Like a lot of people, we try to eat somewhat healthy in-between going to happy hour and ordering Seamless too many nights in a row. While we know things like broccoli, leafy greens, berries, and whole grains are good for us, what about the different foods that pop up that claim to be the next organic thing we didn't know we needed in our lives?
Forget the clever advertising, the Instagram-friendly foods, and nutritional claims plastered all over, let's take a look at a handful of foods that are often synonymous with healthy eating but actually aren't all that great for us.
1. Gluten-free pasta.
People often thinking eating gluten free means eating healthy, but unless you're part of the one percent of the population that has a medical condition that requires avoiding gluten, this actually isn't true. Manufacturers of gluten-free pasta, pretzels, and other gluten-free snacks often swap out gluten with things that aren't all that great for us, like fat and flours with limited nutrients. If you really want to cut down on how much gluten you're consuming, try swapping out your refined carbs with whole grains and vegetable sources of carbohydrates.
2. Energy bars.
It's so easy to grab an energy bar on the way out the door in the morning and think that even if you didn't spend any time on breakfast, you at least grabbed something somewhat healthy to tide you over until lunch. While energy bars contain a decent amount of protein content, they're often filled with sugar, trans fat, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. Skip the added junk and try making your own energy bars at home where ingredients like dry oatmeal, coconut flakes, peanut butter, acai seeds, and semi-sweet chocolate chips are all you need to create a little bar of energy on your own.
3. Egg white-only anything.
If you're going to eat an egg, you might as well go all the way and eat the entire thing. Egg yolks contain not only half the egg's protein but choline (an essential nutrient), and a ton of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) as well. When you opt for the "healthy" breakfast choice, like an egg-white omelet, you're actually missing out on a ton of health benefits you'd otherwise get if you just ignored the health fad.
4. Flavored instant oatmeal.
Oatmeal is a great choice in the morning when you're looking for a whole-grain energy source, but if you're opting for instant oatmeal you might want to double check the ingredient list. Those little packets are often low in fiber and protein and include added sugar, so instead of keeping you full throughout the morning they can leave you with an energy crash before you even get to lunch. When you check out the ingredient list make sure the first ingredients include steel cut oats, whole oats, and one that has at least 4g of fiber and 5g protein per serving.
5. Breakfast cereal.
31% of Americans start their day with cereal but rarely are these cereals nutritious or organic even if they claim to be. Cereals like Honey Nut Cheerios and Raisin Bran surprisingly contain the same amount of sugar as Golden Crisp or Fruity Pebbles, and many cereals that boast about their high-fiber content are often supplemented with added fiber that isn't as absorbable to make up for all of the over processed grains it includes. Look for cereals that have less than 6 grams of sugar per serving. When it comes to cereal, it pays to ignore the health claims on the box and spend a little bit more time in the cereal aisle before making a decision.
6. Pita chips.
Pita chips have become trendy in the past few years as a healthy alternative option to potato chips or other greasy snacks. We often assume baked over fried chips is always the better choice for our bodies, but it doesn't matter which way they're cooked or prepared, most pita chips are made with refined grains that offer little nutritional value or fiber. Opt for making them at home or do some digging in the chip aisle to find ones made with whole-grain flour.
7. Multi-grain and wheat breads.
We know by now white bread isn't the best choice when we're trying to pick a healthier bread option, but not all multi-grain and wheat breads are great for us either. It turns out the current trend of whole-grain products isn't regulated in terms of how much of their food content is actually whole-grain, and though whole-grain is synonymous with health, many breads don't actually bring a lot of fiber to the table. For example, even if something is labeled "multi-grain" or "seven-grain," they often use refined flour, and even worse, may also contain artificial sweeteners, food coloring, or even preservatives to help sustain shelf-life.
8. Bottled green juices.
It's so easy to think you're making the healthy choice when you pick up a bottle of green juice that comes in attractive packaging with all of its health claims on the front. While it's nice to think we could get a good dose of health in one small bottle of juice, we're actually just consuming a lot of sugar. Because of the fruit often used to balance out the flavors of the vegetables, some juices can pack up to 50 grams of sugar per bottle. Yikes! Try making your own green juice at home where you can control what's in your recipe.
9. Packaged turkey.
Turkey is a great source of lean protein and it's a good choice when you want a quick snack or a sandwich, but many aren't aware the turkey slices that come pre-packaged are often filled with sodium and nitrates. For some brands, one 2-oz. serving contains nearly one-third of the maximum recommended daily sodium intake. Double check the nutrition labels before you buy or aim to buy your turkey slices fresh from the deli.