I started my fitness journey totally clueless. I took the tiniest baby steps toward healthier choices and did what I thought was best. I still stand by the fact that it is OKAY to do that as a starting point. You don’t have to be an expert all at once.
I started out swapping in Subway for my normal Taco Bell, and diet sodas for my full calorie ones. I bought fat free sour cream and reduced fat wheat thins. These things seemed “healthy” to me.
While they were probably way better choices than what I WAS doing, which was mostly vodka, Jack in the Box, and gummi worms lol, I really didn’t realize they weren’t actually good for me.
As I moved along in my journey, I learned to cook, I learned about food, and I learned about the human body, especially mine. I found out out some surprising things that you may not realize, and I wanted to pass them on to you!
Here are 10 Foods that May be Fooling You:
1) Granola Snacks and Cereal: Granola has got to be healthy right? I mean it’s granola! Yeah … no. Well to be fair, some healthy granola does exist, it’s just harder to find and more expensive. For the most part you are getting a ton of sugar, really low nutrients, and super high calories because of all the excess saturated fat. The serving sizes are often only 1/4 a cup, which goes very quickly. The key here is to read your labels, and measure properly. If you don’t feel those calories are worth it, just skip it all together.
2) Frozen Lean Meals: This one was so me! I had the SmartOnes, Lean Cuisine, you name it. I had no idea that pre-made meals were anything but healthy! The issue is all you see is the calories. Yay they are low, must be good right? The thing is that they are so packed with carbs, sodium, sugar and fillers, that there isn’t really any actual nutrition in them. If it’s labeled diet, it’s probably a bad plan. Please read your labels! Make sure you’re getting protein and good fats, as well as vitamins. From my understanding, Amy’s Kitchen makes some great choices, so if you must, maybe check those out. Ideally you’d make your own meal plan, and foods, ahead of time, so that you wouldn’t have to even go there. Not sure how to do that? Check out my course at www.LearntoMealPlan.com to learn how!
3) Gatorade, Vitamin Water and other Sports Drinks: These used to be my go to for two things, mixers and hangovers lol. Okay, so maybe that is not you, but you may still view these as an acceptable drink for yourself, or your kids, thinking that they are healthy. They are actually loaded with sugar. Think about it, they are meant to replenish your depleted body after extreme physical activity. I know those dishes and laundry seemed like a lot of work, buuuut if you’re not in the NFL, lets just skip these all together. I’m pretty sure I have all my energy still intact from all this strenuous typing after all 😉
4) Wheat Bread / Muffins: I seriously thought I deserved an award the first time I bought wheat bread. Look my bread is BROWN, I’m so healthy and I’m going to lose 100 pounds this weekend, I just know it. That was pretty much my attitude toward this seemingly big life milestone lol. Turns out wheat doesn’t mean anything when it comes to bread. If you have ever grabbed a whole wheat loaf, and a white loaf, you’d be shocked to see that really the only big difference is the bleaching of the flour. It’s basically the same bread. If you really want to make a healthy choice you have to go to a whole GRAIN bread, nothing with enriched flour. Most whole grain bread is not fluffy and soft and makes you think of the white bread from your childhood. Basically, if your 5 year old won’t eat it, you’re probably on the right track 😉
5) Fat Free and Reduced Fat Foods: The labels may make you feel better, but the ingredients won’t. The issue is, that when the fat is removed, it needs to be replaced with something. Almost all of those products use more carbs, sugar, and salt, to replace that fat. That fat is something your body actually needs to function, and you’ve swapped out a tiny bit of unsaturated fat, for fillers. Fat is not the devil, it really is a great slow burning fuel source, and if you have the option, just go with the full fat item. Yes it’ll have more calories, but it will keep you full and keep the fillers away!
6) Restaurant Salads: This is one of my biggest pet peeves, next to the turkey burger. Did you know that restaurants purposely use a higher fat turkey, in order for the burger to taste better, often giving it more calories and fat than the beef on the menu!? Anyway, back to salads. I had this realization about 4 years ago in a TGIFridays. In CA they print the calories on the menu for you, and all the salads had MORE calories and fat, than some of the burgers and sandwiches. I started watching this info everywhere I went, from fast food, to fine dining, and it was almost always the case. Loaded with dressing, cheese, croutons, and sometimes even breaded chicken, the salad is NOT always the best choice. Please read your menus and plan ahead when you go out to eat, you’ll save yourself from being mislead.
7) Gluten Free Items: The problem with gluten free items is not that they are gluten free. It’s that for some reason seeing that on the label deems the food healthy, regardless of the sugar, calories, or chemicals list on the package! I actually once sat down on the floor in Whole Foods and read every single gluten free pancake mix. I couldn’t believe that out of a selection of over 10 choices, only 1 came close to being acceptable. I have learned to plan ahead for those sorts of things, and I now shop for them on VitaCost.com. I have a better selection of gluten free items that meet my standards. If you have never shopped there, you can use THIS LINK for $10 off your first order. They have super fast shipping which is awesome! I do keep it gluten free, and I believe in that, but let me encourage you to still read the labels.
8) Pretzels, Popcorn, and other “Healthy” Crunchy Snacks: The problem with pretzels is that they are almost empty carbs and calories. They are calorie dense and hold almost no nutritional value at all. Plus when you can eat them by the handful, it’s really hard to tell yourself to stop.
Popcorn is the same way, it goes right down and the next thing you know the whole bag is gone. Not to mention it comes covered in fake butter and a ton of chemicals, if you get the microwave kind, or weird fake powdered flavors in the bags. They do make some awesome brands, but you do need to know what to look for.
Again, I get almost all my healthy snacks from VitaCost.com, and this is no exception. Last time I checked they had over 100 healthy popcorn and pretzel choices. You can also get an air popper! We have THIS ONE and my husband absolutely loves it. Nothing touches the kernels but air and your hands.
9) Veggie Chips & Dried Fruits: Veggie chips are often not much better for you than potato chips honestly. They usually have just as much fat and sodium in them as regular chips. As for dried fruit, not only does the condensed fruit pack a ton more calories than you think, but it’s almost always dried with sugar and oils. If you really read the ingredients, you’re rarely getting veggies or fruit for REAL. My recommendation is to snack on crunchy sliced peppers or carrot sticks for veggies, and if you want dried fruit, you can always get a food dehydrator. The one I have even makes fruit roll ups! It’s THIS ONE on Amazon and I love it.
10) Teas & Juices: The issue with tea and juice, is that it’s so rarely tea or juice! When it comes to tea, there is a lot of label doctoring like “all natural” and such, that leads you to believe it’s just tea. It’s often full of sugar and ingredients that you’d never guess. The same thing with juices, not only have you taken all the fiber out of the fruit, which helps offset fruit’s natural sugar, but half the time it’s only 10% juice, and 90% nonsense.
In both cases, most bottles that appear to be a single serve package, will have 2 – 2.5 servings, almost tripling the true calorie and sugar contents! You can make your own tea at home, or even better, flavor your water. I use this awesome infusion pitcher and the possibilities are endless. Check out my post on How to Flavor Your Water with Fruit for more ideas.
I probably could have made this list 100 items long, but I really think this covers the most common ones I see.
I encourage you to always make the best AVAILABLE choice. I realize that sometimes with work, school, kids, travel and well, just life, you don’t always have the best choices at hand.
If you know what you are looking for you may still end up with one of these items in a pinch, but you can probably choose the absolute healthiest options.
I hope this helps! If you’d like to get these tips mailed directly to your inbox, just sign up for my newsletter below: