When it comes to food, healthy is a very subjective term and not all “health” foods are created equal. In fact, some foods we deem as healthy aren’t actually that healthy at all!
Before you guzzle that “low-fat” smoothie or scarf down that bag of “fat-free” chips, take a little peek at this list. There’s a chance you’ll be surprised, disgusted and just plain uncomfortable with the foods you thought were healthy. Remember that Seinfeld episode where Jerry gained weight eating low-fat frozen yogurt? The same could happen to you if you aren’t careful and aware of what you’re putting in that body of yours. And there’s no better time to pay attention to what you’re eating — it’s almost swimsuit season!
Anything labeled fat-free
In today’s culture where size is everything, the allure of something being completely free of fat is certainly hard to ignore, especially when it comes to food. However, those fat-free foods can lead to weight gain! Those packaged boxes of “fat-free” cookies may not have any fat, but they are more often than not loaded with sugars and preservatives as well as more calories than the original! Plus, when we think we’re eating something “healthy” or “low-fat” we often take that as meaning we can eat more without any repercussion. So before you know it, you’ve eaten half the sleeve of cookies and almost 1,000 calories. My advice? Eat one regular cookie and call it a day.
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I know what you’re thinking. “What? A smoothie! No way, it’s just veggies, fruit and milk in my drink!” And that’s where I have to step in and show you what you’re really drinking: sugar, sugar and more sugar, plus some fancy 10-letter preservatives. Although this certainly isn’t the case for all store-bought or fast food smoothies, it’s the case for many of them. For example, the orange dream machine smoothie from Jamba Juice has as many calories as a sausage McMuffin with cheese! Skip the store-bought and make your own healthy smoothie instead.
Check out these healthy smoothie recipes >>
Energy or protein bars
These sound harmless enough, right? High-energy and high-protein bars should be good for you! However, most of the bars out there now contain more sugar and calories than a bowl of kid’s breakfast cereal or a candy bar! Don’t completely avoid all bars, though. Some bars, like Larabars and Rise Bars, are 100 percent organic, gluten-free and made with natural ingredients, including less sugar! If you have to have one, look for a low-sugar, low-carbohydrate variety, so you don’t crash later.
For those watching their calories, diet sodas are a better option than their higher calorie siblings, but not by much. Diet sodas lack any nutritional or health benefits and can actually cause health risks if you aren’t careful! A recent study found an increased incidence of metabolic syndrome in those people who consumed diet soda versus those who didn’t. The artificial sweeteners are to blame. A diet soda once in a while will certainly not wreak havoc on your body or health, though. For a healthier option, drink water or coffee for an energy buzz.
Check out these 4 alternatives to diet soda >>
Most trail mixes and nut mixes are actually very healthy for you, but they sometimes get lost amongst the unhealthy versions, like the ones with heavily salted peanuts, chocolate candies and sugar-laden candy. In fact, some trail mixes can have as many grams of sugar as a king-sized candy bar! Not so healthy after all, right? To avoid overeating a bunch of junk, make your own healthy trail mix with this recipe and take it on the road, to class or in the car for a quick, good-for-you snack!
The biggest mistake most people make when trying to lose weight or get healthier is to assume that all salads are healthy and created equal. Many mixed salads, like tuna and chicken, are loaded with high-fat mayonnaise and olive oil, which can make them as fattening as a Big Mac! In addition, many salads are covered in high-fat salad dressings, like ranch or blue cheese, which detract from the other low-calorie ingredients. If a salad is your only healthy option, skip the dressing or ask for it on the side.
with cream cheese
Compared to a greasy breakfast sandwich or cheesy omelet, a bagel can seem pretty harmless. However, just one medium-size bagel has more than 350 calories and 66 grams of carbohydrates! Once the cream cheese is added (some chains add up to four ounces), you are not only adding more calories and carbohydrates, but a ton of fat too (almost as much as a Whooper!). Although bagels are convenient, don’t let the “healthy” bit fool you. Eat a bowl of whole grain cereal or have an egg for a truly healthy breakfast.
Check out these recipes for healthy breakfasts >>
Many people have the misconception that margarine is healthier than butter because it’s lower in fat. It may contain less fat per serving, but many brands of margarine also contain trans fat, which can lead to heart disease and cardiac arrest. The best bet for a healthy spread is to enjoy a whipped butter spread, like Land O’Lakes whipped butter, which is whipped with air to reduce calories.
Pretty much any food sold in stores or restaurants with the word “muffin” after it is not going to be healthy, but restaurants and marketers try to fool us anyway by placing the words “bran” “whole wheat” or “high fiber” in front of it. Sure, a bran muffin does contain a high dose of fiber (which will keep you fuller longer and help aid in digestion). That muffin is also full of fat, calories and sugar. The reason for this is the size of the muffins sold at many fast food restaurants and chains. One version at a popular restaurant has 600 mg of sodium! Make your own healthy muffins at home and slash the calories, fat, sugar and sodium by half!
Reduced fat sounds healthier, but when it comes to peanut butter, it just means more sugar. Most reduced-fat brands of peanut butter have the same calories as the original with more sugar and sodium to offset the lack of fat. Although peanut butter is a higher fat food, it’s made up of healthier, monounsaturated fats, which build up your HDL (good cholestrol) that can help prevent heart disease. Next time you’re shopping, pick up a jar of natural peanut butter for even more health benefits and less of the stuff you can’t pronounce.