When picking between two options at the grocery store, don’t you feel better when you choose the ‘fat-free’ yogurt instead of the traditional kind? Not so fast – that label might make you think you’re eating something healthy, but it could be more harmful to your body in the long run. Here are some “healthy foods” that you should stay away from.
I confess – I’ve eaten countless numbers of yogurt-covered almonds to satisfy my sweet tooth, thinking that the almonds were a healthy alternative and that anything with yogurt added to it would be just as good for you. Unfortunately, most of the time the “yogurt coating” on the above, raisins, and other health foods isn’t actually yogurt. These coatings consist of salt, unnatural sugars, yogurt powder (i.e. still not real yogurt), and more difficult-to-pronounce names. Nutritionists say that processed yogurt-covered snacks should be considered an equivalent to candy bars, not fruit.
Instead: Mix yogurt with almonds, raisins, etc. on your own. That way, you know exactly what’s going into your food – and if you opt for something sweeter, it’s more of a treat than a staple.
Margarine and Artificial “Butters”
Healthier than butter? Not really. Too much butter can be bad for you, but since it’s made from milk butter has beneficial cholesterol and saturated fats. Margarine, on the other hand, consists mostly of harmful oils and trans fats. Sure, margarine and butter taste similar, but that’s only because of an artificial butter flavor (and coloring. Trust us – you don’t want to know what color margarine is before processing). Too much margarine in your diet increases your risk of heart attacks and cholesterol while decreasing your immune and insulin response.
Instead: stick to butter or better yet opt for coconut oil. Coconut oil can replace butter in just about every way imaginable from spreading on toast to baking.
For those who can process gluten normally (i.e. most of us), adding gluten-free foods to your diet is part of a fad. Gluten is a protein, and while you can find it in wheat, you also find it non-grains like soy sauce and alcoholic beverages. Many confuse gluten-free pasta to be low in carbohydrates, but that’s not the case. Compared to traditional pastas, gluten-free options have less fiber but more sugars, carbs, and calories.
Instead: purchase whole grain pasta. Whole grains are high in protein and potassium and are an important part to a balanced diet – when eaten in moderation.
This one is tricky, because fruit is full of natural sugars (fructose, glucose, or sucrose) that your body needs to operate. Dried fruit has the same sugars, it’s true, but the amount of natural sugar multiplies – as sometimes additional sugars are added during processing – and the calories per piece of dried fruit also rises. If you usually eat one mango at lunch but instead eat an bag of dried mango slices, your sugar and caloric intake skyrockets.
Instead: look at dried fruit as a dessert alternative, not a fruit alternative. You can have both and still have a healthy diet, it’s all about moderation.
Remember the fat-free craze of the ’90s? Everyone thought fat-free cookies and potato chips were better for you. Turns out, it’s exactly the opposite. Fat-free snack foods are often filled with sugar and artificial ingredients that can cause weight gain and even indigestion and diarrhea (hello, O-lestra).
Instead: if you love potato chips opt for natural chips that are baked or made with a natural monounsaturated oil such as safflower or olive oil. The same goes for cookies and other baked treats. Find treats made with natural monounsaturated oils or stick to the real thing in moderation. “Fat-free” does not equate to healthy.