I definitely feel like overall our society has become more health-conscious. I’m not saying that everyone IS healthy, but people seem to be more aware of what being healthy means. There are so many avenues for people to learn about how to live a healthy lifestyle, from blogs to TV shows, to magazines. The food industry has taken notice, and made some changes to accommodate this new society.
Many of the changes food companies have made have been for the good. For example, removing trans fats from processed foods has been a huge victory. But the food companies, in their quest for survival, have also played into the healthy lifestyle change by making it seem like their products are healthier than they really are.
Food companies use key words and strategically designed food labels to lure health-conscious customers in. They want you to still buy their product, so they make you think it’s healthy, or at least healthier. You’ll see what I mean when you look at the examples below.
#1 – Veggie Chips
This one is pretty obvious. The word “veggie” is the key word here that I was talking about. But most people don’t think about that second word, “chips.” Yes, these are still chips. Calling them veggie chips does not make them healthy, but I see so many people buying these, thinking they are making a virtuous snack choice. For starters, these have roughly the same amount of calories and fat as regular potato chips, so there is no savings there. Now the front of the bag claims that these chips are made with tomatoes, spinach and potatoes. This is where ingredients labels become so important. Turn that bag around! Notice that potatoes are the first ingredient. This means that these chips are mostly made out of potatoes (um…like regular potato chips). Looking for those veggies? Oh, there! Spinach…powder. Tomato…powder. Disappointing, right? You really aren’t getting a substantial serving of veggies here, and obviously the veggies that are in here are minimal and have been processed. Put the veggies chips back on the shelf! Grab some baby carrots, bell pepper strips and dip them in hummus instead.
#2 – Energy Bars
The energy bar industry has grown incredibly in the last 20 years. You will practically find half of an aisle at the supermarket dedicated to all of the different energy bars out there. The word “energy” is the key word here. You are being fooled into believing that if you eat one of these, you will have more energy and be healthier. Not so! These are basically candy bars in disguise. They are loaded with sugar and usually have chocolate in them. One particular brand I looked at has 4 different types of added sugar! Many have added fiber, protein and vitamins, but you can get those things by eating whole, natural foods instead.
Try making your own energy bars or bites instead, here are some favorite recipes.
#3 – Multigrain Bread/Snacks
This one gets me so mad. I can’t tell you how many people I have enlightened about the false healthfulness of multigrain breads and snacks. The key word here is “grain.” People hear this word and automatically think they are getting a whole grain product. Oh no, my friends. White flour comes from a grain too, therefore it can be included in any product labeled “multigrain.” Multigrain Wheat Thins, for example, do have whole grains in them, but they also have “enriched wheat flour,” which is a refined grain. You want to limit your intake of refined grains as much as possible. You want to make sure your bread or snack contains ONLY whole grain ingredients.
#4 – Diet Soda
The word “diet” is the key word here. People who have a soda addiction think that they are doing their bodies good when they switch over to diet soda. No, no, no. The first problem is that diet soda contains artificial sweeteners. Why do you want to put anything artificial in your body? Artificial sweeteners have been under study lately for their potentially harmful effects on the human body, including connections to cancer. Just avoid them altogether. There are also artificial colors in diet soda. Again, the word artificial should be your red flag. Since these drinks don’t contain any calories, people who drink them tend to eat more. This connection isn’t fully understood, but why set yourself up for that? If you don’t like the taste of plain water, stick to fruit-infused water or unsweetened iced tea. If it’s the fizziness you need, go for fruit-infused seltzer water.
#5 – Granola
Granola has had a healthy reputation for decades. Yes, it is whole grain, but unfortunately it’s not just left at that. Granola is usually loaded with added sugar. One brand of granola that I looked at had added sugar in five different forms. Yikes! Plus, granola is super high in calories. Sure, it says 140 calories per serving on this granola, but do you really only eat ¼ cup of granola? Most likely not. Stick to a simpler plain whole grain cereal like plain shredded wheat.
What do you think? Have you turned to some of these so-called “healthy” foods when trying to change your eating habits?