I’m a big label reader. If I don’t know a product and what it contains, I immediately look at the nutrition facts and ingredients to get a better understanding of how healthy or unhealthy the food is. It is completely an unconscious behavior at this point, as I’ve been doing it for years now. This has made me a super-sleuth in weeding out those foods that appear healthy on the surface, but deep down aren’t.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of foods that we believe to be healthy, whether it be a result of advertising, word-of-mouth or misconceptions, that truly aren’t. Here are my top seven ‘seemingly healthy foods’ that don’t make the grade:
- Instant Oatmeal: We all know how good oatmeal is for us. It lowers cholesterol, is high in fiber and is packed full of whole grains. Instant Oatmeal, however, isn’t so healthy. Here’s why: Although Instant Flavored Oatmeal is low in fat and cholesterol, it is higher in sugar, higher in calories, lower in protein and lower in fiber per serving as compared to its whole rolled oats counterpart.
- Turkey Burgers: If you are a hamburger lover, but are trying to be healthy, you might think that the Turkey Burger is the way to go. Think again. Although most Turkey Burgers are leaner than those made with red meat, they still have a whopping dose of fat and cholesterol. And still, Turkey Burgers can actually be worse for you than extra lean beef patties. If you are trying to eat healthy, look for a Veggie Burger option instead.
- Canned Soup: Just like salad, soup has been touted as a noble lunch food for dieters. Unfortunately, soup can be surprisingly unhealthy. Granted, there are some very healthy options, but once again, the label will reveal how much so. Many canned soups tend to have a very high amount of sodium (sodium is often used in pre-packaged foods as a preservative). Further, many soups can contain cream and full-fat milk which can cause your soup to be high in saturated fat. Look for the lower sodium and broth based varieties if you want to go the soup route.
- Granola and Granola Bars: Somehow, granola has become the begin all and end all of what is considered healthy. Sorry folks…although granola has some very healthy ingredients (rolled oats for one), it also contains tons of sugar, saturated fats (from ingredients like coconut) and sodium. Opt for nutrition bars and cereals that are high in fiber, contain whole grains and protein, and are low in sugar and sodium.
- Soy Products: Yes. Soy can be healthy. That said, when products use soy among a variety of other ingredients, the nutritional value of raw soy can be diluted (sugar and fats). If you want soy, opt for soybeans in their more natural state (edamame). Otherwise, look to incorporate other protein types into your diet.
- Flavored Yogurt: Especially now, with all of the ‘Digestive Yogurts’ on the market, people gobble up yogurt, thinking it is a healthy choice. Unfortunately, unless you are eating plain yogurt, most flavored yogurts are packed with sugars, high fructose corn syrup, chemicals (sugar free varieties especially), fillers and preservatives. Instead, eat plain, or even better, Greek Yogurt (higher in protein and lower in sugars) and mix with fresh or frozen berries.
- Fat Free and Reduced Fat Foods: Most foods that have to be reduced in fat, are then pumped with fillers, preservatives and sugars. Snackwell Cookies is a great example. Granted, there are some foods that come in low-fat and leaner varieties (milk and meat) that are fine, but be sure to read the label on foods that are reduced fat. More often than not, you will get a lot more than you bargained for.
Being an expert at reading nutrition labels is truly the best way to know if a food is healthy or not. Do you have a favorite unhealthy healthy food?