With all the nutrition information out there and all the different marketing labels put on our foods these days, it can be super confusing to figure out what is actually good for you.
And what foods might not be so healthy.
Labels like natural, gluten free, healthy, whole grain etc. get being added to more and more products making it harder to navigate the supermarket shelves for a healthy choice.
So I wanted to go through 9 foods that I find my clients get most confused with and give you some healthier alternatives.
1. Whole wheat or multigrain bread
Sorry to say, but the bread you are eating is probably not healthy.
Seriously, check out the ingredients list of a loaf of bread on your supermarket shelf and I have no doubt it will include a range of undesirable ingredients. Even loaves that are labeled “wholegrain” or “multigrain” usually include sugar as one of the first ingredients as well as unhealthy vegetable oils, flavors & preservatives (Find out which oils are healthy for you HERE).
If you are going to eat bread then making your own is a great option or choosing gluten free or whole grain sprouted bread such as Ezekiel bread is better but remember to check the ingredients list. Or a natural sourdough from a local bakery.
Even if you are getting your bread from a bakery that doesn’t include sugar, vegetable oils & preservatives bread is a refined carbohydrate which means even whole grain bread will spike your blood sugar much more that less refined carbohydrates such as quinoa or brown rice. So eat in moderation, not as a staple at every meal.
2. Fruit Juice
Even the 100% fruit type is really high in sugar and so really should be kept for those breakfasts out or every now and then rather than everyday.
You see without the fiber you get when you eat a whole piece of fruit, fruit juice spikes your blood sugar just like soda does and although it totally has more vitamins than a coke, some fruit juice drinks can have almost as much sugar.
You see it takes a lot of whole fruit to make a juice. It might take 8 apples to make you a small glass of juice you drink in a couple of minutes but if you tried to eat that same 8 apples whole you would probably struggle to get through them in a day.
So always choose freshly squeezed juices with no added sugar (you don’t need anymore) and add in veggies to your juice wherever possible. If you have a juicer at home adding ¾ veggies and ¼ fruit makes a yummy but healthier fruit juice drink.
3. Granola & other “healthy breakfast cereals”
The breakfast cereal isle can be one of the most confusing of a supermarket as it is filled with healthy ticks, green packaging, and the words healthy, natural, whole grain, added vitamins and minerals, fiber and more thrown around everywhere! But to be honest, you can probably just skip the whole isle. Yep even the granola section. But if you must have cereal for breakfast the key is to check out the ingredient lists. Avoid added sugar (which also includes cane sugar, beet sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), fructose, corn sugar etc) vegetable oils, preservatives, colors or artificial sweeteners.
My favorite cereal alternatives are things like overnight oats, chia pudding or a porridge made with a whole grain like quinoa or brown rice.
Want some great breakky ideas?
4. Trail Mix
Trail mix is actually one of my favorite things to take hiking but I always make my own because many of the pre-packaged ones are filled with junky ingredients I’m just not into.
Making your own also means that you can add exactly what you want to it and that doesn’t mean you can’t add a little chocolate to it if you like. It just means you get to choose nuts without added vegetable oils and salt and dried fruit with preservatives and sugar added. You can choose high quality ingredients to give you proper energy for you hike or excursion.
5. Artificial Sweeteners
I will write a whole article on these soon! I have added them in because I still talk to people who think a diet coke is a healthy alternative and add splender to their coffee everyday to help them lose weight.
Now I admit I am a reformed Diet Coke addict.
I used drink at least 600ml per day (who knows how many brain cells I killed!) so I know how addictive it is. But artificial sweeteners not only have a huge amount of side effects but there are also multiple studies that have been conducted that show they also make you fat.
Enough said. Avoid at all costs!
My favorite substitution for sodas like coke and diet coke is kombucha.
Have you tried it?
Kombucha is a fermented tea that is lightly sparkling and tastes amazing while being great for your gut bacteria! Sparkling mineral water is a good alternative too. Add a squeeze of orange or lemon for a little more flavor or a handful or blueberries.
6. Low Carb bars & Protein bars
With “low carb” being the new “low fat” (can’t we just eat real food people?) more and more low carb bars are popping up in supermarkets along with the old favorite protein bars.
Again just check your ingredient lists here because the quality of ingredients added to these varies widely. Just because something is “low carb”, “low fat”, “high in protein” doesn’t make it healthy. By the way this also goes for “gluten free” and “vegan”. Might mean healthy, but also might mean full of sugar, preservatives and chemicals. Check the ingredients.
The good news is protein bars are super easy to make at home and I have a tonne of healthy protein bar recipes that are super easy to make.
New to making them at home and not sure where to start?
7. Granola Bars
Like Low-carb bars above granola bars have always been a lunch box favorite but these two are full of sugar. Seriously grab your favorite granola bar and compare the nutritional information to that of a snickers bar?
You might find your better off with the snickers.
8.Vitamin Water & Sports drinks
Oooh where to begin with these? Again, as with a lot of the “health foods” on this list the issue is added sugar and chemical flavors or artificial sweeteners or colors.
Some great alternatives are things like coconut water or adding some fresh fruit or veggies to your water bottle or a jug you keep in the fridge.
Making your own rehydrating smoothie is also a great way to replenish electrolytes check out some I love to make HERE.
9. Salad Dressings & prepared salads
So I actually buy a lot of prepared salads when travelling. They are often the best option at places like train stations or airports, especially when I haven’t been able to prepare my own food or snacks.
But I always make sure the salad dressing is on the side and I add sparingly or not at all as again these are often full of sugar or trans fats. I am currently travelling round Italy however and many of the prepared salads are awesome here. You get a separate little sachet of olive oil and one of balsamic vinegar to add as you like to your salad full of fresh tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. So good!
So no need to avoid packaged salads all together just be aware of choosing a vinaigrette over a creamy dressing where you can, avoid ingredients such as candied pecans and skip the added bread.
So I hope this article has helped demystify some of these “healthy foods”.
When in doubt stick to the edges of the supermarket where the fresh produce is usually located and cook your own food at home where you are in control of what you add to it.
Got any other healthy foods that you are unsure about?
Let me know in the comments below.
To your health
P.S. Want to get your hands on that 7 day meal plan with lots of healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas? Click HERE to sign up to the 7 Day Whole Clean Living Challenge to get all this plus more.