Trying to improve your eating habits? Don’t let these tricksters sabotage your plans. Check out these 10 foods you think are healthy, but actually aren’t.
#1 DIET COKE
You may be cutting out sugar but chugging a diet soda brings a whole host of other problems. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to weight gain – one reason includes people thinking that they’ve picked a healthier choice and therefore overeat later. It also increases your risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
A Harvard Medical School study also found that diet sodas are associated with a two-fold increase in risk for kidney decline. Plus, sodas are known to be acidic and have been found detrimental to dental health. Try to cut out fizzies altogether or enjoy them sporadically. Choose freshly squeezed or cold pressed juices instead, and you can add carbonated water if you must have something sparkly.
#2 PRE-PACKED FRUIT JUICES
While nothing beats having the fruit whole so you get all it’s dietary fibre goodness, many people enjoy quenching their thirst with juice, thinking it’s a healthier alternative to fizzy drinks. Hang on – have you taken a look at the sugar content yet? Some juices actually have the equivalent amount.
Read the ingredients label – you might see sugar (or its other names, sucrose and glucose) alongside fruit concentrate. The process of creating fruit concentrate might already have destroyed all the vitamins and minerals too. Try to lay off these altogether and opt for freshly squeezed or cold-pressed juices instead. This page is a good resource to understand the whole fruit concentrate vs 100% juice, and learn about tricks that brands use.
#3 FLAVOURED YOGHURT
Would you be shocked if I told you that some flavoured yoghurts have as much sugar as a bottle of Coke? It all comes from the sugar-laden flavourings (fruit or otherwise) and possibly sweetened yoghurt itself. A better option would be to top plain, unsweetened yoghurt (creamy Greek is my favourite) with fresh fruits and some nuts, for an equally satisfying and less sinful snack. Drizzle some honey on the top if you want to.
#4 LOW-FAT ANYTHING
When food companies take one thing out, often they have to replace it with something else to maintain flavour. So most low-fat products have the fat compensated with – you guessed it, sugar.
Don’t fall for the large “Fat-free!” exclamations on the front of the box, turn it around and look at the ingredients list and sugar content too. Fat isn’t actually all bad as having it in a dish or food item can keep you feeling fuller for a longer time. For example, drinking whole milk is better than skim or low-fat, as it retains all its nutrients and is more filling.
#5 MUESLI BAR OR GRANOLA
Most people think of these guys as healthy snacks but often you’ll find that sugar is high on their ingredients list – which means that there’s a lot of it in there! One teaspoon of sugar may not seem like a lot, but one teaspoon in a tiny bar is.
Having one of these might not keep you satiated for long since it has barely any protein, and especially if it’s made with more rice puffs than fibre-high rolled oats. Invest some time in making your own snacks. Quick and easy no-bake muesli bar recipes are just a google search away.
#6 MARGARINE OR VEGETABLE OILS
Vegetable oils are no health heros. They are actually chemically removed, deodorised and altered from sources like soybean, corn, sunflower and more. Some of that goes into margarine, along with colouring to give it a that sunny yellow hue.
Contrary to popular belief, butter is actually good for you as it contains vitamins, the beneficial kind of saturated fats and good cholesterol – plus, it tastes amazing. Check out this article for a more in-depth explanation – you’ll want to swear off margarine for life.
#7 SPORTS DRINKS
Again, this comes with more sugar than you think there is. If you’re an athlete, you might get away with having one of these because of your intense trainings. But if you’re an average office worker who hits the gym or goes for a quick run three times a week, you’ll be undoing all your efforts by recovering with a sports drink.
If you’re susceptible to cramps and need electrolytes to help, try drinking some coconut water. Fresh ones may be difficult to get and packaged ones can be expensive, so another option is to get inexpensive packets of electrolytes from pharmacies that you can add to plain water.
#8 WHOLEGRAIN OR MULTIGRAIN BREAD
Sometimes, it’s just white bread dyed brown – really! You must check that wholegrain flour is first on the ingredients list. It shouldn’t be something refined like “high protein wheat flour” or “enriched wheat flour”. Enriched flour is essentially refined flour, and they’ve had their nutrients stripped during processing. Be discerning when buying your bread.
#9 DRIED FRUIT
Again, read the ingredients list carefully for this one. Do you see sugar on it too? Dried fruits can be thought of almost as candy with fibre. Go for brands that dehydrate their fruits without adding anything else. You can snack on these to satisfy your sweet tooth then – it sure beats consuming candies and chocolates made with processed sugar. Still, everything in moderation, please.
#10 PRE-MADE SMOOTHIES AND SALADS
Have you actually observed what goes into the blender at a smoothie bar? I did once. It was half a banana, two frozen strawberries, some milk and a large scoop of frozen vanilla yoghurt. This thing is more like a dessert than a healthy snack. Likewise with the salads, a pre-made one might have a lot more unhealthy, fat-laden dressing than you think.
Of course, you can savour these from time to time – let’s face it, not everybody has the time to make their own smoothies and salads every day – just buy one fully aware that they might not be a healthier option.
About the writer:
Ruby Tan used to write for Her World, and is now a freelance writer with a dream to travel the world. She believes that the some of best things in life don’t have to be bought.
Illustrations created for ladyironchef.com by starsinajarr.com
I do hope people read this, especially in Singapore where food has been overlooked for other non-essential pursuits. Instead of new restaurant openings, bloggers, businesses, and the health authorities should be championing markets where people can buy their wholesome food. We should have more cooking demonstrations during the weekends at parks and young people can take part in food sharing schemes during workdays. I would be happy to cook proper and wholesome food for others who do not have the time and skills to prepare their own meals. And it doesn’t have to be a profit making endeavour, a sharing community can well be developed in connected Singapore.
Great post Ruby! Every single thing I thought of you’ve got down just right to pat! Too often do my own family members and even people who are active and fit think and promote flavored yoghurts and granola and multigrain breads as ‘healthy’ foods without also noting the amount of sugar or overall calories! I even took the time to compare the calories of different types of bread for my mother to make a point that her multi grain had about a third more calorie than another bread which isn’t enriched with multi grains…my point wasn’t that it was unhealthy but that calories are calories! Love your points about sugars…we all focus on the ‘non fat’ or ‘low fat’ and that doesn’t mean it’s healthy! If there’s less fat there’s always going to be more salt or sugar or something!
Some very, very bad advice here. Please do your nutritional research before you post things like that.
At least give links to scientific studies to back up your claims. And I don’t mean news articles. I mean studies.
Saying butter has vitamins and is healthy is probably the worst advice you can give someone. To much fat of any kind in our diet is one of the main reason why the number one killer of mankind is heart disease. Please do your research. Some tips where to look. Nutritionfacts.org, nutritionstudies.org, pcrm.org