There are over 50,000 foods in any given grocery store.
And the food industry spends billions each year marketing to you (and your kids).
But unfortunately many of these so called "health" foods are nothing of the sort and can actually hurt you and your goals.
Let’s cover 5 of them so you never get duped again by the marketers trying to sell you their "story" while they sing the praises of these potentially dangerous foods.
- Microwave Popcorn. This is when good food goes bad. Regular, air popped popcorn with a drizzle of butter can actually be a decent snack. Lots of volume. Very few calories. Quality whole grain and decent source of fiber. BUT, there are dangerous chemicals lurking in the lining of the bag when you pick up a so called "healthy" box of the microwaved junk. The EPA has found up to 4 dozen chemicals in the steam from a bag of microwave popcorn, some of which may be carcinogenic and have been linked to infertility in some studies.
Make it better — add kernels to a regular old brown paper lunch bag, fold the top over, seal it with a staple or two and pop away. Even better — maybe you have one of those air poppers that simply pops the popcorn with plain old hot air.
- Rice Cakes. These snack foods first came to light with the fat free "movement" in the 90’s. But like the fat free movement itself, these should be forgotten about. They have no substance. Snacking on them won’t fill you up. And they don’t really taste good, to boot.
Make it better — swap these for a handful of nuts. Nuts are one of the healthiest snack foods you can find. They fulfill the crunch you’re after. They’ll actually fill you up because of the protein, healthy fat and fiber in them. And they’re portable which is always a plus.
- Breakfast Cereal. WHAT? Yup, we said it — breakfast cereal. Sure, there are some good ones but the majority of these sugar bombs are not much better than Twinkies! In fact, a quick comparison of popular Honey Smacks shows 1 cup has more sugar than a Twinkie! And don’t think it’s just the junky kids cereals that are loaded with sugar. Kellog’s Smart Start Strong Heart packs a wholloping 17 grams of sugar per serving (just 3 grams less than the previously mentioned Honey Smacks). Hmmmm, Smart Start or a Twinkie? Not much different outside of some basic fortification with vitamins and minerals.
Make it better — if you really want cereal, try basic rolled oats, add some fruit fruit and nuts and you’ll be much better off. Few ingredients. High fiber. And not the sugar bomb you and your kids may be used to.
- Salad dressing. I’m not talking about the quality stuff you can make at home. And not even the cream based dressings, like Ranch or Blue Cheese (though those are junk too). We’re talking about the soy bean oil based too many ingredient product you buy on store shelves. Soybean oil is an evil oil you should avoid, even though it’s lurking in a ton of products, such as salad dressing among others. And don’t fall for the "fat free" trick — then the first ingredient is water and you have a watered down, flavorless bottle of a gelatinous substance that will ruin any good salad.
Make it better. Use a high quality olive oil, add some balsamic vinegar and add a squeeze of citrus, like orange or lemon, and a few shavings of Parmesan cheese (the kind you buy in a small block). Add a little pinch of salt and pepper and you’ve just saved your salad.
- Salad. Piggybacking on #4, let’s pick on the ultimate "diet" food — the salad. There I was — my first time in Pittsburgh when I was working towards my PhD. I went to a restaurant with some friends, ordered a salad with grilled chicken — so far so good — and the bowl of greens shows up full of iceberg lettuce with FRENCH FRIES ON THE BOTTOM! Seriously? I quickly learned "it’s a Pittsburgh" thing and unless you ask otherwise, you too will have French fries on your salad. For real.
Maybe that example is a bit extreme (unless you live in Pittsburgh), while salads can be great, they can also give people a false sense of dieting security and go horribly, horribly wrong. The salads at many restaurants pack in more calories than 2 Big Macs. By the time you add on the Lo Mein noodles, the cheese, bacon or bacon bits and cream dressing – you’d be better off with another option. We love salads when done right, but all too often they give a false sense of security (e.g., the weight loss client who insists that "all I eat are salads").
Make it better. Swap out the flavorless Iceburg lettuce for a dark, leafy green like spinach. If you want some even better variety, many stores now offer "Superfood Mixes" that include kale, Swiss chard, and even shaved Brussels sprouts! Add in as many veggies as you want (yes, French fries ARE a vegetable, but they don’t count). And use the dressing suggestion I listed above. You can even ask for this at a restaurant — they’ll all have olive oil and balsamic vinegar on hand. Don’t let a good salad go bad.
And there you have it — 5 "Health" Foods You Shouldn’t Eat and the solution to make each better.
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