Don’t let the labels fool you, most packages of “healthy” snacks and beverages are really junk food. Thanks in part to marketing and packaging, some companies get away with making their products seem healthy when in actuality they are filled with harmful ingredients and copious amounts of added sugar. Here are some “healthy” junk foods you need to be aware of.
Smoothies in their purest form are considered a healthy beverage given its simple ingredients. However, most pre-bottled smoothies are just liquid sugar and have little to no nutritional value. Specifically, the popular Naked smoothies are marketed as a health drink with no sugar added but in actuality, one bottle has more sugar than a can of soda. PepsiCo, the makers of Naked smoothies, was sued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) for misleading consumers by claiming that their products were healthier than they really are. Therefore, the healthiest smoothie is one made at home.
2. Microwave Popcorn
Popcorn is a perfectly healthy snack, but many light varieties of microwave popcorn on the market make it unhealthy with additives like hydrogenated oils and chemicals. Most brands of microwave popcorn even contain the chemical diacetyl, whose consumption is associated with lung disease. If you’re craving popcorn, don’t reach for the store-bought bag–pop your own. All you have to do is place a couple of popcorn kernels in a brown paper bag. That way, you know that you aren’t consuming harmful chemicals, and you can control the number of flavorings.
3. “Light” Salad Dressing
Usually when something is labeled “light” it is anything but. If you take a look at the list of ingredients on the back the bottle of most “healthy” salad dressings, you’ll notice that it contains preservatives and hard-to-pronounce additives. Also, most dressings are loaded with added sugar and syrups–you might as well pour sugar on your salad. When looking for the best topping for your salad, stick to dressing with simple ingredients or just drizzle on olive oil or vinegar. If you want, you can even whip up your own vinaigrette dressing.
4. Artichoke Spinach Dip
Artichokes and spinach blended together in a dip should be healthy, right? Wrong. A couple tablespoons of artichoke spinach dip served with chips or crackers can pack tons of calories and unhealthy fat. In fact, a two tablespoons serving of spinach dip can have up to 90 calories and 9 grams of fat, and it can be easy to eat more than the serving. Therefore, make your own artichoke dip at home and eat it with fresh and crunchy veggies.
5. Deli Meat
While ordering lunch, you may opt for a turkey sandwich thinking that it’s the healthiest choice. Depending on where you eat that may not be true. Deli meats are oftentimes highly processed and contain great amounts of nitrates and sodium, which can be detrimental to your cardiovascular health. When ordering out or purchasing deli meat, check the nutritional information and ensure that it isn’t loaded with salt.
6. Blue Corn Chips
Don’t let the color fool you, blue corn chips are just as bad as their plain white or yellow counterpart. In fact, they have very similar calorie, sodium, and fat counts. A serving of blue corn chips has 140 calories, 105 milligrams of sodium, and 9 grams of fat. Likewise, a serving of yellow corn chips has 140 calories, 105 milligrams of sodium, and 7 grams of fat. As you can see, there isn’t a difference between the two types of chips.
7. Gluten-Free Products
Gluten-free has become a growing trend. While some gluten-free products are truly healthy, the label “gluten-free” doesn’t signify that it is a health food. Gluten-free or not, anything that his highly processed is a junk food. Most of the gluten-free products on the market are low in nutritional value and are oftentimes made with refined starches that can spike your blood sugar. Therefore, try to stick to foods that are naturally gluten-free like fruits and veggies.
8. Fat-Free Foods
Just because something is fat-free doesn’t mean it’s healthy. It has been long believed that consuming fat contributes to cardiovascular disease along with a number of other health-related issues. However, this myth has been debunked. As a result of the belief that fat is the enemy, food companies have removed fat from their products only to replace the fat with more sugar and other additives. While there’s nothing wrong with fat, eating an excess of sugar can be harmful to your health. Taking all this into account, steer clear of anything labeled “fat-free”.
9. Lean or Diet Frozen Dinners
Sorry to break it to you, but diet frozen meals aren’t any healthier than the regular ones. Frozen meals are heavily processed and contain very high amounts of sodium and preservatives. In addition, microwavable meals are usually low in nutrients and fiber. It is recommended that you skip the frozen dinners and prepare your own. If you’re always in a rush and don’t have time to cook dinner every night just meal prep. Meal prepping is way more ideal than frozen meals because it involves fresh and wholesome ingredients and encourages you to develop healthy habits.
10. Veggie Pasta
Don’t believe the marketing hype, veggie pasta isn’t any healthier than plain white or wheat pasta. It’s just plain pasta made with powdered vegetables, and the amount of actual vegetables in each serving is so small that you’re better off adding whole veggies to your plain pasta dish. A more nutritious substitute for veggie pasta is spaghetti squash and zucchini noodles. Both are fresh and healthier compared to processed veggie pasta.
Many believe that pretzels are a healthy substitute to fat-laden and greasy potato chips. However, pretzels do not have any nutritional value and contain enriched flour, which is known to spike your blood sugar thus causing you to want to eat more. If you can’t stop munching on pretzels, try baked plantain chips. Skip store-bought kind and make your own at home.
It’s a common misconception that butter is the enemy due to its high saturated fat content and that margarine is superior compared to butter. Moreover, margarine is worse than butter, the reason for this being that it is high in chemicals and refined vegetable oils. Interestingly, according to a 1997 study, those who ate margarine instead of butter were put at a higher risk of coronary heart disease. Therefore, it is recommended that you eat real butter, ideally grass-fed.
13. Veggie Chips
While agave nectar may seem like a natural alternative to regular sugar, it’s actually much worse. The main issue with table sugar is the amount of fructose, which can cause serious metabolic issues when consumed in excess. Regular sugar is about 50% fructose but Agave nectar is 70-90%. If you love agave nectar, don’t fret there are many substitutes for this sweet syrup some of them include raw honey, stevia, coconut sugar, and date sugar.