Think you eat a pretty healthy diet?
Always make sure you opt for the healthy versions of your favourite foods when you head to the supermarket because you’re determined to stay as vibrantly healthy, energetic and slim for as long as possible?
If so, you could be in for quite a surprise.
Because many of the foods we think are really good for us are actually nothing of the sort. Worse still, they could actually be damaging our health and waistlines far more than we realise.
So let me get you clued up on which 9 ‘healthy’ foods we should definitely evict from our shopping trolley, plus share with you the real healthy options that will keep you nourished and feeling great.
Did you know that they’ve finally admitted that what we always suspected- margarine is absolutely awful for your body?
(And yes, even if you’re carefully selecting a cholesterol-friendly brand which claims to be great for you.)
You only have to take a look at the ingredients label to see the evidence for yourself- margarine is nothing but a highly processed, refined ‘fake’ food, which has been pumped full of additives, low-grade oils and even colouring to make it seem more appetizing.
Not just that, but various studies have found that the trans fats found in margarine can raise your risk of death by 34%, increase inflammation within your body, damage your heart, and even make you stupid!
If you want something to spread on your lovingly toasted bread, opt for full-fat butter, or if you’re vegan, substitute with hummus, mashed avocado or even coconut oil instead.
2. Low Fat Flavoured Yoghurt
Peer into the lunchbox of any self-respecting slimmer or health food nut and you’re likely to find a small pot of yoghurt. You might even dabble with those fruity flavoured dairy products from time to time, especially if they boast ‘low fat’ or ‘healthy’ on their label.
But those flavoured yoghurts are about as far from being a healthy food as you could possibly imagine- in your average 200g pot you’ll often find 25g of sugar. That’s around 6 teaspoons of sugar per pot!! (around 12.5%!)
Don’t think you can sidestep the issue by choosing a yoghurt with artificial sweeteners instead- these are just as bad, if not even worse for your health. If you really must eat yoghurt, go for natural live yoghurt (vegan please) and sweeten with a small amount of fresh fruit or raw honey instead.
3. Diet fizzy drinks (soda)
We all know that drinking regular fizzy drinks (or soda as our US cousins like to say) is really bad for our teeth, our waistlines and even raises our risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
So most of us switched to drinking the diet versions, thinking we were doing our health a massive favour.
But in actual fact, these ‘diet’ ‘zero’ or ‘light’ versions are actually worse than the ‘full fat’ version, and could actually cause you to gain more weight than the sugar-packed version.
Why? Because the main sweetener used in these drinks, aspartame, is incredibly sweet and actually increases our cravings for sweet food.
Aspartame is also highly toxic and has been linked to various health issues such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic dysfunction, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, leukaemia and even brain tumours.
Again, it’s not always about the medically listed side-effects. You also have to take into consideration the fact that artificial sweeteners are also unnatural, non-organic and made of pure chemicals.
4. Shop-bought smoothies
I’m a massive fan of smoothies! There’s really no better way to get an injection of wholefood nutrition after a long workout, after an illness or simply when you’re feeling hungry and want something to fill a gap in your tum before dinner time.
But you’ll NEVER find me reaching for a pre-packaged smoothie when I’m out of the house because they’re just not healthy. Here’s why:
- The pasturisation process (necessarily to ensure bugs don’t breed) destroys most of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
- They often contain added sugars and sweeteners which you just don’t want
If you want a smoothie, head to a smoothie bar (where you know they make them with fresh fruits) or make your own and carry it with you.
5. Soya milk & soya protein
Vegetarian and vegans beware! Your soya milk-drinking and soya protein-eating habit might be kinder to animals and the planet but it’s certainly not the best thing for your body.
The problem lies in what soya does to our bodies and where it comes from.
Soya is what is known as a phytoestrogen, which is a plant-based source of the female sex hormone, oestrogen.
You’re probably thinking- ‘It’s natural, it’s a plant. What could be wrong with that?‘
And you’d be partly right. But the problem is that these phytoestrogens mimic your natural oestrogen and fool your body into thinking that there’s more oestrogen there than there actually is.
The result is an imbalance of hormones and more menstrual issues like PMT, irritability, and depression, and also fertility issues.
Worse still, it’s estimated that around 75% of the soya in the global food market is genetically engineered and we still don’t know just how harmful this could be for our long-term health.
But the good news is that it’s easy to avoid these foods. Simply choose an alternative plant-based milk instead of soya milk, and opt for beans, lentils, nuts and seeds and fresh produce as alternative sources of plant-based protein.
6. ‘Low fat’ or ‘diet’ foods
Like most health-conscious women of her generation, my mother has always tried to stay slim, youthful and healthy by choosing skimmed milk, low-fat cheese and that old favourite, low-fat yoghurt because that’s what she was told was good for her.
But over recent years, researchers have come to realise something- these foods just aren’t as healthy as we thought, and more excitingly eating fat does not make you fat.
Not only do they leave us feeling extremely unsatisfied and hungry for more (just try eating one low-fat yoghurt and try telling me you’re feeling satisfied!!), they’re actually lacking much of the nutrition you can find in the full-fat version.
Besides, marshmallows are completely fat-free, but you wouldn’t consider them healthy now, would you?
Do yourself a favour. Eat the full-fat version or don’t bother at all.
7. Ready meals (convenience foods)
When you’re feeling hungry and tired after a hard day at work or a tough day with the kids, cooking up a full meal from scratch is often the last thing on your mind.
So you might pop to the local supermarket on your way home and throw a quick ‘ready meal’ like lasagna, Shepherd’s Pie or Veggie curry into your shopping basket.
Better than getting a takeaway or sin-of-sins, going to McDonald’s, right?
I’m afraid you’re wrong there.
Because these convenience foods contain shocking amounts of sugar and salt, additives, preservatives and flavour enhancers and an awful lot of saturated and trans fats too. Not exactly the kind of stuff you want to be putting into your body or giving to your kids! So do yourself a favour and skip the ready meal aisle!
Instead, find a bunch of easy and healthy recipes you can create within 30 minutes or batch cook extra meals when you have time and pop into your freezer.
8. Rice snacks
Don’t think that rice snacks like rice cakes are a healthy alternative to cookies and other snacks for either yourself or your kids. Just because they’re often labelled ‘organic’, doesn’t mean they’re good for you!
As you’ve probably worked out by now, rice snacks are made from refined white rice, which is renowned for causing massive spikes in blood sugar(much the same as eating white refined sugar) and can lead to a multitude of health problems like type 2 diabetes, obesity and for us girls, all kinds of horrible hormonal problems.
They’re also far too easy to overeat, and they often contain additives like MSG.
For an alternative snack try wholegrain bread or rye bread, hummus with carrot sticks, nuts and seeds, homemade natural treats (like these sugar-free Banana and Sunflower Cookies), freshly made smoothies or even a simple piece of fruit.
9. Protein bars & health bars
Have you ever felt peckish whilst out and about and used all your willpower to avoid that chocolate bar and chosen a health bar like a sesame bar, energy bar or one of those nut/seed/dried fruit bars you’ll see next to the supermarket checkout?
Or you’ve finished a workout and you’ve decided to treat yourself to a protein or energy bar?
Yes, you know what I’m going to say next….these bars aren’t much good for you either.
In fact, they often contain even more sugar than that chocolate bar you tried so hard to resist and a ton of other added nasties like preservatives, additives and other junk. Annoying, eh?
A great (and much cheaper) solution is to opt for a raw vegan bar like a Nakd bar or create your own protein bars or healthy bar.
However, be aware that these are often still high in natural sugars so don’t go overboard, and if you’re sugar sensitive, best to avoid them altogether and opt for a piece of fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth instead!
The message in all this is incredibly clear to me- if that so-called ‘healthy’ food is processed or refined, then it’s highly likely not to be as good for you as you think. Despite all of those fancy marketing words on the packaging…
Always choose unrefined, unprocessed and natural. That’s the only way to be healthy.