Four "health" foods that are actually junk

You head to the store, you try to stock up on what you think is the healthy, best choice. But is it?

These four foods are masquerading as health foods – but in reality they’re just processed JUNK.

The food industry is smart. They’ve figured out what words they can put on labels to trick us into thinking we are doing right for our body and health. How many times have you browsed the aisles of your market and seen the words...

“natural”

“organic”

“healthy”

“gluten-free”

“whole grain”

“naturally sweetened”

...and thought to yourself, “Hey Self! This must be something good for us!” Unfortunately, these are just labels meant to seduce you and your health-seeking mind, and can often disguise a processed, non-real, junk food that can wreak havoc on your digestion, immune system, and metabolism.

Here are a few of the most common health food impostors: 

1. Flavored Yogurt

Yogurt comes in some great flavors, but c’mon, do you really think a Boston Cream Pie yogurt is a good idea? Flavored yogurts usually contain more sugar than anyone should have in a day! And all that sugar will certainly cancel out any benefits you were hoping to give your belly with those good bacteria like acidophilus. Sugar can actually kill the good bacteria and promote the growth of yeast and the bad guy-bacteria. Check the sugar content even on a fruit sweetened, organic yogurt – I guarantee it will be high (over 15 grams per serving, and sometimes up to 32!!). You may also find stabilizers like carrageenan and guar gum, and synthetic added vitamins.

Replace it with: FULL fat, pasture-raised organic, PLAIN, unflavored yogurt.

 

2. Cereal

Any, all, EVERY cereal. Yes, even granola. You probably know already that anything rainbow colored with marshmallows isn’t a good choice, but I’ll vote that all other cereals - even my old hippie-days favorite granola - are a poor food choice. Most cereals are entirely grain based (oats, wheat, rice, flakes, puffs…), and I’m a big fan of cutting our consumption of grains. Anyone seeking fat loss and help with metabolism can stand to cut down on the carbohydrate load and lack-luster nutrient profile of most grains.  But on top of that, check your cereal labels – I’m guessing there are several types of sugar and an “bad fat” oils in there, in addition to some other ingredients you can’t pronounce.  Bottom line, cereals are usually heavily processed and loaded with empty calories.

Replace it with: Seeds and nuts, or a more nutrient dense breakfast made up of protein and vegetables. And here's a better homemade granola recipe.

 

3. Juices

You might have heard by now that a glass of orange juice contains as much sugar as the same sized soda. If it’s been processed and packaged (rather than fresh-squeezed) the heat or processing has likely ruined a lot of the nutrition you were seeking in the first place. And some“green” juice smoothies (like those made by Odwalla and Naked Juice) contain DOUBLE the amount of sugar as in a can of coke. Your body never needs that.

Some green juices and juice “detox” drinks that are popular now can be tough on your metabolism, especially if they contain fruit juice or added sugars like agave.  A real piece of fruit comes packaged with the fiber that helps slow down the digestive process and uptake of sugar into your body – as nature intended it. But a fruit-filled juice without the fiber can be a heavy hit of fructose to your liver and create quite a sugar rush and stress response for your body. Also, if it has been sitting in a bottle for long, you can bet some of the nutrient content has declined.

Replace it with: Real fruit. If you order a fresh juice from a juice bar, get mostly veggies, with a little lemon, apple, or grapefruit as a sweet note. And ask yourself – could I be eating the real vegetables here instead, for more nutrients, fiber, and fullness?


4. Energy Bars

Most energy bars are glorified candy bars, with chocolate coatings and candy flavors. They’ll often hide sugar under a few different names, so you won’t see it high up on the ingredients list. ( I counted no less than SIX forms of sugar in a Clif Bar the other day. Sad face.) With added processed forms of protein, synthetic vitamins, and sugary substances making up the ingredients, energy bars just don’t count as a real food. Now, there are a few better, quality ingredient bars out there, but you’ll have to be a label detective.

The real issue here is the need for food on the go. Take time to plan your meals ahead each day. Work to regulate the common blood sugar spikes and crashes by cutting out sugars and refined carbohydrates; you’ll eliminate the need to eat every couple of hours as your body adapts to burning its stores instead of sugar.

In a pinch, or if you are in the midst of an athletic endurance event, try a Lara Bar or Epic Bar (still check ingredients). Anything with the “Paleo” label also stands a chance at being fairly real-food based.

Replace it with: Planning ahead! Eat real food, prepared to go! Eat a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts. You can make excuses on this step, or you can take charge of your health!

Happy Eating!

xoxo January