It is downright insidious, and almost predatory. Companies pitching food to a fitness-crazed nation are taking advantage of our healthy obsession to place some decidedly unhealthy items on our supermarket shelves. The fact is, if something sounds healthy – and looks delicious! – we are likely to toss it into our shopping carts without ever checking the label. We want to eat healthier, so it takes very little provocation to convince us that we are.
Here are a few of the items you are likely buying that probably make you feel better about the purchase, but have a ways to go before being legitimately “healthy.”
Chock full of calcium, vitamin D, probiotics and protein – what's not to love about yogurt, right? Most supermarkets have entire walls stocked with the stuff – and it even comes in chocolate!
And that's the problem. Flavored yogurts inevitably pack on the sugar and sweeteners, and these will actually negate the beneficial effects of the probiotics in your gut! In fact, a recent study in Spain that tracked over 4,000 people reported no benefits at all to regular yogurt consumption.
If you are a yogurt lover – or just appreciate the convenience of eating your breakfast from a ready-to-go cup – be sure to check the label before you buy and select a brand that is additive and sugar-free. It is inevitably better to add your own sweetener, such as maple syrup, than to go with the sweetener on the label.
- Peanut Butter
We know many athletes and dieters who view peanut butter as their own private “super food.” It's tasty, packed with protein, easy to portion out, and can be used in everything from smoothies to sandwiches. All of that is true, but we caution that all major brands are loaded with sugar. Even the low-fat variety, usually made with less sugar, contains a bunch of additives inserted to compensate for the extra fat.
If you can't live without peanut butter – and really, we can't blame you there – the healthiest solution is to make your own. Put a bunch of roasted and unsalted peanuts in your Cuisinart and let the machine do its thing for about five minutes. Salt it to taste, and enjoy your powerful protein snack without all the sugar and other additives.
- Bran Muffins
But they contain “bran,” right? So they must be good for me, no? No. Arguably better for you than, say, a chocolate chip muffin, commercially available bran muffins routinely contain more than forty grams of sugar, and tip in anywhere from 400 to 500 calories. In fact, a bran muffin from Dunkin' Donuts will set you back 440 calories, but the same chain's Bavarian Kreme doughnut is only 270 calories! Crazy.
That's not to say that bran muffins they are not also loaded with fiber, omega, starch, protein, vitamins and dietary minerals. The problem, frankly, is the portion size. The secret to keeping a bran muffin as part of your daily breakfast routine is merely to cut it down the middle and eat only half as much per meal.
It is truly a triumph of the breakfast food marketing industry that granola has become so highly regarded among health food fans. In fact, it is only that it is marginally better than the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms that it usually replaces on our breakfast tables as we leave childhood that it gets a toe-hold in our pantry at all. (We Americans do love our breakfast cereals...) Granola's problem is its sugar content. One cup of the stuff can easily hit 600 calories – a full third of the average woman's daily allowance!
The best alternative to granola is really no breakfast cereal at all. But if you simply must have your adult version of milk and Cheerios, than try cutting the portion down to a quarter of the serving size indicated on the box and mix it into some unflavored yogurt.