There are a bunch of food and drinks out there the media says are ‘good for you’ but, what does that really mean? We connected with True Food Kitchen’s Executive Chef, Arik Markus to discuss the truth behind those healthy option myths.
While smoothies are certainly convenient, they’re usually loaded with sugar if they are made with prepared fruit. Blending also breaks down fiber into a form that allows your body to digest them a lot faster than eating the whole fruits themselves, which can cause a sharp spike in blood sugar. It’s better to eat whole fruit or cut it up over a bowl of yogurt- you’ll get all the slow digesting benefits of the fiber, feel full faster, and get all the protein benefits of the yogurt. Just as convenient and a lot better for you!
2.) Power/Energy/Protein Bars
There’s a big difference between eating real protein and isolated proteins such as whey and soy isolates. Plus, I wonder what all of those complicated ingredients, we can never pronounce are. Instead, go for a salad with lean protein and some fresh veggies sprinkled with nuts and seeds.
If you read the back of the package you’ll see just how loaded with sugar most granola is. Instead, made your own! It’s so easy and it gives you the option to choose a healthier sweetener, such as coconut sugar, which has a much lower glycemic load. Got some oats and a toaster oven? You can make granola while you’re watching TV.
4.) Sports Drinks
As an athlete and avid hiker, I get the need for quick hydration and electrolyte replenishment. I have a big, stainless steel water bottle with a carabineer clip that I fill with water, fresh lemon juice and a pinch of Himalayan salt. I get all the minerals and electrolytes back from the salt without a long list of ingredients I can’t pronounce.
5.) Multi-Grained Bread
Anytime grains are milled to flour, their carbohydrates (read: sugars!) increase in surface area, making them easier for your body to access. Eating too much bread causes a rise in blood sugar and your body can quickly convert those sugars into fat. Limit how much bread you eat; better to eat whole grains, they digest slower and convert to stored energy rather than fat.
6.) Pre-Made Salads
Fresher is better – everyone knows that. Just like when you’re shopping at the supermarket, you want to purchase produce that looks as close to alive as possible. Just like anything living, as soon as it dies it starts to decay. The produce in pre-made salads could be up to a week out of the field, and even though it’s been refrigerated for that whole time, it is still breaking down and losing nutrients. Try to build your own at home cutting lettuce from a whole head and from whole vegetables. They’ll taste a lot better too!
7.) Frozen Yogurt
Who doesn’t like a sweet treat? The operative word here is SWEET. As in sugar, and a lot of it. Sugar causes inflammation, which can lead to a whole host of health issues down the road. Enjoy in moderation, but it’s not much better for you than ice cream.
Flours, sugar, fat (usually from butter or oils) – basic makings of every muffin. Look for whole grain options sweetened with mashed bananas or dates and try to avoid the highly processed and refined sugars with white flour.
9.) Vegetable Oil
Not all are created equal, and the source of how it’s processed definitely impacts the healthfulness of the oil. Dr. Weil recommends extra virgin olive oil for finishing and dressings; and grape seed oil for high heat cooking.
10.) Fruit Juices
My son is an apple juice fiend, and I want to watch how much sugar he takes in. There are a lot of products on store shelves that are “enhanced” with added sugar and added flavors, sometimes artificial. Try to buy options that are labeled 100% juice, look for organic to avoid pesticide residues, and consider diluting the juice with water to lessen the total sugar intake.
There is a ton of hidden sugar in yogurts that are either packed with fruit or blended with it. If you read the labels, you’ll see it’s not only fruit that’s added. Look for plain or unsweetened options and add your own fresh cut fruit.
12.) Veggie Chips
Sadly, most of these options are fried like potato chips. When foods are fried the oil replaces the natural water content. Frying makes food act like a sponge for oil. Mom knew what was good for you when she packed your lunch box with carrot and celery sticks that were raw or lightly steamed. The simpler preparations are much better for you than the highly processed options.