Fat-free, low carb, no added sugar, multigrain, organic…these are all healthy buzzwords that we often look out for when we’re on a health kick. Unfortunately, not all ‘health foods’ are healthy. Unfortunately, all these words are used because the food companies that make them know these words have a positive consumer response. In other words – it’s marketing. Just because it has a health claim on the label, or is sold in a health store, doesn’t make it healthy. So, let’s dive into the 6 most unhealthy health foods.
The Top 6 Most Unhealthy Health Foods
1. Flavored Fat-Free Yogurt
Fat-free is a loaded term. Fat was first demonized back in the 1950’s and again in the 1980’s. Thanks to some sketchy research, (that has since been debunked), a low-fat and fat-free diet gained a cult-like following. And of course, food manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon.
Today, this notion lingers on, and you’ll still find many products hyping their fat-free or low-fat foods. The problem is that when you remove the fat from a food, you need to replace it with something else that’s just as tasty to compensate.
Yep, what the food manufacturers conveniently forget to tell you is that fat-free or low-fat often also means high sugar. And when we throw in some flavor to that food, such as a fat-free strawberry yogurt, we’re ramping up the sugar and processed flavorings too.
What to eat instead? Opt for full-fat plain Greek yogurt and add your own flavorings such as cinnamon, honey, nuts, seeds, berries, dried fruit, etc.
2. Unhealthy Fruit Juice and Green Shots
Health-kick evangelists may be shocked, but that overpriced cold-pressed green juice from the health café is loaded with sugar. Fruit juice is pretty much liquid sugar. Yes, you do have some of the vitamins and minerals from the fruit which are healthy, but the amount of fruit it takes to make the juice means you’re getting double or triple the fruit sugar, and without any of the healthy fiber.
What to drink instead? Choose a whole fresh piece of fruit instead of drinking fruit juice (most of the time!). The fresh fruit will keep you fuller for longer, provide vitamins, minerals and fiber and because it takes longer to eat, you’ll feel much more satisfied too.
3. Sports Drinks
In more recent times, the sports drinks market has gone through the roof, with some drinks containing stimulant additives such as caffeine. With our increased consumption and more sedentary lifestyle, sports drinks are fast contributing to our weight gain and obesity problems.
What to drink instead? Water! Unless you’re an athlete working out at a high intensity for more than an hour, in a hot climate, you don’t need a sports drink.
4. Protein Bars
With the popularity of low-carb diets such as Atkins and Keto, along came a variety of low-carb protein bars. Although protein is a great source of nutrients for your muscles and can help keep you fuller for longer, you’re much better off getting these from natural foods, than processed protein bars. These bars have been known to cause bloating and are full of salt, sugar, and artificial colorants. Not exactly the elixir of health we’re after.
What to eat instead? If you want a protein fix, then make your own healthy protein-packed energy balls. If you need a little inspo you can use this recipe here. Alternatively, you can choose a protein-packed snack such as Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter & apple slices, or hummus & veggie sticks.
5. Granola and Flavored Oats
In the 1960’s granola gained a reputation for being a healthy breakfast option, and at the time, it may have been a better choice than the sugar-frosted flakes we were used to eating. However, many granolas today are packed full of sugar (hello, calories!) making them on our list of the most unhealthy health foods.
The same goes for flavored oats. Apple & cinnamon, maple-syrup, peaches & cream – these processed flavored oats are high in sugar too.
What to eat instead? You can make your own homemade granola with a variety of baked nuts, seeds, and oats. Or flavor your plain oats with berries, sliced banana, cinnamon, or raisins. This allows you to control how much sugar goes into your breakfast.
6. Low-Carb, Gluten-Free, or Vegan Snacks
Low- carb, vegan, and gluten-free snacks have become all the rage. And you can bet the food industry is cashing in big-time. Nowadays we have every ‘healthy’ snack you can think of from veggie chips, fruit bars, crackers, gluten-free cupcakes, and even vegan bacon.
Let’s use veggie chips as an example: yes, they may have less fat than deep-fried traditional crisps, but they still have lots of salt to ensure they’re still tasty.
What to eat instead? Well, if you like to get creative in the kitchen you can always make your own baked veggie chips at home and add spices or herbs instead of salt. For another healthy crunchy snack, choose homemade popcorn (just watch the amount of butter and salt you use). For crackers, opt for ones that have herbs or black pepper instead, and limit how many you eat as they can still contain large amounts of salt.
Approach health food claims with a critical eye. Remember, if they take out a tasty ingredient like fat – it often gets replaced with something else. This could be more sugar, additives or salt. Try to incorporate more whole fresh foods made from real ingredients and limit the pre-packaged processed foods, so you know exactly what you’re eating and can stay in control!
If you want some easy dinner ideas, you can download my free recipe book here.
If you’re struggling to lose weight and just can’t figure out why, check out my article on the 7 reasons why you are not losing weight.