Wait, This Is Bad For Me?
We all know that living a healthy lifestyle is a combination of physical activity and a healthy diet, but lo and behold there are some foods that we consider “healthy” that are secretly not so great for us. For those of you who believe ignorance is bliss, we recommend not reading any further.
If you’re still with us, that means that you’re concerned that you may be eating more unhealthy than you realize. While we hope this doesn’t dash everyone’s dreams against the rocks, it’s better to be aware of what you’re eating- especially if you’re struggling to lose weight!
So, let’s unpack this. What are some foods that are secretly unhealthy? We’ve got the main ones for you to think twice about:
This is probably pretty shocking, especially since the term “granola” both refers to food and to those healthy, outdoors-y people. Unfortunately, most granola is filled with a lot of added sugar and not as much fiber as one might think. And with all that added sugar, just one cup of granola can top out at almost 600 calories.
Instead of granola, pick a morning cereal that has more fiber and still contains the satisfying crunch. If you’re a granola-holic, try sprinkling a smaller amount (less than ¼ of a cup) over some low-fat or non-fat unflavored yogurt. Feel free to add a handful of blueberries or strawberries too!
<h2> Low Fat Flavored Yogurt
Don’t fall for the fat free fib! Being labeled “fat free” doesn’t make something healthy, and low fat flavored yogurt is no exception. Many flavored yogurts have upwards of 15 grams of sugar in just a 6 ounce serving!
Rather than the flavored yogurts, go for plain, fat free Greek yogurt and use the same granola recipe we have above! Add a small amount of granola and a handful of berries for a more natural morning snack.
<h2> Peanut Butter
This is crushing for a lot of people, since peanuts can be a great source of protein and we’ve been eating it since we were old enough to carry a lunch box. But unfortunately there are so many added sugars, salts, and hydrogenated fats added to peanut butter brands to make them taste better that they end up hurting us. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up peanut butter completely!
If you’re a peanut butter connoisseur, just be sure to check the labels and research the available brands to find the healthier option. Make sure there are no added sugars or hydrogenated oils in the ingredients, and avoid the “low fat” options to be sure you’re only getting the healthy parts of peanut butter.
<h2> Gluten Free Products
Gluten free has become as popular as the Slim-Fast diet of the 90s, but gluten free does not automatically equal healthier. Gluten free options were created for those who have an allergy to wheat, pasta and other flour-based foods. However, if you’re looking to have less gluten in your diet, replacing gluten foods with gluten free options does not always mean you’re doing your body a favor.
Many gluten free processed options are lower in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients and actually higher in calories or fat/sugar levels to make up for loss of flavor or texture. If you’re looking to have less gluten in your diet replacing things like bread or pastas with more vegetables is going to be a healthier option than gluten-free pastas or breads.
<h2> Juices/Fruit Smoothies
Fresh pressed juices and smoothies have always been associated with health and cleanses, and they can absolutely be good for you. However, fruit already has a lot of carbs and sugar, and if you purchase smoothies or juices rather than making them from home, they can be loaded with extra sugar for better flavor. Often a main ingredient in smoothies is fruit juice, sherbet or frozen yogurt which can rack up extra calories and sugar that will essentially cancel out the healthy parts of your juice or smoothie.
One of the best ways to avoid the excess sugar is to make your juices and smoothies at home. You’ll be able to control the amount of fruit you use, and replacing sherbet or frozen yogurt with plain non-fat greek yogurt or almond milk will keep the calories down. For a quick and easy morning smoothie recipe, check out our Blueberry Oat Smoothie!
<h2> Trail Mix
Trail mix has always been considered a healthy snack, and compared to a handful of chips or cookies it certainly does win. But store bought trail mix is typically filled with dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, or yogurt covered fruits. Unfortunately, the dried fruit usually has extra sugar, the nuts are loaded with salt, and of course the chocolate is not exactly great for you. Even if you have a small portion of store bought trail mix, the calorie count is upwards in the hundreds. Just 23 almonds contains approximately 170 calories!
Similar to smoothies, trail mix is much healthier if you make it at home. Remove all the sugary extras, use plain unsalted nuts, and if you can use unsweetened dried fruits.
<h2> Dairy Products
Cheese, milk, ice cream, frozen yogurt, we can’t live without them! Sadly, however, dairy products can be really high in calories and saturated fat. Cheese is a main culprit- however some cheeses are more healthy than others such as cottage cheese, which is only about 2 grams of fat per cup. Milk is high in calcium and other nutrients, but isn’t necessary in your diet and in fact can cause acne, sinus congestion, and is very hard on the digestive system. We grew up being told that milk prevents future health problems, but the same nutrients in milk can be found in plants, meats, fruits and some nuts.
Frozen yogurt was always considered a healthy alternative to ice cream, but not every brand offers benefits. Natural yogurt can have probiotics that are good for you, but the process to freeze the yogurt destroys most of the live cultures leaving little to no health benefits. And sadly, frozen yogurt tends to have more sugar than ice cream. It’s best to stick to natural Greek yogurt and always check the ingredients!
<h2> Salad Dressing
Of course some fresh veggies and some lean protein is healthy, but the dressings we add to salads can really pack on the calories to what should be a healthy meal. That goes for “light” or “fat free” dressings too- which can sometimes be worse for you with the amount of preservatives and other additives. Factor in cheese, croutons, bacon, mayonnaise or a variety of other things and you could be looking at a meal that’s close to 1000 calories.
All is not lost! The foundation of most salads is still healthy, so try and limit some of the add-ons. Instead of a cream based dressing, go for light olive oil or a balsamic with some herbs and spices for additional flavor.
<h2> Don’t Give Up Yet!
If you’ve made it to the end of this blog, congratulations! It’s not easy to come to terms with things we love that may not be good for us, but don’t give up hope. If any of these foods are hard for you to give up, you can keep them in your diet! Just make sure you know what you’re putting in your body, shoot for healthy options when you can, and moderation is key.
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