A lot of what we believe about health and fitness is derived from creative marketing schemes, the influence of lobbyists and distorted information. It is no wonder that there are so many diets that uphold conflicting messages. As consumers, it can be downright confusing trying to figure out which foods to eat when establishing a healthy diet. The following list will help guide you as it exposes foods that are often thought to be healthy but actually carry serious concerns.
1. Conventional breakfast cereals and bars. These are often touted for their ability to lower cholesterol, provide a large portion of daily whole grain and fiber needs or serve as a means to reduce caloric consumption. These benefits come with an equal amount of risk though. Most of these boxed goodies contain high amounts of additives and artificial sugars. Examples include the various cereals served in the dining commons, Quaker Chewy Bars and other similar products. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce the words found on a product’s ingredient list, then it probably isn’t worth eating.
Alternatives: Oatmeal is the only whole food commonly eaten at breakfast in the United States. It is full of antioxidants, fiber and actually accomplishes what most breakfast cereals can only claim to!
2. Greek yogurt and Whey Protein Powder. No doubt, these products contain a great dose of protein. Protein is very important to muscle repair and overall health; however, the source of this protein is important. Yogurt and whey products, being dairy, are almost always pumped full of hormones, create mucus build up and are acid-forming in our bodies. As a result, our bones are stripped of calcium. Furthermore, a diet high in animal products is correlated to many major diseases, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Alternatives: Many whole foods contain high amounts of protein, like nuts and beans. If you’re still craving the texture and taste of yogurt, check out coconut and almond yogurts!
3. Sports drinks and Juice. After working out, replenishing glycogen and electrolytes is certainly necessary, but sports drinks are often nothing more than sugar and hardly provide sufficient electrolytes. Similarly, most juices, including orange juice and apple juice, contain far more sugar than nutrients. These drinks consist more of artificial flavor and sugar than they do real fruit, despite what the bottle may claim. Orange juice, for example, contains the same amount of sugar as Coca Cola!
Alternatives: Coconut water is a great natural alternative to sports drinks because it contains high amounts of electrolytes. Fresh squeezed is the only way to actually receive nutrients from juice so most people should just stick to water if all that’s available is bottled juices, like Tropicana.
4. Meal replacement/Weight Loss Programs. These programs, including Nutrisystem and Weight Watchers, are extremely popular methods of losing weight and most accomplish this goal for thousands of people. However, there is a false correlation between having a low weight and being healthy. The problem with these programs is when they reduce quantity, they also reduce quality. Most of the ingredients in these meals are artificial. And what’s more, such plans are not sustainable and end after several months.
Alternatives: A balanced diet of whole foods, consisting mainly of vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes. It’s essentially impossible to gain weight when abstaining from processed foods!