Most of us try to eat a variety of foods that we consider “healthy”.
As our weight goals come and go, the desire to be healthy always feels important.
What do we have without our health, right?
I’m a proponent of healthy and sustainable weight loss.
Although any food can be part of a healthy nutrition plan (my preferred word for DIET), there are some foods that get the health halo.
A Health Halo is the perception that a particular food is good for you even when there is little or no evidence that it’s true.
The media and clever food marketers are responsible for this trickery and it’s often difficult to change people’s perceptions.
But I’ll try…
Here Are The Foods That Are Perceived As Healthy But Actually Suck:
Whether it’s detox juices, 100% real juice for kids, or the juice bar concoctions that can pack hundreds of calories, juices are not as healthy as they may seem.
You don’t need to juice your food.
Taking all that sugar without the fibre doesn’t improve the nutritional value.
Fiber is an important nutrient and improves digestion, manages blood sugar, and keeps your satiated.
Chewing your food rather than drinking it also makes you feel fuller for longer.
I’m not saying there’s never space for juices in your nutrition plan, but they aren’t necessary or preferable to whole fruits and vegetables.
For my Online Coaching clients who are trying to put on muscle muscle, I may recommend that they add juices if they can’t get in enough calories.
2) Gluten-Free Processed Foods
Most of us know that we should try to limit our intake of overly-processed refined carbs.
This includes bread, crackers, cookies, biscuits, pastries, and baked goods.
These days, many stores include gluten-free versions of all of these products.
Gluten-free foods are designed for people with Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested.
About 1% of people have Celiac Disease and a few people have true allergies to wheat.
When people with Celiac Disease want to enjoy treats like cookies and crackers they rely on gluten-free products.
Otherwise, there would be severe consequences to their health (intestinal damage – yikes!).
For everyone else, these gluten-free foods have no benefit.
They’re a treat food that happens to have no gluten, which isn’t any better than a treat food with gluten.
3) Organic Processed Foods
Along the same lines, organic processed foods like crackers, cookies, and biscuits are no better for you than other processed foods (i.e. not very).
Just because a food is labelled organic doesn’t make it healthy.
Organic sugar is no better than conventional sugar.
Contrary to popular belief, organic farming also involves pesticides.
Research also shows that it doesn’t mean necessarily that the food has a higher nutritional value.
The contents of smoothies can vary tremendously.
The massive mixes you get at juice bars can be a calorie bomb in the region of 400-600 calories with 60 grams of sugar.
If you use a smoothie to substitute a meal and it keeps you full then it’s fine occasionally.
I often make my own smoothies at home with a blender with just whey protein isolate and a bit of fruit.
That’s a lower calorie and lower sugar version.
5) Protein/Energy/Granola Bars
I’m on an ongoing search to find a protein bar that contains enough protein (at least 15 grams) and isn’t packed with sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Part of the problem is making something with a lot of protein and little sugar palatable.
It’s a challenge and I have yet to find one that’s a great choice.
As for energy bars, they tend to have even less protein and more sugar.
Many of these bars have more calories and sugar than a chocolate bar like Snickers.
I’ve always thought of them in relation to endurance athletes, the audience for which they were designed.
If you’re competing in an Iron Man event, you probably need energy bars to keep your strength up.
Otherwise, it’s wise to skip them.
It’s the go-to breakfast food for many people, but even the high-fibre versions aren’t very impressive.
Most cereals are low in protein and high in refined carbs.
Even the ones labelled “whole grain” are very processed and can impact your blood sugar.
Cereal is one of my picks for worst breakfast foods.
While yogurt has a long-standing reputation as a health food, many versions you find in the stores are not ideal choices.
When yogurt is labelled “low-fat” (I’m surprised they still do that!), it’s likely to be packed with sugar.
Some have added sugar or artificial sweeteners like saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose.
While moderate intake of artificial sweeteners appears safe at this point, it may affect your taste for sugar and stimulate cravings.
For susceptible individuals (like myself!), sweeteners can also cause bloating and intestinal discomfort.
So most yogurts aren’t necessarily a healthy option.
I normally advise my Online Coaching clients to choose unsweetened Greek yogurt, which is higher in protein and lower in sugar than regular yogurt.
Please don’t take this article to mean that you should never consume any of these foods.
My personal belief is that any food that you’re not allergic to, or have an intolerance for, is fair game once in a while.
So eat the foods you want, in the right quantities and with the right frequency for you…and your particular goals.
A balanced approach is more likely to make you successful with long term weight loss.