Happy Friday, everyone! Today, a little addition to our Expert Series roster from Bonnie, a Holistic Health Counselor at Natural Horizons Wellness Center. Enjoy!
Let’s face it: the advertising on so many foods out there today claims that it’s healthy when in fact, it later turns out it can hurt you. There are salads on restaurant menus that have as many calories as meaty entrees, and there are fruit cups laden with processed sugar and other additives. So how are you supposed to know the difference between the foods that are truly good for you and the foods to skip? Which items are actually healthy and which ones aren’t? To help answer these questions, here’s a look at a few basic facts about so called good-for-you snacks to keep in mind:
Salads Don’t Always Equal Health Food
Generally speaking, it’s hard to go wrong with fresh lettuce and vegetables, but it’s the added salad ingredients that get you into trouble. Think about salad dressings, for example, many of which are “loaded with sugar, trans fats, artificial chemicals and vegetable oils,” according to TamaraL at 4All Minds and Bodies. Slather your salad with most commercial dressings and you give yourself processed, artificial food that can be as bad as junk food.
Not All Whole-Grain Breads Are the Same
If you think you’re playing it safe by getting your sandwich on whole-wheat bread, think again. Unfortunately most of today’s multigrain breads are stuffed with refined grains rather than unprocessed whole ones. This is why you need to read nutrition labels: If the first ingredient in the list is “bleached” or “enriched” flour, your bread may not be as healthy as you think.
Low Fat Is Often High Sugar
While the low-fat craze is less popular today than it was in the past, there are still plenty of products claiming to be healthy because their fat content is so low. Here’s the problem: removing fat removes flavor, so manufacturers end up adding other things into the food to compensate. A lot of times, this means higher sugar or higher additives, designed to boost the flavor factor, but unfortunately, also lowering nutritional benefits.
Smoothies Aren’t Milkshakes
When you’re talking about fresh fruit, water and ice, you’re talking about a healthy smoothie loaded with nutrition — however, many mainstream smoothies will also add sugar, sherbet or even ice cream. “Some chains serve smoothies that contain up to 500 calories,” says Katherine Brooking, MS, RD, at Cooking Light. “For the most economical and healthy smoothies, consider making your own.”
It’s Probably Best to Skip the Sports Drinks
Everybody knows that staying hydrated is important, particularly when you’re engaging in regular physical activity. But the drinks you choose are equally as important. Water or water with fruit inside it is always a safe bet, but sports drinks are tricky. “If they’ve got more than 1 or 2 ingredients, my advice is to skip it,” says an article at Dr. Oz's website. “That’s because any drink with various ingredients is likely to either have added calories in the form of simple sugars…[or] artificial sweeteners, which aren’t great for your waistline, either.” With drinks as with food, remember the simpler the ingredients list, the better.
When it comes to the things you put into your body, the best foods are the least-complex foods. An apple is usually a better choice than a packaged food. Fresh blueberries make a better afternoon snack than a candy bar. And for the decisions that feel a little less obvious, make it a habit to read labels to avoid clever marketing strategies that say “healthy” or “nutritious” when they’re anything but. Reading labels takes time and thought — but it can save you from ingesting ingredients you’ve never heard of that were cooked somewhere in a lab rather than found in the natural world. By being savvy to the foods on the market now, you will be better prepared to find healthy snacks that are actually healthy, nourishing your body to better wellness with every meal.
Bonnie graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University and now works at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers as a Certified Health Counselor.