Top 7 Health Food Lies You Must Know About

Top 7 Health Food Lies You Must Know About

Posted on 26. Jul, 2009 by in Nutrition

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.

6. Organic

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.

Take Away

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.

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  • Since following the TT program and learning a lot about healthy eating from the other TT members like you (and Liz), I’ve made a lot of changes in my diet. Nothing out of the box, can (except white tuna fish). No processed food either. I am much more content, relaxed and full. Who knew eating 1/2 of an avocado at breakfast was waaay better (in terms of satiety) than eating a bowl of Special K!?

  • admin

    Hi Grace, it really is amazing how great and full you feel when you start eating healthy and eating whole foods. It just takes time to adapt to new things right? But, once you practice them enough, they become habits.

    Anna

  • Liz

    Great post, Anna! Nice to see that information getting out in more places. I can’t believe how many people try to argue with me about the breakfast cereal thing! Amazing, really.

    And Grace, so glad to hear that you have been able to make positive changes in your diet! You go girl! I too am amazed how much more satisfied I am by fruit, cottage cheese, and walnuts than I ever was by those “appetite-supressing diet shakes” I used to eat. Well, then again, maybe that shouldn’t be SUCH a surprise!

  • admin

    Hey Liz, that just goes to say how much we want to believe the blatant lies that the food industry feeds us. You’re right about the satisfaction in whole foods too – they can have a natural appetite suppressing effect.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Anna

  • Porsha

    Hey Anna!
    I love this article. You’re so right, and not enough people know about these fake “healthy” foods. Good job on spreading the word.
    Oh, and what are you drinking in your profile pic? Non fat Pina Colada?? LOL

  • admin

    Thanks, Porsha! haha…that’s funny….I wasn’t worried about what kind of drink it was actually…lol.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Anna

  • I added your blog to bookmarks. And i’ll read your articles more often!

  • Even though I’ve been on diet from January till May/June and lost 15kg in the process, I still learned a lot from this article – so thank you 🙂

    (Due to the summer I’ve decided to cut back on my diet and take it easy, while waiting for Fall to arrive so I can give it another 6 months and 15kg more).

  • admin

    Hi Arsento, thanks a lot for that!

    Hi Klaus, congrats on the weight loss. It definitely is a learning process and I’m glad I could help you out. Good luck on the rest of your journey.

    Anna

  • Rant on Anna – you’re right on the money! Tell it like it is and not what the marketing spin doctors want you to believe