Choosing good dietary options can be incredibly difficult. Every day it seems like new trends appear out of nowhere, suggesting puzzling and contradictory options. Complicating matters are the appearances of new versions of foods, or new research, or new books suggesting the ultimate cure for every ailment.
Accompanying all this baffling information is an equally confusing array of trendy “health” foods. Unfortunately, a good many of these healthy seeming options are anything but- and are very easy to slip into regular usage without closer inspection.
1. Multigrain or Wheat Breads
A walk through any grocery store will inevitably turn up dozens of varieties of breads blazoned with such promises as “Whole Grain”, “High Fiber”, or “Multigrain”. As delicious as these breads may be, not all of them are nearly as beneficial as they claim to be.
An attractive loaf proffering “Nine Grains” may indeed have nine grains- but checking the ingredients will tell a less attractive tale, one that includes highly refined and bleached flour, trans fats, and a whopping calorie load.
2. Ancient Grains Cereals
Eating foods from a wide variety of sources has long been praised as a hallmark of a healthy diet. For that reason, wheat substitutes such as farro, amaranth, and spelt have enjoyed great popularity, especially when processed into breakfast cereals. Again, the key word here is “processed”.
While these ancient grains are intrinsically beneficial, processing has mostly stripped the nutritional value from them and added in fats, sugar, and salt. Just because a product says “grain” does not necessarily mean “whole grain”.
3. Low-Fat Peanut Butter
Less fat is always better- unless that fat is actually beneficial. Standard peanut butter (preferably with two or fewer ingredients) is loaded with healthful Vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and protein. In reasonable servings, peanut butter is a miraculous, delicious, and vegetarian option to garner value into a meal.
Reduced fat peanut butter is the exception, however- while fat is removed, so is some of the beneficial fiber and protein that contribute to a sense of well-being and fullness. To compensate for this loss, reduced fat peanut butters are loaded with sugar, making them have the same calorie load as conventional peanut butter without the benefits.
4. Protein Bars
Nothing seems simpler than grabbing a quick energy burst in the form of a protein bar after a workout or when a full meal is not an option. Some bars truly are very nutrient dense and satisfying, but others are no better than trumped-up candy bars. While typically having a sufficient protein content, these snacks are often loaded with sugar and incredibly processed.
5. Prepared Salads
Again, this seems like the perfect option for the busy yet health-conscious consumer. Prepared salads are fast, delicious, and full of vibrant veggies. And bacon bits. And fatty meats. And creamy dressings. In fact, without careful monitoring of composition, a store bought salad can rack up calories and unhealthy fats as easily as a burger and fries combo. These salads can be a healthy meal, but watch out for hidden fats, sugars, and sodium.
Without a doubt, freshly prepared smoothies may be one of the most delightful fruity treats ever- but they are indeed a treat. Despite the abundance of fruit and the consequent Vitamin C and fiber, fruit smoothies can be a huge setback in a carefully constructed diet plan. Even if a smoothie does not feature delectable options like ice cream or sherbet, the average serving size of a smoothie is incredibly large- with a diabolically large calorie count.
7. Deli Turkey Slices
Turkey has long been featured in healthy diets in many forms, being delicious, economical, and highly versatile. Deli turkey slices are not quite so healthy, being highly processed and heavily laden with sodium. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a single serving of deli turkey to have at least a third of the daily recommendation of dietary sodium.
8. Sandwich Wraps
Wraps seem like a fantastic alternative to bulkier, fattier bread for lunch. As a processed food, however, wraps have much the same problems as conventional bread. Containing hardly any fiber and an alarming dose of trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and refined flour, wraps can be an even worse option for lunches even before adding any meats, cheeses, or spreads.
9. Gluten Free Options
Celiac Disease is a very real and debilitating problem for the small percentage of the population diagnosed with it, and who suffer from a variety of unpleasant symptoms stemming from the ingestion of wheat, rye, and barley. That being said, a gluten-free diet is not necessarily the best option for the general public, especially if many gluten free products are incorporated.
Typically gluten free (or GF) products are produced from less nutritive grains like rice and highly refined to simulate the texture of conventional baked goods. These stripped down flours require additional nutritive fortification in order to be held on par with conventional breads. Yet these products still lack the essential proteins, fiber, and micronutrients required to build a healthy diet.
10. Trail Mix
Nuts of all varieties are enjoying a resurgence of popularity in modern diet culture. Nutritional powerhouses, they are rich sources of Vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, protein, and heart-healthy fats. Delicious and portable, trail mix featuring these wonderful treats might seem to be a solid choice.
11) Frozen Diet Entrees
For those who have difficulty judging portion sizes and meal preparation, frozen diet entrees often appear to be a blessing. While the measured amounts and calorie count for these dinners are helpful, the actual contents of the meals are less than ideal. The overall value of meals like these are in reality very low. Processing strips food of essential nutrients, while the overall sodium content per meal can be alarmingly high- often topping the suggested daily limits.
12. Instant Oatmeal
Oatmeal is truly a miraculous food. Possessed of essential calcium and potassium, laden with fiber, steel cut oatmeal is the epitome of a healthy breakfast. Daily consumption been linked with a reduction in high blood pressure and contributes to a sense of all-day satiety.
Instant oatmeal is quite a different matter. Prepackaged and prepared for convenience, instant oatmeal has been super-refined, stripping out fiber and protein to assist with speedy cooking. Tasty versions of this breakfast are made more palatable by the excessive addition of refined sugar and salt, thus rendering this intrinsically valuable grain into junk food.
13. Frozen Yogurt
Frozen yogurt has also been a very trendy item, appearing everywhere from beachside stands to shopping malls. At first glance, frozen yogurt appears to be a reasonable replacement for ice cream when a sweet craving hits. With a lower in fat profile and wonderful flavor options, frozen yogurt looks like a miracle.
The difficulty arises trying to judge a reasonable serving…and then avoiding the candy-bar buffet of add-ons that inevitably beacon beside the cash register. Sugar, trans fat, and excess calories all add up swiftly even in a very small cup.
14. Sports Drinks
Sports drinks have undeniable value after heavy exercise, especially in extreme climates or over extended periods of time. They contain valuable nutrients lost during said exertion- but for the average population, such effort is a rare occurrence indeed. Sports drinks represent an unnecessary infusion of calories into a daily diet, even if said beverage is of the low-calorie variety.
A favorite low-calorie snack, pretzels have long been enjoyed by the health-seeking and diet conscious population. That wonderful, satisfying crunch hides a myriad of problems and deficiencies, however. Pretzels in general, are comprised of highly refined flour, some fat, and a load of sodium.
Their low-calorie content is also reflected in their equally low values for fiber, protein, vitamins, or minerals. Pretzels are essentially an empty food, which explains why this snack food is never satisfying for longer periods of time.