Making healthy eating choices is definitely easier said than done. While we may have the best intentions to only choose the better-for-you choices on the grocery store shelves, there are some that are seemingly good choices but really do not benefit us.
From organic to non-GMO, to the ever-popular superfood, there are terms that are tossed around that can make certain foods sound extremely good for you.
Of course, choosing foods like fruit, vegetables, whole-grains, and lean protein are excellent choices when you are trying to support your overall health. But, while you are including these healthy foods, you should also be mindful of which foods are advertised as "health foods" that just aren't.
Here are five examples (yes, there are more) that maybe you can be more aware of next time you are making your grocery list.
#1 Fat-Free Salad Dressing
Let’s face it — fat makes food taste good. When fat is removed from food like salad dressing, peanut butter, and other condiments, the missing flavor needs to be replaced with another ingredient. Unfortunately, the lack of fat flavor is often times compensated by adding additional sugar to the product. So, while fat-free salad dressing will not contain any fat, it will oftentimes contain more simple carbohydrates (and, in many cases, sugar) to make it still taste good.
Since fat helps the body absorb certain nutrients found in traditional salads, including some fat from the dressing will actually serve your health in a positive way. Whenever possible, stick with the full-fat versions of oil-based salad dressings and nut butters. The body needs healthy fats. It does not need sugar.
#2 Cold Pressed Juice Blends
At $10 a pop, cold-pressed juices are a trendy and pricey trend that isn’t going away any time soon. While these juices are a convenient way to sneak some nutrients into your busy day, they won’t give you a lot of staying power.
When juice is made, the fiber is removed from the fruit or vegetable. Fiber helps people stay fuller longer, which can help people eat less in the long run. Plus, many fruits hold most of their nutrients in their skin. So, when you are peeling your pear or apple, you are removing the nutrition powerhouse of that fruit.
It is preferred to stick to the whole fruit or veggie instead of the juice. The whole-food option will be more satisfying, more nutritious, and in many cases, more economical.
#3 Organic Candy
Organic candy is still candy (same goes for organic sugar, organic soda, organic cookies….you catch my drift). Yes, the organic candy may not contain as many pesticide residues or toxins as the conventional alternative, but it is still essentially a sugar bomb that will raise your blood sugars if you overindulge.
Organic cookies, cakes, and other treats are not any more nutritious than non-organic choices. Regardless of whether you are choosing organic treats or not, enjoying them in moderation is key.
#4 Highly Processed Meat Alternatives
When a person avoids animal products, they need to be aware of the downside of choosing some alternatives as a protein source. While natural and unprocessed plant-based protein sources like edamame, lentils, and nuts are perfectly healthy, many pre-made processed options can wreak havoc on your health goals if you are not careful.
Keep in mind that not all meat alternatives are bad; you’ll just want to check the label and look out for the ones that are full of salt and artificial fillers.
When you sprinkle crunchy and sweet granola on your yogurt or smoothie bowl, you are doing something super-healthy for your body, right? Not quite. Many granolas are made with tons of sugar or sweeteners.
If you need a crunch, try some crushed nuts instead for a protein and fiber-rich nosh, or try this Signature Granola recipe.
2 cups coconut flakes
2 cups mixed nuts, roughly chopped
½ cup pumpkin seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
⅓ cup coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp maple syrup (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 140°C or 280°F. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. Place the coconut flakes, nuts, seeds and cinnamon in a bowl and stir until combined.
3. Heat the coconut oil and rice malt syrup or maple syrup on the stove. Pour over the coconut and nuts mixture and stir to coat.
4. Spread the mixture evenly on the baking tray and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, turning the tray halfway through the baking time. Bake until the granola is golden. Once toasted to your liking, remove the tray from the oven and allow to cool.
5. Serve with yogurt and fresh berries. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Following a consistent healthy lifestyle can become challenging. Being armed with the awareness that some labels and terms sound healthy but are actually not healthy options will help you ake better choices in the long run.