Healthy eating can prove to be quite tricky. The terms ‘fat-free’ and ‘salad’ might be hidden codes for a lack of essential nutrients, presence of excessive calories and loads of sugar and extra fats. ‘Multi-grain’ and ‘whole wheat’ breads are usually prepared using refined flour or bleach flour and these are just a few broad examples. Sadly, the food industry had become a business, and not everything is what it seems.
Mentioned here are 13 food items commonly perceived to be extremely healthy, but consuming them on a daily basis might do you more harm than good. Know your food.
Energy bars are a craze these days – a shortcut to fewer calories and dieting. In reality, they’re a very creative way to sell products containing extra sugar and additional calories.
“Protein bars are all just processed chemicals”, reveals Dr Garth Davis, MD, bariatric surgeon at The Davis Clinic in Houston, Texas and author of The Expert’s Guide to Weight Loss Surgery.
When opting for an energy bar, choose one with less than 200 calories and 20 grams of sugar per serving. Also, opt for those that contain a few ingredients, including nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
Multi-Grain and Whole-Wheat Bread
You might think ‘multi-grain, 7-grain, and ‘whole-wheat’ equals healthy, but these breads are not actually made using these ingredients. They’re mostly manufactured using refined grains, which remove the nutritious bran, germ and endosperm, leaving you with a product that lacks essential proteins, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Here’s a helpful tip: always read the label when buying bread. If the first ingredient mentioned is refined flour (bleached or unbleached wheat flour), it is not pure whole-wheat bread.
Sushi is fresh, uncooked fish with no extra sauces – just rice and a few vegetables. That must be health, right? Wrong. As told by The Biggest Loser nutritionist Rachel Beller, eating one sushi roll is equal to two sandwiches stuffed with imitation crab meat! Moreover, a spicy tuna roll equates to adding another one and a half tuna sandwich filled with full-fat mayonnaise.
A healthier option is to eat cucumber wrapped sushi-rolls with less rice and an additional salad or protein portion on the side.
Vegan and baked – seems like the perfect combination. Many restaurants and dieticians promote vegan cookies, breads and cakes, labeling them as ‘super healthy foods’ for the perfect balanced diet. However, vegan products can contain as many calories, fats and sugar as conventional baked goods. The deceit lies in the possibility of ‘natural ingredients’ – evaporated cane sugar, vegan chocolate chips, coconut oil, etc, which make consumers believe that these products are healthier.
Beware folks, commercial vegan chocolate frosted cupcakes pack 350 calories, 22 grams of fat, and 18 grams of sugar per 2 oz. serving. Healthy? Not so much.
Packaged Baked Beans
Everyone knows beans are healthy. Proteins, minerals, vitamins, they’ve got the basics. Packaged baked beans, however, are a ‘messy mix of pinto beans, sugar, syrup and molasses with an unnecessarily high calorie count’, puts nutritionist Rania Batayneh.
Adding regular kidney beans to salads and pasta is a much healthier option.
Bottled Green Tea
Green tea – the health beverage packaged with antioxidants. Shockingly, a recent report found that most brands selling green tea contained minimal or almost zero amounts of ECGC, the potential antioxidant that prevents cancer and promotes weight loss.
Occasional consumption of this sweet, refreshing beverage is okay, states nutritionist Conner Middelmann-Whitney. But drinking bottled green tea on a daily basis to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and other degenerative diseases is not recommended – preparing your own natural green tea is a much healthier option.
Fat-Free Salad Dressing
Salads are considered to be the ultimate nutritional powerhouse when it comes to losing weight, and fat-free salad dressings are a healthy topping with fewer calories. Unfortunately, skipping a full-fat dressing means missing out on the health benefits of fresh vegetables.
Salads are rich in fiber, fat-soluble minerals, antioxidants and essential minerals, but without the supplementation of some amount of fat, these nutrients are not absorbed adequately by the body. So while the salad may be healthy and wholesome, adding fat-free dressings might compromise its nutritional benefits.
What is a smoothie: a base of blended fruit, low-fat dairy and yogurt? While this may seem a healthy meal, unbalanced and disproportioned servings pack nothing but sugar, flavored syrups and ice-cream.
And that’s not all; commercially available smoothies – the smallest serving size being 16 oz. – contain about half a dozen additional ingredients! This makes a smoothie nothing but a ridiculously large serving of fat, sugar and calories that can reach up to 600 in number!
Remember: fat-free does not mean calorie-free or healthy! Fat-free foods often lack flavor. To compensate, companies add sugar, fats, thickeners and salt, making them even unhealthier than normal full-fat food items.
Moreover, not all sources of fat are healthy. ‘Good fats’ – polyunsaturated – improve blood cholesterol levels and appetite. Check food labels to see what kind of fats are present, in addition to total calories, fiber, vitamins, sodium and minerals.
What’s recommended is to opt for naturally fat-free foods, such as fruits and vegetables, for that extra punch of antioxidants and micronutrients.
While many sport drinks do contain electrolytes such as potassium and sodium, consuming them on a daily basis is not a good option. Sport energy are meant to restore essential electrolytes, and should only be consumed after long periods of strenuous activity or endurance exercise according to nutritionists and industry experts.
Spare yourself the 125 calories and almost 15 grams of additional sugar. Rule of thumb: sport drinks are only for training and endurance events. Drinking on the go will result in excessive fat deposition (extra sugars are converted into fats) and an extended waist-line.
Research shows that low-calorie, low-density canned soup promotes weight loss and improves satiety. The problem, however, is the labeling – ‘100 percent natural, low fat and low sodium’ is great, but the additional ingredients, preservatives, flavors and artificial thickeners are what makes them an ultimately unhealthy choice. Some may even contain up to 800 mg of sodium per serving, which can lead to serious cardiac complications.
The best remedy is to make soup from scratch. If you really need to buy canned soup, choose one that has ‘reduced sodium’ and is broth-based instead of bisque or chowder style.
It might be calorie-free, but there is no evidence suggesting that diet soda will help with weight loss. On the contrary, some experts claim that regular consumption leads to weight gain by increasing one’s desire and appetite for sugar and altering the natural mechanisms of satiety. Hence, when you eat a naturally sweet food, it may not taste sweet enough.
Compensating for lack of fibers in the diet by consuming fiber-fortified foods is not as good an idea as it seems. As with whole-grain and fortified breads, fiber-fortified cereals, crackers and snack bars contain refined and man-made fibers and are displayed as ‘high in fiber’. These ingredients are in no way as healthy as the natural fiber obtained from nuts, whole grains, beans, seeds, fruits and vegetables.