We try to eat healthy and make the right choices, but some food manufacturer's marketing has made it very confusing. I am amazed at all the junk food out there packaged as health foods. Here are my top 10 so-called "healthy" foods that are not.
1. This one is my favorite fake and one of the more obvious frauds. Clearly, no one ever thought cheesy white popcorn was health food, right? I like that it is called Smartfood and has a picture of corn on the front. Of course popcorn is made from corn, but that's like saying potato chips are healthy because they are made from potatoes. I am not denying this stuff is delicious, it is just in no way smart or healthy. Save this processed fake cheese food for a very occasional "cheat" treat.
2. I only eat bread occasionally and Nature's Own is the only brand I buy for wheat bread because they do make 100% whole wheat bread with no high fructose corn syrup. However, it is important to read not only the nutritional information, but also the ingredient list. Upon closer examination of Nature's Own Honey Wheat bread, you will see the first ingredient is Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), which is nothing more than dyed brown white bread. Make sure the first ingredient in your wheat bread is 100% whole wheat flour or else it is not really wheat bread.
3. If it says Weight Watchers, it MUST be healthy, right? Wrong. Again, this is marketed as wheat bread made with whole grains, however if you read the ingredient list you will see it is made with high fructose corn syrup, an ingredient you should avoid.
4. While we are on the subject of bread, Subway is healthy right? After all, they advertise on the Biggest Loser and they would only promote healthy foods, right? Again, wrong. Now, let me be clear, if you usually are eating a Big Mac with a super size fry for lunch, then switching to Subway is definitely a healthier alternative. However, Subway's wheat bread is not actually wheat at all. It again is dyed brown white bread with high fructose corn syrup. We eat at subway occasionally, but consider it a cheat meal. Don't fool yourself into thinking a wheat sub and baked chips from Subway is good for your body on a regular basis. They're not.
WHEAT BREAD - Enriched flour (flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, whole wheat flour, high fructose corn syrup, wheat gluten, contains less than 2% of the following: wheat bran, yeast, salt, soybean oil, dough conditioner (acetylated tartaric acid esters of mono-and diglycerides, ammonium sulfate, calcium sulfate, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, potassium iodate, amylase (enzymes)], cracked wheat, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, caramel color (contains sulfites), dried honey preparation (honey powder, invert sugar, wheat starch, soy bran flour, silicon dioxide [anti-caking]), mineral oil. Contains soy and wheat.
5. Slim Fast! It is right in the name, drink this and you will get slim fast! Hold on a minute. This stuff has 18 grams of sugar, that is almost as much as a soda! The ingredient list hosts bad words such as Fructose, Sucralose and Hydrogenated. You should avoid products with these types of ingredients. I suggest finding a natural whey protein powder to mix with almond milk and a piece of fruit for a healthier alternative to a meal replacement shake.
Fat Free Milk, Water, Sugar, Cocoa (Processed with Alkali), Canola Oil, Milk Protein Concentrate, Fructose, Gum Arabic, Cellulose Gel, Mono and Diglycerides, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Potassium Phosphate, Maltodextrin, Soy Lecithin, Cellulose Gum, Carrageenan, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sucralose and Acesulfame Potassium (Nonnutritive Sweeteners), Sodium Citrate, Citric Acid. Vitamins and Minerals: Magnesium Phosphate, Calcium Phosphate, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin E Acetate, Zinc Gluconate, Ferric Orthophosphate, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Chromium Chloride, Biotin, Sodium Molybdate, Potassium Iodide, Phylloquinone (Vitamin K1), Sodium Selenite, Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12), Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3).
6. Now everyone knows that ice cream is not a health food, right? Sometimes packages use words like "skinny" and "fat free" to lead people to believe that they are making a healthier choice. In this one you will see our favorite bad word, high fructose corn syrup. As a general rule, if you can't pronounce most things on the ingredient list, you shouldn't be eating it on a regular basis.
Skim Milk, Wafer (Bleached Wheat Flour, Sugar, Caramel Color, Dextrose, Palm Oil, Corn Flour, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Baking Soda, Modified Corn Starch, Salt, Mono and Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Cocoa), Sugar, Corn Syrup, Polydextrose, Whey Protein, Cream, Calcium Carbonate, Inulin (Dietary Fiber), Natural Flavor, Propylene Glycol Monostearate, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Sodium Carboxymethylcellulose, Guar Gum, Monoglycerides, Sorbitol, Carob Bean Gum, Citric Acid, Vitamin A Palmitate, Carrageenan, Salt.
7. I know what you are thinking. Ice Cream. Duh, everyone knows ice cream isn't healthy, but what about a protein bar? Those are advertised in my health and fitness magazines by women and men with six pack abs. Protein is good for you, you need it to build muscle, right? Yes, but not the bars, even if they say whole grain on the package. This thing has 18 grams of sugar per serving. Skip it. You are eating a glorified candy bar. If you want to eat candy, then do it occasionally on a splurge day.
8. Cereal is another food that is often advertised as a health food but riddled with bad ingredients. If you are eating clean, you should probably skip cereals all together, but if you must have cereal, look for brands with less than 5 grams per sugar per serving, no high fructose corn syrup or one with just one ingredient, like plain old shredded wheat (not frosted shredded wheat).
IngredientsWhole Grain Wheat, Corn Bran, Corn Starch, Inulin, Sugar, Whole Grain Oats, Crisp Oats (Rice Flour, Whole Grain Oats, Sugar, Malt Extract, Salt), Corn Syrup, Brown Sugar, Toasted Oats (Whole Grain Oats, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Soybean Oil, Honey, Molasses), Salt, Wheat Bits (Whole Grain Wheat, Com Starch, Com Meal, Sugar, Salt, Trisodium Phosphate, Baking Soda, Color Added), Honey, Barley Malt Extract, Tripotassium Phosphate, Malt Syrup, Cinnamon, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Sucralose, Color Added, Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopherols) and BHT Added to Preserve Freshness. Vitamins and Minerals: Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin E (Tocopheryl Acetate), Zinc And Iron (Mineral Nutrients), Vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbate), a B Vitamin (Niacinamide), Vitamin A (Palmitate), Vitamin B5 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B, (Thiamin Mononitrate), a B Vitamin (Folic Acid), Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12.
9. Healthy Choice is not a healthy choice. Frozen packaged foods are never a healthy choice, even if it says so on the box. It is a heavily processed food with high sodium and many ingredient no-no's. Read the labels!
10. Last but not least, yogurt! Everyone thinks yogurt is a healthy food. All the TV commercials tell you women are losing weight by eating yogurt! This one has fruit on the bottom, it must be an extra healthy bonus! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! These are the worst offenders. First of all, 25 whooping grams of sugar! I recommend plain Greek yogurt, it has a lot less sugar and more protein for a healthier alternative.
Cultured Grade A Low Fat Milk, Blueberries, Sugar, Fructose Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Fructose, Contains Less than 1% of Modified Corn Starch, Corn Starch, Pectin, Kosher Gelatin, Malic Acid, Natural Flavor, Disodium Phosphate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Carmine (for Color).
What have we learned? Always read the ingredient list, not just the nutritional facts. Choose foods that are minimally processed, if you can't pronounce the words on the ingredient list, it is not a healthy food. Avoid foods with the words Fructose, Sucralose and Hydrogenated in the ingredient list. Avoid high fructose corn syrup and fake sugars. My general rule of thumb is that if you can't grow it, pick it, kill it (sorry vegetarians) or find it in nature, you shouldn't eat it on a regular basis. For the healthiest "clean" diet eat fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, lean meats and fish. Save the junk food for an occasional (once or twice a week) indulgence.