Sticking to New Year’s resolutions to get in better shape and stay healthy is difficult on its’ own – but when paired with trying to decipher what’s healthy, and what’s not? Forget it. With so many food items labeled as “health foods”, “low calorie”, or “low fat”, making healthy choices can seem overwhelming. Check out the products that typically fool us most into thinking they’re healthy, and some alternatives to set you on the right track.
- Granola Bars
While some granola bars CAN be healthy, many popular granola bars are actually just a mine for sugar, calories, and high fructose corn syrup. In fact, some granola bars offer the same nutritional value as a candy bar when you compare their caloric values and ingredients. Want something satisfying and on the go? Reach for some almonds. Almonds are rich in omega fats (the good kind!) that will keep you feeling fuller, longer – without the added sugars and calories.
- Frozen Meals
Just because the product has words like “lean” or “healthy” in the title, doesn’t mean that it is so. In fact, despite the fact that caloric value may be below 400 calories, most of these frozen meals have more than a quarter of your daily recommended sodium intake! While frozen meals ARE convenient, packing your own meals helps to regulate what you’re taking in. Sticking with a lean protein, a veggie, and a complex carb, like brown rice or a sweet potato, will keep you satiated and help with that urge to snack mid-afternoon.
- Synthetic Butters/Margarines
While the jury is still out on this one, cutting calories by using synthetic butters may in fact be doing more harm than good. These synthetic oils became popular because of the myth that fats make you fat. If fats are bad, then fat free oils must be good, right? Wrong. The problem with these types of products is that many food companies hydrogenate these oils to help increase their shelf life, and keep the form in the container. This process makes the oil harder to digest, and is actually a main contributor to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. If you need to cook with oil, use healthy oils, such as coconut or olive oils, in moderation. Need something for your toast in the morning? Try almond butter for a dose of healthy fat.
- Wheat Bread
Speaking of toast, not all wheat breads are what they say they are. Many “wheat” breads available in stores do not contain pure, whole grains. Many also contain hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives in order to keep them fresh on the shelves longer. An important tip to consider when buying bread is to not rely on the labels. Instead, look up the nutrition facts and look for “whole grains” or “whole wheat” as one of the main ingredients.
- Fruit Juices
It’s made out of fruit, so it’s definitely healthy right? Not so much. Fruit juices DO contain vitamins, but the ratio of beneficial vitamins and nutrients to calories and sugars is just not worth it. In a serving of 9 ounces of grape juice, there are typically about 170 calories, 40 grams of sugar, and 42 grams of carbs. (For the record, this is more sugar and carbs then in a can of regular, non-diet soda). If you are a juice fanatic, consider juicing your own fruits and veggies at home to ensure no added ingredients. Even the “All natural” juice versions likely contain preservatives.
While making healthy choices can be difficult in a world of not so healthy foods, it is possible! Take the time to look up nutritional information of foods you are eating, rather than relying on the labels, and understand that many pre-packaged foods will have additives that do not necessarily help you to trim down, or stay healthy. Opt for whole foods prepared at home, and you are well on your way to meeting your goals.
Written by Claire Kaczmarek
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