My retired father recently visited for a month. Despite being a little older, he is quite active. Up until a knee injury a year ago, he was at the gym several times a week. You would think someone that fit would also be mindful of what they were eating. I was partially right. He thought he was eating healthy. Like so many Americans, he was suckered in by the billion dollar “healthy food” marketing industry. He was sure his instant oatmeal was healthy because it had a heart on the box. This had to mean it was healthy, right? Sorry, dad, it’s NOT good for you. That made me think about all the other products out there that claim to be healthy and are not…and are sometimes even bad for you. So, I decided to put a list together of some so-called healthy foods that we really need to say goodbye to.
- Instant or flavored oatmeal: While oats or oatmeal in of itself is not bad for you, it’s the added sugar that makes a huge impact. 12 grams of sugar in ONE packet or serving!!! That is NOT how you want to start your day!
- Egg substitutes: Egg substitutes are not necessarily unhealthy, BUT, you must read the labels! Some egg substitutes contain not so healthy ingredients such as vegetable oil, cellulose gum for thickening and corn oil. Also, check the calories (if this is your rationale for using an egg substitute), the substitute can range from a low of 15 calories per serving up to over 60 while a whole egg has a little less than 80 calories. Bottom line, if you insist on using the substitute, CHECK the ingredients first.
- Granola: Many of the granolas offered at your local grocery store are made using butter, vegetable oil, and sugar. Just a cup of Nature Valley’s Oats ‘N Honey Protein Granola packs 6 grams of fat as well as 12 grams of sugar. Depending on the brand, you may be consuming far more calories than you’d expect; many granolas have more than 400 calories per cup!
- Granola bars: Much like granola itself, granola bars should not be considered “health food.” However, unlike granola, granola bars often have chocolate chips and even frosting on them. If your goal is to eat healthy, you may want to skip the granola bars.
- Margarine: Margarine may have once been heralded as being a healthy alternative to butter, but it can actually be worse for you. A tablespoon of margarine can contain upwards of 2 grams of trans fat, increasing your risk of heart disease and high cholesterol along the way. You can quickly compare the health value of spreads (including butter and margarine) simply by looking at the nutrition labels on these products. The FDA now requires nutrition labels to include information about both saturated fats and trans fats. Your goal is to limit intake of saturated fats and to avoid trans fats altogether.
- Sports drinks: Even if you’re sweating buckets, there’s no good reason to be drinking sports drinks. In addition to their potentially-carcinogenic artificial colors, most energy drinks have the same amount of sugar as in a soda!
- Diet soda: Your diet soda habit could be why you can’t lose the weight you want or are having health issues. In addition to their artificial sweeteners, diet sodas are loaded with potentially-carcinogenic colors and additives.
- Fruit juice: While fruit may be healthy, this isn’t always the case with fruit juice. Just because a label claims it is “made from real fruit” does not mean much. This could just mean that at least a small portion may come from real fruit. Most fruit juices also contain LOTS of sugar, especially those labeled as juice “cocktails.” If you want a good fruit juice, look for juices that are 100 percent fruit juice with no sugar added.
- Veggie chips: Just because it has “veggie” in its name, it doesn’t make it healthy. If it comes in chip form, chances are, it’s not good for you. Just like “potato” chips, many veggie chips are deep-fried and heavily salted.
- Low-fat salad dressing: Low-fat foods used to be the go-to for dieters. We now know that low-fat foods are often just as bad, if not worse, than their full-fat counterparts. Low-fat salad dressings, in order to keep the flavor, replace fat by adding sugar, high fructose corn syrup, salt, additives and preservatives. Kraft FAT-FREE raspberry vinaigrette dressing contains 9 grams of SUGAR. Not the healthy I’m looking for!
I think the bottom line in trying to ignore the insane “healthy” food propaganda is to overlook the marketing claims and READ the labels to make sure you know what you are consuming. And don’t just believe the heart on the box!