Are you confused about which foods are really healthy? Each day we are so inundated with health food lies that we have become immune to them. To make matters worse, the government makes it easier for food manufacturers to falsely label food products because there are many loop holes in labeling laws. At the end of this post, you will be able to spot and smell a health food lie when you see it.
While many people have the common knowledge that fast food, sweets, and other common junk foods are not good for our health, it is the so-called healthy foods that are tricky to identify. During the little time that I spend watching t.v., I see so many health claims from the food industry that I decided to create a list of the most common ones and show you how to detect a health food lie. This post does not even include the lies from the supplement industry. But, if you want to read up on that, JC from JCD Fitness wrote a recent article about that and you can read it by clicking here.
Now, for our list. Pay careful attention because I want you to be able to spot these health food lies the next time you visit the grocery store.
1. Cereals are Healthy
This is a common lie that a lot of people generally believe to be true. Cheerios is probably the most popular “healthy” cereal because of their heavy marketing slogan which claims that it “can lower your cholesterol.” Notice how the word “can” conspicuously made its way to their slogan. That means that there’s a possibility that it can lower your cholesterol but it’s not for sure. When I researched the ingredients of Cheerios online, I found out that most ingredients contained “starch” in its name and the third ingredient is sugar. This means that Cheerios is basically made up of mostly carbohydrates with a little bit of fiber and protein. Don’t get me wrong, if you used to eat bacon and bagels for breakfast or not used to eating breakfast at all, having Cheerios for breakfast is a relatively healthier option but it’s not the cereal of choice for optimum health.
If there is one cereal that I would recommend to my clients, it would be Fiber One Cereal but I would only recommend the Original Bran flavor and not the other ones because it has the highest fiber content and has zero calories from sugar. The ingredients in this cereal are mostly made from bran which is the part of grains that contain the most fiber which in turn gives our bodies the most health benefits.
2. Sugar Free
Besides diet drinks and other zero calorie drinks our there, most products that are touted as “sugar free” are usually high in fat and carbohydrates. You can mostly see “sugar free” claims on candies, salad dressings, and baked goods. For example, Hershey’s came out with a new line of sugar free chocolate. When you look at the nutrition information for their Sugar Free Special Dark Chocolate, you can see that 5 square pieces (one serving) of it contains, 15 g of fat with 9 g of it coming from saturated fat and 23 g of carbohydrates. That’s a whopping 140 calories from fat alone. This signals a red flag in my head so I’d rather have 85% dark chocolate than eat this so called “special dark chocolate.” It makes me wonder what makes it really special.
3. Fat Free
The fat free claim in health foods is the opposite of the claim sugar-free. Most fat free foods are heavily laden with sugar. This includes fat free ice cream, fat free cookies, fat free cakes, etc. A lot of people seem to think that eating fat free foods is the answer to losing weight but in fact, it is quite the opposite. Eating healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids can actually help you lose weight.
Another type of food where the fat free claim is used a lot is in meats like hotdogs, ground beef, deli lunch meats, etc. Let’s take Oscar Mayer’s fat free hot dogs for example. Here are the nutrition facts:
- Serving size: 1 link
- Calories per serving: 39
- Calories from Fat: 2
- Percentage of Calories from Fat: 4.6%
- Total Fat: 0.2 g
So, how can it contain 0.2 g of fat and still be labeled fat free? The FDA says that as long as a food product has less than .5 g of fat, it can be labeled fat free. While 0.2 g of fat may not look like a lot to you, I don’t ever remember eating just one hotdog in one sitting. Most people would probably eat 3 hotdogs on average so the fat definitely adds up.
4. Portion Control Meals or Snacks
To a dieter’s ear, 100 calorie packs or snacks are probably music to their ears. You mean, I can eat a chocolate chip cookie and only consume 100 calories? Yey!….Nay 🙁 Again, the sugar in these so called portion control snacks can wreak havoc to your insulin levels which means that they trigger even more sweet cravings later on. You’re better off spending those calories on a fruit which helps stabilize your blood sugar levels.
Another food in the portion control category are the frozen dinners or meals. This may sound like a good option for “busy” people because it requires less preparation time but what’s hidden inside all these convenient little packages is a LOT of sodium. In order to preserve the food and add more flavor to frozen meals, the manufacturers add an insane amount of salt which can cause serious health problems such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, etc. when eaten regularly.
5. Healthy Fats
I’m all for eating healthy fats – no doubt about it. But, keep in mind that when you do eat healthy fats from Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Almonds, Pecans, etc, that fats are still high in calories. Time and time again, I will watch a health food channel and see the host put lots and lots of olive oil in most of their meals. Yes, it’s healthy but if you eat too much of it, you’re still taking in a lot of calories. To give you an idea about the calorie content in healthy fats, here is a list of common sources:
- 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil: 119 calories
- 20 pieces Pecan Halves: 196 calories
- 24 Whole Almond Kernels: 163 calories
- 2 tablespoons Natural Peanut Butter: 190 calories
- 14 pieces Walnut Halves: 185 calories
One important lesson from this: healthy fats are good for you but enjoy them in moderation.
Ok, you have to read this one carefully. Personally, I love to get my organic fruits and vegetables from the farmer’s market because they are oh so fresh and grown locally. However, the “organic” label has been misused so many times that it kinda loses its real meaning. For instance, on my trip to the grocery store the other day, I was so surprised to find organic potato chips and organic ice cream. I’m fine with foods being labeled organic but don’t assume that it’s automatically good for you just because it’s lableled as such.
7. Fruit Juice and Diet Sodas
But it’s fruit juice! Let’s keep this in mind: we eat fruits for its fiber and natural sugar content. Fruit Juices are nothing but pasteurized/processed sugar and is probably not any better than diet sodas. If you want fruit, eat a whole one from the farmer’s market – you can thank me later and so will your body.
Normally, I wouldn’t rant here in my blog. But, there are certain things such as these health food lies that have been bothering me for a long time. The lesson of the whole post is this: if you are buying anything that is packaged, boxed, or processed, check the ingredients first and really look into the nutrition facts. Usually, if a product has less than 3 recognizable ingredients (not some weird name you can’t pronounce), you will be fine. Otherwise, we will all be better off with eating more whole foods and buying from local farmers. It’s a rule that is simple enough and yet many people fail to follow because we’re so caught up in believing that there are magical foods out there that will solve all our health and weight loss problems. Big news ==> there aren’t.
While it’s fine to have these types of food once in awhile, don’t buy them in the false belief that they will help you reach your fat loss goals because you will face a huge disappointment.