We all want to be healthy, but it can be difficult to know which foods, drinks, and snacks are going to be the most beneficial for our bodies. What makes it even more difficult is that products that are marketed as being good for us aren’t really as healthy as they claim to be. As more people become health conscious, companies are having to be even smarter with how they make — and market — their products. However, if you’re not careful enough, you can easily fall into their trap of catchphrases and compelling packaging that distract you from what’s really hidden underneath.
So, how can you determine whether or not a food, drink, or snack is healthy or not? First, do some research before heading to the store. This article will help you navigate the supermarket aisles and read food labels like a pro. A good rule of thumb is to spend the majority of your budget on fresh fruits and vegetables and a very small amount of it on prepackaged snacks and meals. If you’re ordering food from a restaurant, ask to see a full list of ingredients before you do, whether online, over the phone, or in person.
To help get you started on this journey, we’ve rounded up five seemingly healthy foods that are not as beneficial for your health as you might think.
While smoothies might seem like a healthy option for a quick snack or a light meal, that isn’t always the case. Many of the smoothies that you order from restaurants or cafés are in fact loaded with extra sugar because of the amount of fruits, fruit juice, and sweeteners they contain. To avoid consuming double your recommended amount of sugar for the day, consider buying some fresh fruit from the grocery store and making your own smoothie at home. You can also add frozen cauliflower, almond milk, and spinach to make your smoothie denser without making it heavier.
It’s important to note that you don’t digest nutrients in a smoothie as well as if you were chewing them, because the mechanics of mastication stimulate the digestive process. You could try adding a bit of crunch to your smoothie with the help of seeds and nuts.
Low-Fat Peanut Butter
Trend-led demands for lower-fat foods – based on outdated nutritional information – have led peanut-butter manufacturers to create low-fat versions of this household staple. However, more often than not, this fat is replaced with excess sugar to help make sure the peanut butter still tastes good. Instead of falling into this trap, explore more natural peanut butter options, such as those that have monounsaturated fat instead of trans fat, or make your own nut butters at home by following this recipe.
Pre-Packaged Veggie Chips
Do you need to get more servings of vegetables in your day? Grabbing a bag of veggie chips might seem like the solution, but in reality, you’re better off eating the real thing. Many times, vegetable chips are primarily made of potatoes and cornflower — and a very small amount of real vegetables. To make matters worse, they also tend to be high in sodium and packed with preservatives. Instead of wasting your money on this popular snack item, consider roasting some fresh vegetables in the oven at home, like this. With the right seasoning, they can quickly transform into a delicious snack.
Frozen “Healthy” Meals
Frozen meals marketed as being healthy initially seem like an easy, quick, and good dinner option. However, frozen “diet” meals tend to contain quite a lot of salt and sugar. They also aren’t very satisfying, which can cause you to snack more than if you had made your own home-cooked meal. Instead of buying prepackaged meals, try cooking larger, healthy meals at home and freezing them for later. This way, you know exactly what you are eating, and you’re in control of the amount of salt and sugar you and your family are consuming on a daily basis.
Growing up, we were led to believe that fruit juice is healthy. After all, it has the word “fruit” in it, right? Unfortunately, companies lean on this assumption to generate their sales. In reality, fruit juice is oftentimes made up of mostly sugar and very little fruit. Even in the case of juices made without added sugar, the sheer number of fruits required to make one glass means that you are often consuming about four apples or oranges, for example, instead of just one. What’s more, the fiber found in a fruit is what helps your body take in its natural sugar content, but very little of that fiber makes it into your juice, which can cause your blood sugar to spike.
While fruit juice may contain fewer artificial ingredients than soda, there are other ways to create a refreshing fruity drink. Consider adding lemon or lime juice to your water to give it some extra flavor or cutting up some fresh fruit and putting it in your water.