Navigating the food aisles at the grocery store is always a challenge. We are continuously bombarded with the newest research about health and nutrition, and processed goods with labels screaming the latest health buzzwords embellish the shelves. These are everywhere -- insidious, proliferous, pretend foods that we are convinced we need to consume for our health and longevity. Here are a few of the worst offenders:
1. Margarine and low fat foods
Processed, hydrogenated and chemically treated. Butter is better and tastier, always!
Fat tastes good and has any other benefits. When manufacturers take out the fat, they need to replace all that good taste with something equally as enticing and more stimulating to the addictive centers in the brain. Yogurts, salad dressings, cookies and condiments labeled low fat tend to be high sugar items in disguise.
2. Highly processed yogurts
Most yogurt bears no resemblance to the cultured, fermented, slightly sour tasting milk product they are supposedly based on. Instead they are highly processed, devoid of nutrients, low fat and loaded with sugar or sugar substitutes (see above). The wonderful probiotic bacteria that create and live in real yogurt are an ineffective, added afterthought in commercially manufactured brands. Try full fat (plain) greek yogurt with high levels of active bacterial cultures and few other ingredients, especially sugar and sugar substitutes. Even better, making your own yogurt is easy and inexpensive and ensures you probiotics are alive and ready to work for you -- check out this slow cooker yogurt recipe.
3. Agave nectar
Agave nectar has an incredible amount of fructose in it which is believed to trigger fructose malabsorption. I once switched to agave in my morning coffee just to try it out and ended up getting awful stomach pains that lasted for at least an hour each day. Organic, minimally processed, nonGMO cane sugar in your morning beverage will do way less harm (and it tastes better too). I am not saying just eat sugar but in this context there are way worse additives you are probably consuming. For ways to reduce sugar in your diet read this post.
The ingredient list and nutrition label on this product tells us that having this spread before going to the gym would pretty much make it next too impossible to find the energy to climb as rope because of the intense sugar rush you'd experience followed by a crash.
5. Nutritious bars
Individually wrapped snacks, protein and energy bars are high priced (and high profit) candy bars. These bars deserve as much space in your child's lunch box as a chocolate bar or cookies. They are not a replacement for a realfood meal. This energy bar recipe is a quick, healthy alternative to store bought brands.
6. Wheat/Multigrain/Wholegrain bread
Multigrain or wheat bread packaging often makes you think the bread is manufactured from whole wheat but actually uses refined grains. Always check the list of ingredients on the bread you buy, or better yet, ditch the wheat and related products altogether! Check back for my upcoming post about gluten.
7. Smoothies from the local juice bar
These are often packed with way too much fruit (i.e., fructose) to be consumed at any one time. This is not even counting the yogurt and sorbets which are often sugar bombs in disguise. I prefer calling them what they truly are fancy, overpriced milkshakes. Make your own smoothies at home for nutritious liquid nourishment. Check out Dr. Pam's smoothie recipe.
Be weary of most brands of granola on the market. They are basically just crushed up cookies, candied nuts and sweetened dried fruits. Always read the list of ingredients.
9. Instant oatmeal packages
Oatmeal is often not a health food and it is highly processed (often in the same facility as wheat) and packed with sugars and flavourings. Your little package of whole grain instant oatmeal will sustain you for about 20 minutes, until you have a sugar crash and need your morning smoothie. Stick with organic, steel cut oats made the old fashioned way!
10. Vitamin water
Can you say uncarbonated soda? Vitamin water is sugar water with a fancy label and often a higher price point.
Almost everything in a package has a health claim attached. This is definitely a case of buyer beware rather than blindly believing what the food industry claims on the packaging.
Do your research. Stick with real, whole foods as much as possible and be honest with yourself about your treats and indulgences (call them what they are)!
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For more about nutrition, tips to improve overall health and wellbeing, recipes and meal plans, visit Integrative Health.
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