Health is one of our main concerns in life.
Food is one of our main sources of pleasure in life.
And we want to have it both, good health and delicious food.
No wonder that clever marketing had us all fooled into thinking some tasty foods are also healthy.
We wanted to believe.
To make things even worse some of the foods on the list are marketed especially towards athletes, fitness amateurs and all those trying to improve their health and get in good shape.
You’ll notice that most of these food items are really convenient to consume on the go, preparation goes as far as opening the package.
They have a name that represents something healthy.
And on the front of the package are highlighted minor benefits to hide the ugly truth. —The ingredient list that shows lots of sugars and processed oils.
Unhealthy Foods That Are Advertised as Healthy
1. FRUIT JUICE
What’s wrong with fruit juice?
Fruit juices were labeled healthy for far too long. After all, it’s just fruit juice, how bad can it be? Turns out, really bad.
Bottled juice and freshly squeezed fruit juice too, are both sugar drinks with very little nutritional value.
Bottled juices rarely have actual fruit in them. Most of them are just sugar water with added artificial fruit flavor and often high amounts of sodium.
The story is not too much different for 100% fruit juice. By extracting juice out of the fruit you are basically throwing away all the good stuff and keeping liquid sugar. Yes it may have some vitamins and minerals but it still has the same amount of sugar as the bottled juice.
Remember the good old saying “Don’t drink your calories!”. Eat the whole fruit instead and enjoy all the benefits it has to offer.
What to drink instead of fruit juice?
Water is always the best drink of choice.
But in case you are used to fruit juices and are looking for a similar replacement, then go with herbal teas.
There is a whole world of flavors available out there. Just beware to read the label carefully, some producers add sugar to their fruity blends.
2. PACKAGED SALAD
What’s wrong with packaged salad?
People think that eating salad for lunch is a healthy thing to do. Yes lettuce, grated carrots and beets, chopped bell peppers and sliced radishes are all very healthy. What is not healthy is your delicious, fatty dressing that comes with the packaged salad.
So here you are thinking I’m eating a healthy salad and what you are actually doing is filling yourself with lots of unhealthy fats, sugars, too much sodium and chemicals like artificial flavors and stabilizers.
What you can do is forget the dressing and use simple vinegar instead, but there is a catch to this clever solution.
While there is nothing wrong with only salad, it is not enough to call it a meal. If you ever tried to eat a bowl of salad for lunch you’ll know that half way through the salad you get bored of chewing and at the end of the meal you are still hungry.
This is not a sustainable way of eating.
What to eat instead of packaged salad?
You should absolutely eat fresh vegetables. But rather than buying once in a while this ready made salad, choose to buy the whole vegetables and include only one with your meal.
Here are few ideas:
- grate fresh carrot or beet and eat it with your regular lunch/dinner
- celery/carrot/cucumber/bell pepper sticks with hummus or greek yogurt
- cherry tomatoes are great with any food and on their own
- small bowl of lettuce seasoned with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar with your regular lunch/dinner
What’s wrong with granola?
Majority of granola options available at stores are made with highly processed grains, lots of sugars and artificial flavors. Then to add some proof to the health claims, granola is fortified with few vitamins and minerals.
Sometimes on the front of the box may be written “whole grain”, but it almost never is, or the whole grain amount is so small it’s insignificant.
Even if granola was in fact whole grain and had all the benefits listed on the box it is still full of sugar, yes the honey-flavored ones too.
Just imagine the sugar spike such breakfast does to your blood. There is absolutely nothing in it to justify that amount of sugar.
So don’t fool yourself thinking “I’m eating healthy granola and yogurt for breakfast”, in reality you are eating sugar by the spoonfuls.
Essentially granola is no different than some candy bar. And because it’s a convenient and tasty breakfast option, we all wanted to believe it’s healthy.
What to eat instead of granola?
You can still enjoy the convenience of granola by making your own. That way you can control the type and amount of added oil and sweetener.
Or look for healthier versions made with whole ingredients and unrefined sweeteners.
What’s wrong with cheese?
Often you will see cheese on a list of healthy snacks, when it really shouldn’t be there.
They say cheese is a great source of calcium, protein and fat, so let’s see what facts say.
Small 1-inch cube of cheese (cheddar, gouda, swiss) has approx. 100 calories, 10 g fat, 6 g protein, 200 mg calcium and 200 mg sodium.
Cheese is a calorie dense food. For reference 1 large apple or 1 large banana has 100 calories and none of the bad stuff.
Fat in cheese is the saturated kind. Saturated fat causes plaque to form in your blood vessels which leads to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases.
Protein ratio is not that big compared to calories and fat. For example, 1 egg white also has 6g of protein, but it comes with only 25 calories and 0 fat.
For such a small piece of food the amount of sodium is too much. Too much sodium damages blood vessels, hearth, kidneys and bones.
Cheese is ok as an occasional treat, but it most definitely is not a healthy snack.
What to eat instead of cheese?
Cashews are a great substitute for cheese. They are creamy and have some cheese-like quality that just might satisfy the need for cheese.
5. PROTEIN BAR
What’s wrong with protein bars?
Protein bars are a popular snack choice among fitness lovers.
Marketed as a quick and enduring energy source to fuel your workout. Protein bars seem like a convenient source of protein sold at your gym, sports and health stores.
But are protein bars really the best solution for increased protein needs?
If you look at the ingredients list of an average protein bar you will see that it’s full of processed vegetable oils, sugars, high fructose corn syrup and processed highly concentrated protein.
With such high fat and sugar content, the protein bar is a candy bar in disguise.
What to eat instead of a protein bar?
Most people consume more than enough protein throughout the day. But in case you think you need an extra dose of protein then avoid processed unhealthy traps and choose whole foods rich in protein.
Few equally convenient protein rich snacks to eat instead of protein bars are:
- nuts and seeds
- hard-boiled eggs
- yogurt (greek or soy)
6. DRIED FRUIT
What’s wrong with dried fruit?
Dried fruit is a tricky one. Because it’s a fruit it leads you to think it’s as healthy as it’s fresh counterpart.
A lot of people when going on a diet, instead of usual snacks and candies, they turn to dried fruit for a sugar fix.
There are two concerns with the dried fruit.
First is the amount of sugar. Because the fruit is dried out all the water is gone and it’s now basically just sugar and fibers.
Second are preservatives, which include sugars, high fructose corn syrup, processed vegetable oils and often artificial flavors are added.
Now when you think about it, it’s no more just dried fruit.
What to eat instead of dried fruit?
Read the label and find real dried fruit without the additives.
Or invest in a good dehydrator and make your own.
7. SPORTS DRINKS
What’s wrong with sports drinks?
Sports drinks are made for athletes doing prolonged (think marathon long) high intensity physical activity.
Main ingredients of a sports drink are sugar, electrolytes and water. If you are doing a marathon then simple sugar as a quick energy source makes sense. And because of excessive sweating they do need electrolytes supplement.
But for an hour long workout session in the gym, regardless of intensity, you don’t need more sugar nor electrolytes. Your body will store that sugar as fat and electrolytes will only make your urine rich in minerals.
Sugary drinks are one of the worst sources of sugar in a modern diet. Because the body doesn’t register them as food you end up consuming more total calories in the day.
Drinking sports drinks makes sense only if you are a professional athlete doing long and intense physical activity.
For everyone else, eating a meal half an hour before the workout and sipping water during the workout is enough.
What to drink instead of sports drinks?
Sparkling mineral water would be a much better option. It is rich in essential minerals and nicely refreshing.
But plain water and healthy balanced meals are really all you need.
8. PROTEIN SHAKES AND PROTEIN POWDERS
What’s wrong with protein shakes/powders?
For a long time, trend in the fitness world is﹘more protein﹘. Suddenly it became the solution to everything.
“Want to lose weight?﹘Eat more protein!” “Want to gain more muscle mass?﹘Eat more protein!”
The demand for easy-to-consume products grew. So protein shakes and powders are now sold everywhere as a quick protein fix. And to make them more attractive loads of sugar (white and artificial) and artificial flavors are added.
Alongside that protein you think you need you are filling yourself up with unnecessary sugars and chemicals.
Now you may think clean protein powders are a good option. Well think again, those are still highly processed, concentrated substances. You’ll be better off eating an egg white omelette.
What to drink instead of protein shakes/powders?
Through a balanced diet you are getting more than enough protein every day. And even if you are working out regularly, like 3 or more times a week. You can still get enough protein while simply eating whole food.
9. FAT FREE, GLUTEN FREE AND SUGAR FREE
What’s wrong with fat/gluten/sugar free?
Producers will often put on a package of an unhealthy snack label fat free or gluten free. To hide the fact that they added a butt-load of sugar in it, and lead buyers into thinking their snack is healthy.
Same goes for sugar free. It is just a way of averting attention from the fact that the snack is full of highly processed fats and refined starches.
Just because one unhealthy ingredient is not in the product, it doesn’t mean there are not a slew of other unhealthy ingredients there to compensate.
Majority of fat free, gluten free and sugar free snacks are just as unhealthy and processed as their fat/gluten/sugar full versions. And often free versions are much more processed with more artificial ingredients.
What to eat instead?
Follow your dietary guidelines if you have a health condition.
Choose whole foods that naturally come without fat, gluten or sugar whenever you can.
ALWAYS read the label. Ingredient list and nutrition facts, there you will see just how much of the bad stuff is inside the product.
What’s wrong with organic?
It’s psychology, you read organic and your brain understands healthy. Just because corn was grown in an organic way, it doesn’t make it’s starch any more healthy than the starch made from non-organic corn.
Organic raw cane sugar is one big trickery. You see it everywhere and because it’s written organic AND raw AND cane you think “oo this must be good”. But the truth is that organic raw cane sugar is exactly the same as white sugar.
What to eat instead?
I will repeat again: eat whole foods.
If on a banana is written organic and you can afford it go for it. If on a package of cookies is written organic, read the label and be aware of what you are consuming.
If you want to eat healthy then choose whole foods that are high in nutrients.
The best way to avoid fake health food traps is to eat whole foods.
Real healthy food has very few ingredients, and to understand the label you don’t need a degree in chemistry.
Always read the label, both ingredient list and nutritional facts. When you know what is inside clever marketing tricks can’t fool you.
Don’t follow health food trends, but do your research and listen to your body. If a food makes you feel heavy, bloated, gassy, sleepy or anything other than fit and alive, avoid it.