can eat a ton of these right? I mean they’re made of spinach! But the truth is that pasta and wraps are still noodles and flour tortillas, not necessarily high in nutrition.
Most spinach wraps and pasta are made from white flour and the green color comes mostly from food coloring. Spinach is usually way down on the ingredient list. These foods prey on our belief that green=vegetables, so green is good. Fact is, green is a color. It’s what’s in your green that counts!
- Veggie Patties
How many times have you been proud of yourself for subbing a veggie patty for a burger? Consider this, most veggie burgers are highly processed food products made mostly of soy. They’re usually packed with salt too. Check the package for additives, GMOs, and unhealthy oils.
In most cases a big fat portobello mushroom or a homemade veggie burger made of grains and beans is a much better meat substitute.
This quick cooking carb can lure you into thinking it’s healthy but the truth is that couscous is really a tiny pasta with nearly zero nutritional value. Made popular in vegetarian and foodie circles, it’s just refined wheat. You might as well be eating white pasta.
It is possible to find whole wheat couscous but your better option is to choose quinoa, bulgur, or cracked wheat when you want a fine textured grain to include in your meal.
- Commercial Granola
The word “granola” conjures images of healthy outdoorsy folks eating breakfast cereal on a mountain. What a bummer that granola is one of the least healthy ways you can start your day! It tends to be low in fiber and protein and high in fat and sugar, which is pretty much the opposite of a healthy breakfast.
One cup of granola usually weighs in at more than 600 calories which is about a third of an average woman’s recommended daily calorie total. Think of it like eating a bowl of oatmeal cookies. If you love it and can’t give it up, try making granola at home using whole oats, unsweetened dried fruit, mixed nuts and cinnamon, and baked with olive oil. Then use your granola sparingly as a garnish for fruit or Greek yogurt.
- Commercial Salad Dressing
What’s better for you than a salad? One that doesn’t contain store-bought salad dressing. That huge bowl of healthy green stuff can be totally destroyed by a salad dressing packed with fats, sugars, salts, artificial flavorings, colors and preservatives. Processed-food companies create a cocktail of flavors meant to entice you into pouring on the dressing and suddenly that crisp, fresh salad in front of you is more like a treat.
The best way around the salad dressing dilemma is to make your own. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and spices to create a homemade dressing. Pair a fat with an acid, and plenty of spices, and there you go! You have a wholesome salad dressing!
- Sports Drinks
Most people think sports drinks are healthy sources of electrolytes and hydration for active people. Fact is that most sports and energy drinks contain nearly as much sugar as soda, artificial colors and flavors, a whole lot of processed salt, and caffeine– none of which will help you get healthier.
So stop kidding yourself and ditch the blue beverages. Go natural. Coconut water is a much better natural source of electrolytes and water is a better hydrator than any processed sports drink.
- Flavored Yogurt
Yogurt is marketed as the ultimate health food but if you are eating fruit-flavored yogurt cups, you’re likely to be eating plenty of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, and a host of other sweeteners– but not much fruit.
Usually, any fruit in your yogurt comes from high-calorie, high-sugar fruit extracts or purees. In fact, in an 8oz cup of fruit flavored yogurt, you can be looking at 47 grams—that’s twelve teaspoons—of sugar. You might as well be eating dessert.
If you just have to have your Greek yogurt in the morning, try eating it plain with fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey for a healthier alternative.
- Fat Free Anything
When you’re trying to eat more healthily, the words ‘fat-free’ are super enticing. Just remember that when a food manufacturer cuts fat, they have to replace it with something and that something is almost never good for you.
Fat gives food flavor. When you take it out you have to make up for that with more sugar, more salt, and more chemicals. Your body needs healthy fats. It recognizes them and knows just what to do with them. But those food additives used to replace fats are completely foreign and can do your body more harm than good. My advice for building a more healthy eating plan always begins with, “eat real food.”
The best way to make sure that the food you’re eating is really healthy and not just healthy by reputation is to keep it fresh and simple. Look for hidden sugars. Check your portions. And, remember, that you have more control when you make it yourself!