Healthy foods are being pushed at us all the time. In fact foods that are labeled as healthy or that are considered in the wellness arena have seen a continuous boom in the consumer food trends for a few years now. But if we are buying more and more of these ‘healthy’ products, why is it that America is getting heavier and heavier?
Keeping in mind that healthy is not a size, obesity is at its highest level ever with about 40 percent of U.S. adults and 18.5 percent of children, considered obese.
Supermarkets are loaded with more processed foods touting ‘healthy‘ than ever before. Any food can make you gain weight if you overeat it, but most of us are not getting fat due to eating too many vegetables. Food manufacturers are creating package after package of foods that scream healthy using enticing words and phrases like ‘sugar free’, ‘gluten free’, ‘zero fat’, ‘all-natural’ ‘low-fat and ‘now with flax seeds’ just to name a few. We as consumers are susceptible to these phrases because why would we NOT believe them? They are regulated, aren’t they? So they have to tell the truth… don’t they?
Labels are only somewhat regulated and words such as ‘natural’ are not regulated at all (take a second look at the above photo- what is actually NATURAL about a cheeto??) What is 100% true is that labels are misleading. But while the front of the packages are often deceptive, the back of the package (the ingredients) don’t lie.
So does the deception really lie with the food manufacturer? I’m not necessarily arguing in this post whether it does or doesn’t, but I firmly believe that is is our responsibility/right/choice to know what we are eating.
With that in mind, I’m going to dive into a few foods that claim to be so-called healthy and then I’ll share a couple of my favorite tips to help you decipher labels better.
Here’s my current top 7 foods that we need to be more mindful of the ingredients:
- Breakfast cereals: These might be the worst foods you can eat for breakfast because they spike your blood sugar and insulin levels to start, then the crash comes which makes the body crave another refined carb snack. Try an egg and veggie omelet to help keep your blood sugar level.
- Sports drinks + nutrition waters: The body absorbs nutrients more effectively from real food than it does supplements and these drinks are loaded with sugar. If you need hydration, mix a glass of water with a good pinch of Himalayan Pink Salt, a squeeze of lemon/lime/orange and a spoon of maple syrup if you need a sweet kick.
- Commercial salad dressings: Sugar, sugar and more sugar along with processed chemicals to stabilize these for long shelf life. Make your own dressing by whisking olive oil, lemon, pepper and a touch of honey.
- Gluten-free foods: Any processed food labeled gluten-free seems to have a magnetic draw to much of the population these days. But, did you know that many gluten-free products have more calories than their gluten counterparts? Plus manufacturers need to find a replacement to gluten so these products are often filled with industrial seed oils, cornstarch, extra sugar, artificial sweeteners and soy that all disrupts hormones, lacks vitamins and minerals, causes inflammation, IBS and leaky gut syndrome, fuels the bad gut bacteria, increases insulin resistance and blood sugar swings and actually causes weight gain. Check out my post for further on The Dangers of Gluten Free Products here.
- Coffee drinks (especially the premixed cold coffee drinks taking over store shelves) : Black coffee is fine if it agrees with you, but flavored syrups are just flat out sugar and non-dairy creamers are often corn syrup and hydrogenated vegetable oils. Try spicing up your coffee with cinnamon or a dash of vanilla extract instead.
- Protein/energy bars + granola (eh gads!): We are obsessed with protein! It’s rare we don’t eat enough and these bars/granola typically contain waaayy too much sugar. In one Nature Valley Trail Mix bar, I counted 9 different types of sugars used (out of a total of 11 ingredients!) They are ok once in a while but not for every day consumption.
- Smoothies + acai bowls: when made with mostly vegetables these can be a super start to the day, but many smoothies and juices are all fruit-based and some even have flavored yogurts and ice creams mixed in. Strive for 3 to 1 veggies to fruit to control blood sugar and get the most nutrient density.
Now let’s talk label deciphering tips. First, skip the front of the package and go directly to the back.
- Look at the portion size. Often single-serving looking bags actually contain 2 servings!
- Look at the ingredients. Can you pronounce everything?
- Ingredients are listed most to least. So if you pick up a jar of peanut butter and sugar is the listed before peanuts- this is a big warning.
One of my favorite things I ask myself is “How is this going to make me feel after I eat it?” That often tells me much more than the label itself.
Need help with label reading or deciphering health foods? Reach out and let’s talk.