, Diet.com's Diet and Fitness News Reporter
By Anjali Shah
Anjali Shah is a food writer at www.pickyeaterblog.com, a best-selling author, a board certified health coach, mom of two, and an advocate for healthy, clean eating for individuals and families. Get her Free 7-day plan for clean eating here. For more information visit www.pickyeaterblog.com.
Fat free, sugar free, salads, smoothies - these all sound healthy right? Not necessarily! The food industry has become so good at marketing packaged foods that they can make just about anything sound good for you when it actually isn’t. Here is my list of the top 10 “healthy” foods to avoid, plus better for you alternatives.
1. Flavored Yogurt. Plain yogurt is a great source of calcium and protein, but flavored yogurt can have as much sugar as a candy bar! Instead, stick to plain Greek yogurt and add fresh fruit to sweeten it naturally.
2. Veggie Chips. This again, is a trick. “Veggie” is in the title, but that doesn’t mean there are actual vegetables in these chips. Check out the ingredients list and you’ll find a list of flours and starches with either veggie flavoring or vegetable powder at the bottom of the list. Think of veggie chips as a potato chip and eat them sparingly. Instead, try fresh cut vegetables with hummus for dipping.
3. Bottled Salad Dressings. Fresh, homemade salad is healthy, but most bottled salad dressings are not. They often have unhealthy fats, sugar, preservatives and artificial flavors added to extend shelf life and keep them tasting good. Instead, make your own salad dressing at home using extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic and fresh herbs.
4. Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free or Fat-Free Foods. All of these foods have one thing in common - they sound healthy but are full of processed ingredients, added sugar (in the case of fat free or gluten free foods), and thickeners or preservatives to make them taste like the original food they’re meant to replace. Unless you have a diagnosed allergy, there is no reason to buy gluten free products. They often have more processed flours, more sugar, and less fiber than their whole grain counterparts. Sugar free foods use sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners to make their products sweet, which mess with your body’s insulin response. And finally, fat free foods use thickeners, stabilizers and added sugar to make up for the loss of fat - none of which you need in your diet.
5. Instant Oatmeal and Most Dry Cereals. The culprit in both of these is the amount of added sugar and potentially artificial colors/flavors to make them taste good. If you have either of these in the morning, you’ll likely be starving just a couple hours later. Instead, opt for steel cut or rolled oats made at home - served with nuts, spices and fresh diced fruit.
6. Reduced Fat Peanut Butter. The fats in nuts are actually healthy for you! Reduced fat peanut butter is actually worse than regular peanut butter. This is because not only is the healthy fat removed, but in order to replace the fat, food companies add in sugar. Instead, buy regular peanut butter with just two ingredients: peanuts and salt.
7. Sports Drinks and Pre-Made Smoothies. These drinks are packed with added sugar and empty calories - more than a candy bar. Instead, go for water or coconut water, or a smoothie made at home with whole fruits and veggies (instead of fruit juices that most pre-made smoothies contain).
8. Multi Grain Bread. Terms like whole grain, wheat, 7-grain or multi-grain might sound healthy, but breads with these labels are often made with refined grains. Read the ingredient label and avoid breads that have “enriched”, “bleached” or “unbleached ... Continue