'Healthy', 'natural' and 'fat-free' are just some examples of health food labels we see and hear everyday, but are they all that they seem? We asked the experts.
Popcorn has been making a way back to our shelves in a BIG way. Sales have soared in the past few years with growing views that it’s a healthier alternative, which is not far from true! However, when it comes to popcorn, quality AND quantity matter.
Nutritionist, Emma Wight-Boycott says, "Popcorn can be altered from a delicious healthy snack into a salty sweet heart attack! If you buy corn kernels and pop it into an air popper with mineral salts it's amazingly tasty and healthy, but as soon as you make it with heated trans fats and add table salt or sugar you are getting rid of all of it's health value. The trans fats cause free radical damage while the salt and sugar clog your arteries and cause cravings - no good!"
Microwave popcorn is especially bad. Added chemicals in microwave bags have been shown to convert into carcinogens when heated, which is reason enough to ditch the kernel itself!
Lets face it, most of us buy into easy microwavable popcorn and gourmet snack bags, but a part from being a wholegrain and a good source of magnesium overall popcorn isn't that nutritious. You can get a far better snack for lunch by grabbing a cup of baby carrots and hummus. So seriously, take it easy with the kernels folks!
2. Yogurt covered raisins
Sounds pretty healthy, right? Not so fast. Although yogurt and raisins, individually, are generally pretty healthy yogurt covered raisins are not really what you think. In fact, they’re not exactly 'yogurt covered' either...
"Yogurt is full of healthy bacteria but to harden it to cover raisins it MUST have added sugars. Raisins are basically sugar laden grapes," says Emma.
These yummy raisins are actually a concoction of sugar, oil, milk powder, yogurt powder and corn syrup, which sounds calorific to us! But if you do decide to have a bag of these little guys consider it one of your occasional treats rather than a healthy snack alternative. There's nothing healthy about them at all. Try grapes and fresh natural Greek yogurt instead. Delicious and healthy!
3. Protein bars
Love how full protein bars make you feel? It really depends on which ones you choose, but generally we'd say don't count on them!
Emma says, "The supplier is important. Bad ingredients, horrible fillers, and you have a product that is binding and tasteless. These are definitely a no-no if you're dieting, not a staple item."
They're also often high in energy enhancing sugars, packing in calories and burdening your weight loss. It ain't doing us any favors, girls. Might as well grab a Snickers bar!
4. Granola cereals
Granola isn’t always your best friend. Although, they’ve had a reputation as a ‘healthy’ snack or breakfast choice in the past few years, in most cases it’s far more fattening than you think. With high sugar, salt, powdered milk and other crazy additives it's hard to say that granola stands firm as a healthy contender.
Emma says, "When I see the word granola I see sugar!! They usually contain around 30% sugar compared to oat oatmeal at less than 1% sugar," which is pretty shocking if you ask us.
But, if you really want granolas you CAN make a healthier version at home. All you have to do is bake rolled oats, nuts, dried fruit and add vanilla extract and organic honey for added sweetness. (Sounds yummy, right?) Roast until golden and voilà! A healthy granola cereal!
Note, it’s still moderately high in calories (even when you make it) so try to switch up your meals every week so your not chowing it down everyday.
Parfaits aren’t as perfect and beautiful as they seem. Unless you make a parfait yourself, with greek yoghurt, fresh fruit, raw nuts and rolled oats, ordering a deliciously layered parfait can mean a pretty heavy calorie intake.
"While it can look healthy a parfait contains frozen sugar, syrup, egg and cream. Try using a good protein powder, vanilla paste, egg and stevia for a much healthier blood sugar balancing version," Emma says.
Overall, it's a great staple for protein if you're eating the right one, but try sticking to homemade versions like Emma recommends!
6. Low-fat frozen meals
Contrary to popular belief, low-calorie frozen meals aren't always as healthy as they claim to be. The great thing about frozen meals is that they're portion controlled, but that's about all the help you're getting when it comes to managing your weight and your diet.
Our main concern with frozen meals is that they are low in calories, but sky high in sodium and sugars so unless you get a healthy, low calorie meal marked 'low in sodium' the chances of it being that healthy are slim to none.
Emma also notes, "If fat is removed from food the mouth-feel or texture of a food or meal is removed. The texture or mouth feel must then be replaced with a gum or thickener and with flavor. The thickener can cause digestive upset while the added flavor usually comes from sugar."
We're not finished yet - frozen meals simply do not contain enough fruit and vegetables to help you reach even the MINIMUM amount of recommended fruit and veg each day. So not only are you not helping your body lose weight and keep it off, but you're limiting the amount of nutrients your body gets too.
A much better idea would be to cook simple, fresh meals such as baked salmon and salad (which takes little time) than going down the frozen meal route. Time to defrost those diets!
7. Hearty bran muffins
Whoever invented bran muffins is a joke! These 'healthy' looking bites are only an excuse to indulge in comforting treats. Past studies have shown that bran muffins today are over 350 calories, which is equivalent to an ENTIRE meal. Although it tends to be high in sodium and sugar it's not really the ingredients to blame but actually the portion size.
If you still want to enjoy munching on your bran without the ballooning effect on your waistline make your own homemade treats and know what's going into your body.It 'is simpler than you think.
8. Fast food salads
Feeling proud because you ordered a caesar salad at your favourite fast food restaurant? Don't flatter yourself too much. These seemingly healthy processed salads can pack in a TON of calories. Added croutons, hidden sugars, fried chicken and dressing atop (that's what makes it so damn tasty)? That's a recipe for diet disaster.
Emma recommends going "for a salad with a dressing on the side so you can control the portion size." Better still, "keep olive oil and balsamic in a spray bottle at your desk or in your kitchen."
Basically, if you're going to eat out, go all out, otherwise the healthiest option would be to have a home cooked meal. It's tastier, more nutritious and cheaper! Yes, please.
So you've bought yourself a nice wrap for lunch. Seems pretty healthy from the outside, right? A bit of lettuce peeking through, cold cuts, cheese and flat bread...much better than a burger... well, you'd think...
The main culprit here is what's in the wrap. Not only can you easily pack in 300 calories with highly processed, refined tortilla and flatbreads but wraps can be just as "dense in calories and wheat as sandwiches," says Emma.
Wraps in themselves often contain little nutritional value and are likely smothered in butter or mayonnaise. If you really fancy a wrap go for an avocado spread instead. Read those labels girls.
While making a smoothie at home or customizing your own at a local juice bar can be highly nutritious, some store-bought smoothies are often far, far away from healthy. With concentrated fruit juices and added creams and yogurts these type of smoothies can actually multiply your calorie intake (without even knowing it).
Emma's tip? Make your own with almond milk and fury to ensure you don't get added sugar or thickeners. Add fruits, veggies, super powders - be creative with it - the choice is yours!
What other 'healthy snacks' do you avoid? Tweet us @wewomenCA!
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