Almost everything is marketed as “healthy,” “natural” and “organic” these days, so it’s hard to tell what’s true and what isn’t.
While the FDA recently debunked the healthiness of KIND bars, their nutritional values are still up for debate.
KIND bar debate aside, there are other so-called “healthy” foods that actually aren’t as healthy as you think.
Elite Daily spoke to numerous certified nutritionists and personal trainers to get to the bottom of it all. Here are some of the most heartbreaking offenders:
Agave nectar (syrup)
Agave is super popular among the natural health community because it is known to be a healthy, natural alternative to sugar with a low glycemic index.
But a closer look at its properties says otherwise, Nadia Amrikani, a certified personal trainer and nurse, tells Elite Daily. Despite a lower glucose content, it is very high in fructose. She says,
Our body is processing more sugar than we realize... [which results in a] stimulated appetite for more sugar and more carbohydrates leading to increased weight gain and stress on your heart.
Your favorite low-fat, low-calorie milk substitute isn’t for everyone.
Vani Hari, food activist, author and creator of FoodBabe.com told Elite Daily most almond milk on the market is loaded with stabilizers like carrageenan, which can cause intestinal inflammation, and Guar gum, which is an allergen to some people.
But there is a solution: Make it at home. She says:
I prefer to make my own almond milk at home to avoid these ingredients and have a truly healthful drink with two ingredients: almonds and water.
Yogurt often touts itself as a healthy snack, but flavored and fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt packs are often loaded with more sugar than candy bars.
The smarter option is to opt for plain, full-fat Greek yogurt, which is packed with more protein and less sugar.
Don’t freak out just yet. It all depends on the context, Monica Reinagel, nutritionist, author and host of the "Nutrition Diva" podcast, tells Elite Daily,
Flavored yogurt has a lot of sugar so a better choice for breakfast might be plain yogurt with fruit. But favored yogurt could be a healthier choice than a bowl of ice cream for dessert.
Mmmm, veggie chips.
With the same crisp and flavor as a potato chip, it seems almost too good to be true. And it is. Most packaged veggie chips claim to be made of vegetables, when that only makes up a fraction of the ingredients compared to corn flour or potato starch.
And it's even more likely the tints come from vegetable powder, not real vegetables. That means when it comes to the nutritional content, a serving of veggie chips is really no better than potato chips.
Amrikani suggests that if you’re buying a pack, always read the ingredients to know what you’re getting. But there’s an even better option. She says:
The best option is making them at home yourself.
And they're super simple to make. Check out these recipes.
Fat doesn’t make you fat. In fact, it’s crucial to the vital functions of your body. If you’re cutting too much fat, you’re likely to make up for it in too many carbs, skewing your carbs to protein ratio and leading to weight gain.
Rob Sulaver, trainer, sports nutritionist and founder of the Bandana Training fitness blog, puts it bluntly:
When you take out the fat, things taste bad. So food companies add sugar, sodium and artificial flavors. Ain’t got no time for that.
He’s right. Foods like reduced-fat peanut butter have added sugars, sodium and often partially hydrogenated oils — unhealthy fats that can raise “bad” cholesterol — to make up for the cut in fat.
Amrikani adds that fat-free salad dressing is one of the worst offenders, negating the health benefits of all the great nutrients in your bowl of fresh greens. She said,
They tend to be high in calories and when they are not they are high in unnatural substitutes. With preservatives, added sugars, dyes and high sodium you are doing your body more harm than good.
While they come with some vitamins, pressed juices can be very high in fruit sugars and calories.
It’s important to read the bottles, here. Generally, the servings on a bottle are actually two, so full bottle of pressed juice can have upward of 55 grams of sugar (the American Heart Association suggests a maximum of 25 grams a day for women).
Ashley Borden, a fitness and lifestyle consultant to Hollywood stars and athletes, suggests picking your juice carefully:
Stay on the side of low sugar, anti inflammatory or leafy green selections.
But you even have to be careful with those, since many green juices are packed with fruit sugars to enrich the flavor of otherwise, plain, mashed-up greens.
The best way to get your juice fix is to make your own or customize an order of fresh-pressed juice with greens, lemon and ginger to add a kick to the flavor.
The market for gluten-free is booming, even among those without celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity.
One survey even shows almost a third of Americans are trying to avoid gluten, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But health experts say the only people who benefit from a gluten-free diet are those that can’t process it. Hari suggests laying off of the gluten-free snacks:
Just because it's gluten-free doesn't mean it's healthy. For example many gluten-free products have high-glycemic starches such a rice flour or tapioca starch that can raise blood sugar and contribute to weight gain. If you decide to go gluten-free for health reasons, choose real whole foods instead -- think quinoa, buckwheat, nuts and seeds as a substitute for grains.
"Natural" or low-calorie frozen dinners
What seems like an easy dinner is actually pretty horrible for you. Even if you opt for ones that say “natural,” it can still make you feel sluggish and bloated from too much sodium.
Sodium can still be very high in 'natural foods' to increase the taste level.
Moreover, it doesn’t help that a lot of us don’t drink enough water — Borden suggests drinking half your body weight in ounces of water a day.
A lack of water, coupled with high sodium foods, and you’re looking at “distended, uncomfortable tummies,” she says.
The weight loss frozen dinners are even worse, loaded with unnatural chemicals, preservatives and not enough nutrients.
These things terrify me. They’re like a chemical sh*t storm.
100-calorie snack packs
While portion control is great, these little bags of goodness are no good.
Most of these snacks are still just regular snacks like cookies, crackers and chips, meaning they still lack necessary ingredients like protein and fiber that keep you satisfied and full, which could lead to overeating.
Eating less crap still means you’re eating crap.
While the goal of these snack packs is to limit the calories you consume, a recent study found consumers ate twice as much when a snack came from a small package.
The reason granola tastes so good is because it’s prepared with lots of sugar and oil, which explains its unreasonably high calorie count.
According to the USDA, one cup of homemade granola can contain up to 600 calories, 18 grams of protein, 29 grams of fat, 65 grams of carbohydrates, 11 grams of fiber and 24.5 grams of sugar.
Think of granola as a crumpled up cookie.
If it’s too hard to give up the beloved crunchy snack, stick to servings for about a fourth of a cup, and try to avoid brands that pack on the added sugar and fat.