Keep These Sneaky Snacks Off of Your Shopping List
No one heads out to do the shopping with a plan to pick up a few things that will help them gain weight, develop health problems and increase their intake of ingredients from the lab. We all want to make the healthiest choices for our families and enjoy a few treats, but quite often the foods we think are the healthy choices are as bad as or worse than the treats. Sure, the label says ‘low fat’ or ‘low sugar’, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the food is actually good for you. You might be surprised to find some foods you thought were party of a healthy diet on this list.
Because so many different manufacturers produce similar products, it isn’t possible to give complete details of individual brands or products. Your grocery store is full of different options for each of these foods, so listing the exact amounts of sugar, fat, salt or other unhealthy ingredients in every product would fill a book.
Let’s start with some super stealthy unhealthy health foods that you need to skip for a truly healthy diet.
1. Wheat and Multi-Grain Bread
Bread is the staff of life, but a lot of the bread on the shelves today won’t add to your life. You know that white bread is bad, so you pick the wheat bread or the multi-grain option instead. Stop right there. What you actually want for a healthy bread choice is whole grain bread, whether it is whole wheat or multi-grain bread with whole grains. If it isn’t whole grain, it has lost too much of its nutritional value to qualify as the healthiest bread.
You can’t go wrong with a salad, then, can you? Actually, you can. Bacon and croutons might be delicious, but tossing them on a salad adds fat and carbs along with the flavor. Dressing is the downfall of many an otherwise healthy salad. Read the ingredients or, better still, use a touch of olive oil and fresh herbs instead of a dressing.
It’s a tasty meal that seems light and healthy, and often it is, but beware the extras that can creep in. Avoid sushi that includes batter and check how much mayonnaise is in that California roll. Don’t dunk it in the soy sauce – that will add to the salt content. If you have the option of getting sushi made with brown rice instead of white, go for it.
4. Diet Meals
If you are trying to lose weight and have little time for cooking, a prepared diet meal seems like the right choice. Check the ingredients. You’re probably trading calories for loads of additives and salt, and if you are carrying some extra weight, your heart does not need any extra salt pushing your blood pressure up.
5. Veggie Chips and Pita Chips
This is one of the sneakiest unhealthy health foods. These cheats are really cheating you. You want a substitute for those fatty, salty potato chips, but this isn’t it. They are just variations on the potato chip, complete with most of the salt and fat. The veggie chips don’t contain that much actual vegetable. They might not be as bad as regular chips, but generally they are a long, long way from healthy. Try carrot sticks and celery for a healthy crunch.
The next seven are some of the sneakiest snacks out there. If you want a quick, healthy snack on the go, grab an apple or a banana instead.
6. Snack Bars
They sound like a handy snack with protein and fruit to eat on the fly for energy. Too bad they almost always include loads of sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup that you definitely don’t need. Unless you are in rigorous athletic training, an energy bar or protein bar is over the top. And granola bars do not deserve their reputation as a health food, unless you make your own so you can control what is in them.
7. Dried Fruit
It isn’t always handy to carry fresh fruit around, so some dried fruit from the health food store is a tempting substitute. Dried fruit has two main problems. First, it is dried. Without the juice of fresh fruit, it doesn’t fill you up so you eat more. And more. Second, what they often have is added sugar. They might be delicious, but they are not the healthy diet food people think they are.
Yes, it is delicious. Granola with some yogurt sounds like a wonderful, wholesome breakfast, but granola is no better than granola bars. You’ll find way too much added sugar and often some dried fruit in most granola. If you are looking for something healthy to add some texture to your morning yogurt, try adding uncooked oatmeal flakes and fresh fruit.
9. ‘Healthy’ Muffins
Some days you wind up flying out the door to work without breakfast and need to grab something along the way. That bran muffin seems like a stellar choice compared to the chocolate one next to it. It’s a better choice than a pastry for sure, but before you decide it’s a great choice, get some facts. The sugar content in most of them will leave you with a muffin top waistline.
10. Roasted Nuts
Nuts are popping up in lots of articles on healthy eating these days, and for good reason. In moderation, they are a yummy, natural snack packed with protein… unless they are roasted. It isn’t the roasting itself that is the problem, but usually salt or sugar is added and that’s what you want to avoid.
Popcorn can be a perfect, light, healthy snack. But pre-popped, packaged popcorn and microwave popcorn have all sorts of fatty, salty, artificial flavoring added to them. Get your own popper and make popcorn that really is a healthy snack. That’s a great option if you are trying to lose weight.
12. Frozen Yogurt
Okay, let’s just stop kidding ourselves. This is obviously too good to be true! Don’t be tricked, this is a treat. Enjoy it once in a while, but don’t fool yourself. It is lower in fat than ice cream, but it has too much sugar to be considered healthy.
Cutting out colas and sodas is a huge step to improving your health. The regular ones are full of sugar, and the sugar-free ones are full of artificial sweeteners. Plain water is the healthiest drink out there, but everyone needs a little variety. Chose herbal teas and a little bit of fruit juice over these deceptively dangerous drinks.
13. Vegetable Juice
If you juice your own veggies at home, you can make an ideal healthy drink exactly to your liking. But if you are looking for a ready to go vegetable juice drink, stop and read the label carefully. Odds are you’ll be shocked by the amount of sodium.
14. Fruit Juice Drinks
The word ‘drink’ on the label is your big clue that this isn’t pure fruit juice. It includes fruit juice, but it also includes sweeteners and some other things you’d be better off avoiding. Go for the real, 100% fruit juice, but do so in moderation. The juice doesn’t have the same benefits as actual fresh fruit.
15. Sports Drinks
Unless you are doing some hardcore athletic training, you do not need these drinks. They have extras that athletes need, but working out a couple of times a week does not put you in that league. Check the label. Just reading it requires the degree of effort a workout does, and you might need to google half the ingredients to see what the heck they are.
16. Flavored Soy Milk
While regular soy milk is a healthy beverage, like anything, the more that is added to it the less healthy it is likely to be. Those additives that make it so much nicer are sugar or other sweeteners and added flavorings, possibly artificial flavorings. Check the labels carefully and try to stick to plain soy milk as much as possible.
The fruit smoothie is a great idea that was quickly corrupted by the usual suspects – sugar and other added ingredients with a higher fat content such as ice cream. If you make a fruit smoothie at home with real fruit and low fat plain yogurt, you do indeed have a genuinely healthy smoothie. But if you pick one up at the mall, you are probably getting a giant fruity milkshake.
It always sounds so healthy when a manufacturer brags about what isn’t in a product, but generally what has been removed has been replaced with additives that are possibly worse. The key to healthy eating is moderation. A small bit of fat or sugar is not going to harm you unless you actually have a medical condition such as diabetes or a food intolerance that requires you to restrict your diet.
It seems that everyone is leaping on the gluten-free bandwagon, and many people do have compelling reasons. Eating a wider variety of grains is healthier, but super processed gluten-free white bread is no healthier than regular, processed white bread. And baking cookies and cakes with gluten-free flour does not make them healthy food; it just means that people with gluten intolerance can have a treat occasionally too.
Refined sugar is not healthy, but aspartame, saccharine and other artificial sweeteners are not better. You cannot escape the fact that if you want to lose weight, you must cut back on sweet treats. If you are diabetic, do some research on the various sugar substitutes and talk to your doctor about what treats are safest.
Fat is not the enemy; excess fat is the enemy. Your body needs some fat to stay healthy and feel full when you’ve eaten enough. Just like sugar, the goal is not to eliminate it but to choose the healthiest forms and enjoy in moderation. And again, like sugar, an artificial replacement does not mean you can over-indulge.