Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes have taken the world by storm. And if you’re like many Americans, you’ve tried to curb your eating habits and get to the gym more often to decrease your risk of these diseases.
But in your quest to eat healthier, you might have fallen pretty to claims from food manufacturer or two. One side effect of Americans’ recent push to get healthier is that food manufacturers now plaster terms like “light” and “low fat” onto tons of products. And unfortunately, most of these “health foods” are actually quite bad for you.
Next time you head to the grocery store, say no to the following seven foods.
1. Trail Mix
Unless you go on a backpacking trip or a day hike, leave the trail mix on the shelf. Trail mix is packed with salt, sugar, and calories. Its design provides quick energy to people who need extra calories while they hike. If you don't burn those calories off on the trail, they’ll build up in all the wrong places.
What to Eat Instead: Buy a can of unsalted nuts to snack on between meals. They’ll provide you with an energy boost without all the unnecessary salt and sugar.
2. Dried Fruit
Just like fresh fruit, dried fruits contain fiber and nutritious vitamins and minerals. But they also often contain added sugar and sulfur to stay fresher longer. As a result, dried fruit contains up to three times more calories than the same amount of fresh fruit.
What to Eat Instead: Stick with fresh fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth. It’ll help you feel full without the extra calories.
3. “Wheat” Bread
Manufacturers can add wheat to any food and call it a wheat product. As a result, most “wheat” bread is really white bread with a little bit of wheat flour mixed in.
What to Eat Instead: Only buy wheat products that have a “100% wheat” label. If you want to cut several hundred calories, skip the bread completely and put your next sandwich in romaine lettuce.
Much like trail mix, granola contains a lot of sugar and sodium. It provides quick energy for people on the go but isn’t that healthy as an everyday snack. Granola bars often contain large amounts of fiber and small amounts of nutrients.
What to Eat Instead: Slice some fruit, such as apples or mangos, to curb your sugar craving. If you still crave sugar, eat a small piece of dark chocolate.
5. Flavored Non-Dairy Milk
Soy milk is all the rage these days, and for good reason. It offers a number of health benefits, as it contains protein and potassium. But the yummy chocolate, vanilla, and caramel varieties aren’t quite as good for you. In fact, they can contain up to 50 more calories and 10 more grams of sugar per serving than plain versions.
What to Eat Instead: If you can’t stand the taste of plain soy milk, try almond milk or hemp milk. If you don't mind dairy products, skim milk also gives you a healthy option.
6. Salad Dressings
Leafy greens and vegetables work wonders for your body. The dressings you put on top of them, however, do not. Salad dressings teem with trans fats and artificial sweeteners. They add extra calories and sugar to an originally healthy meal.
What to Eat Instead: Combine extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a few drops of fresh lemon juice for a healthy vinaigrette. Add fresh minced garlic or herbs to add some extra flavor.
7. Fruit Juice
While 100% fruit juice does contain a lot of vitamins and minerals, it contains significantly more calories than its fresh fruit counterpart. Furthermore, most fruit juices don’t contain 100% fruit juice. Instead, they contain artificial sweeteners and flavorings.
What to Eat Instead: Unless you want to gain weight, skip the fruit juice. Not only does fresh fruit contain fewer calories, it offers more fiber.
8. Reduced Fat Peanut Butter
Peanuts are rich in monounsaturated fats, also known as “healthy” or “good” fats. Reduced fat peanut butter contains little to none of these fats and instead only contain empty calories.
What to Eat Instead: Choose a full-fat or natural peanut butter. They have the same amount (or just a few more) calories but with less sugar.
9. Sports Drinks
The University of Florida developed Gatorade, the original sports drink, to quickly replenish athletes’ electrolytes. If you’re not an elite athlete who burns thousands of calories a day, you don’t need these electrolytes or the extra sugar.
What to Drink Instead: Water is your body’s best friend—it’s the best choice you can make when it comes to hydrating. You should only drink a sports drink if you’ll exercise for several hours (i.e., running a marathon) or work outside in the sun (working construction, mowing lawns, etc.).
Keep these foods in mind next time you head to the supermarket. A good rule of thumb to remember when you’re trying to lose weight is the fresher, the better. Stick with fresh fruits and vegetables and unprocessed foods to shed those extra pounds. Take a look at our other blogs for more health tips.