Organic, non-GMO, all natural, farm raised…these are all buzz words that we find on packaging these days, no matter what it is. We have so much trust in the food industry that if they product says “organic” then we assume it is healthy, but that is not always the case. The food industry has now started using these words as marketing tactics to get us to buy their products, without even knowing what the ingredients are. Unfortunately, just because something might say “organic” or “all natural” doesn’t necessarily mean that the ingredients are those that are going to fuel our bodies. Let’s talk about “health foods” to remove from your diet that could be stalling your progress and hindering your results!
We see “low fat” or “low calorie” on foods when we walk up and down the grocery isles, but why does that spark something in us that makes us assume it’s healthy? Food has calories, real food has calories. Something that is “zero calorie” is not going to fuel your body or make you feel good. Dieting, losing weight, or changing your body composition shouldn’t be about the smallest amount of food we can eat or the number of fats in a cracker; it should be about eating real food that makes us feel good and is going to give us lasting energy! We need to go back to eating foods that don’t need a nutrition label.
With that being said, there is going to be times that we need some kind of packages food to either get us through a bind, fit our budget, or feed our souls. And that is okay. But let’s not get confused between foods that are actually healthy, and foods that market their product as being “healthy”. We know we should all be eating a significant amount of protein to lose body fat, but just because the outside of the package says “high protein” or “high fiber” doesn’t mean it is actually going to be high, or that it is the best choice of protein. All of this confusion and marketing tactics is why I wanted to share a list of “health foods” with you that may not be the best option and can actually be causing you to not see any progress in your health and fitness journey.
Photo by Robert Stinnett on Foter.com / CC BY
No, not all protein bars are bad. BUT, most of them have a lot of added sugar, as well as a long list of unnecessary ingredients. Not to mention certain brands called “protein bars” have a very limited number of actually protein grams in them, again, buzz words. If a bar has 8 grams of sugar, 20 fats and 40 carbs, that is not an ideal bar. This means it is going to have a lot of sugars and likely a high glycemic index (spikes blood sugar). So just make sure to read ingredients, make sure you can pronounce them all and want them all in your body. Beware of sugar alcohols and sweeteners (talked about down below) as well as syrups and colorings.
We have been led to believe that yogurt is a health food, but we have been strayed the wrong direction. WHOLE milk yogurt is your best option in terms of health, if you’re going to consume it. This means it is minimally processed and the fat and natural sugars are still there. Things like the “flips” and “mix-ins” are going to have a ton of added sugar. You are better off creating your own form of this with berries/granola/cacao/honey. Again, fat free here is not ideal. This means the yogurt has gone through an extensive process to remove all of the fat, which means it is no longer in its naturally occurring state. Not to mention yogurt claims to have probiotics and calcium, but the amounts are so small you are better off taking a probiotic and eating leafy greens/nuts.
Veggie pasta is a hoax. What I mean by this is the type of pasta that says it is made from spinach/carrots/sweet potato etc. If the ingredients are clean, then feel free to eat these. But don’t let it convince you that it is healthy or that you are eating vegetables. The amount of vegetables actually used to make this pasta is not significant enough to be a serving of vegetables. Let alone the process of making it…how does spinach actually pasta? If you want a pasta that is more nutrient dense, I would go for a bean or lentil based pasta. That is going to give you protein, and it is much more likely that pasta can be made from these ingredients rather than the others.
Cheerios don’t lower your cholesterol, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Breakfast cereals can be a great source of fiber, but that is about it. Most brands are packed with sugar (high fructose corn syrup), harmful oils (read more about my thoughts on those here) and usually 30 other ingredients. This also means they have an extremely high glycemic index, meaning they are going to digest fast and spike your blood sugar. That is exactly what you DON’T want first thing in the morning! Companies love to chalk these cereals up to being “a great source of whole grains” and “high protein” but don’t let that fool you. I suggest finding a different breakfast alternative!
Again, sugar. These drinks can be really convenient when you are in a bind (and of course every now and then they are great), but don’t drink them on the regular assuming they are healthy. If they have a high protein content and a low sugar content, drink up! But most of the time they have the same amount of sugar grams as they do protein grams and that is not worth it. Not to mention the calories are also usually extremely high as well which can cause you to then over eat because the shake is not going to fill you up. Your best option is finding a protein powder that has clean ingredients and taking it with you when you are in a rush.
Erythritol, sorbitol, sucralose, aspartame, these are popular sugar alcohol or artificial sweeteners that are typically found in low calorie foods. These are used to sweet foods without the added “sugar” or calories, and overtime they wreak havoc on our bodies. They first start messing with your gut microbiome and then from there they can cause bloating, discomfort and weight gain. These chemicals (although they make low calorie food taste decent) are not what you want to be putting into your body.
If you aren’t eating soy for an ethical reason, I suggest not eating it at all. Soy can be harmful for women because it mimics estrogen and causes a rise in these hormones which can cause a lot of health concerns. These products also have other “anti-nutrients” in them that can interfere with enzymes in the gut and make it hard for use to digest protein. Aside from things like tofu, soy milk and soy protein, soybeans are actually in a lot of our food as fillers. The issue here is that these soybeans are typically genetically modified and therefore can carry traces of harmful chemicals. As a female, it is extremely important to limit your soy intake to keep hormones balanced and decrease risk of breast cancer and estrogen dominance.
“Smart Choice”, “Lean Cuisine”, and “Healthy Choice” are not foods you want stocking your freezer. Although these meals might be chalked full of great ingredients, they usually contain a lot of salt. High salt can lead to things like high blood pressure, kidney disease and even heart attack. These meals again, are convenient, but they are not the best option. The best thing to do is prep your meals and freeze them or keep them in the fridge to use up for the week. Don’t waste your money assuming a frozen dinner is going to be a healthy option.
My number one tip is to always read your labels! The front of the box/package is always going to say something to grab your attention. So make sure you are checking the label to make sure the ingredients are clean, there is no added sugars or fillers! A few buzz words to check for that don’t necessarily mean “healthy” include:
Again, just because something says a health word or is on a shelf that is considered the “healthy section” doesn’t mean it is. ALWAYS read your ingredient labels to make sure you know exactly what you’re eating. Don’t let the marketing tactics suck you into products before reading thoroughly. I hope this shreds some light on products you might be consuming thinking they are healthy but not seeing progress in your health and fitness journey. Re-evaluate and try to eat whole, nutritious foods whenever possible!