When you venture on a healthy diet, it is so easy to get sucked into the quick and easy forms of food – these are almost always prepackaged foods that claim to be healthy, when in fact they are not really that good for you! So to help you out, I have listed some common "health" foods that are misleadingly junk food in disguise.
1. Nut Butters and Bars
Nuts are a great source of good fat, and provide benefits to the brain and heart. But when processed and packaged into a product, the goodness disappears amongst the added ingredients of vegetable oils, sugar, and salt. If you want to eat nut butter, choose an organic natural brand, with only 100% nuts, with no additives. Nuts have their own natural oils, so why would you need any added oil? And by getting one with no added salt or sugar, you can control your intake by adding your own sweetness or saltiness in moderation.
2. Sports drinks
Sports drinks are good for replacing lost electrolytes and energy when you are doing high endurance sports. These drinks become bad however, as people tend to drink them too often. There are high amounts of sugar added to sports drinks, and you will end up filling your body with empty calories. If you want to stay hydrated, stick to good old H20.
3. Protein bars
A lot of protein bars claim to be low carb, high protein. Sounds good – but if you only look at the ingredient list on some of these, you will see how much you can not even recognise. I always say that if there are numbers in the ingredients, or names you do not recognise, you shouldn’t eat it. Stick to simple and natural protein sources, like lean meat, fish, eggs, legumes and seeds and nuts.
4. Gluten-free foods
Just because a package says "gluten free" does not mean it is healthy. There is a new association with gluten free being good for you, as more and more people become aware of the trend. When gluten is taken out of the ingredients, there tends to be other things added in to make up for it in texture and taste. Many pre-packaged gluten free products are processed and include many additives and sugar. If you want to go gluten free, then eat whole foods and stay away from packaged brands with good marketing.
5. Breakfast cereals
Many cereals look like they would be healthy – the packaging tends to show all the goodness in each grain, the low or no fat, and the high fibre content. Yes there is probably a good amount of fibre in there, but there is also a good chance there is a whole heap of sugar added to the ingredients too. Not to mention, many contain simple carbs, which will only leave you feeling hungry again not long after eating them.
6. “Low-fat” or “Diet”
Usually, anything with fat taken out, something is put in to compensate. This being sugar most of the time. Especially any dairy products, low fat allows for sugar to heighten, and other additives to be added to make them taste better. Many low or no fat items contain sugar, processed carbs and fillers to make them taste good, and are lacking in nutritional value.
7. Meat or dairy substitutes
With veganism and/or vegetarianism on the rise, there are more and more processed products being marketed as a healthy alternative. But again, as many packaged foods alike, these can often have so many additives and processed soy products, along with artificial ingredients, making them quite unhealthy. A vegan diet can have amazing benefits and be healthy too if you are eating clean whole foods, and eat enough plant-based protein.
Brands pay a lot of money to market their products well – claiming to be "natural" or "low fat" or "healthy" when in actual fact, they can be the opposite. Try not to buy packaged foods, but if so, always buy organic natural products, and eat fresh clean whole foods as part of a balanced diet. Do not rely on foods that claim to be healthy – ALWAYS read the labels, and stick to what you know is healthy.