Health: 8 Not So Healthy Foods
With entire food industry now professing all the health aspects of their brands and claiming to all have the next 'super foods', it's hard to know which of the conglomerates are really just telling us what we want to hear. Our nutrition expert Gen James-Martin from For Foods Sake tells explains.
Even experienced nutritionists can find the health food aisle of the supermarket or the new smoothie store a minefield of misinformation. So what are the typical foods that profess to be healthy but just aren’t?
Smoothies that simply contain a blend of fruit and low-fat milk can be healthy, but many smoothies contain added sugar, ice cream or cream. This turns a healthy treat into a calorie bomb! Also, many smoothies come in very large serving sizes - some takeaway chains serve smoothies with up to 500 calories. So if you’re ordering a smoothie, make sure it’s made with low-fat milk and doesn’t contain any added sugar. And if it’s too big, don’t finish it. Dairy-free smoothies are another alternative.
Just because it has the word 'salad’ in it doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Prepared salads are often full of hidden fats and calories because they’re loaded with mayonnaise and dressings. While it depends on portion size and ingredients, an over-stuffed tuna salad can contain as many as 700 calories and 40 grams of fat. If you're ordering out, try asking for half the dressing or choose a vinegar- based dressing – and if you’re handed a large portion, keep an eye on how much you actually eat as you might be able to save some for later.
Foods labelled 'fat free'
Food manufacturers generally compensate for the lack of fat by overloading the sugar and/or salt. The flavour has to come from somewhere people! So we always come back to the 'eat real food' concept - that includes the full fat version of yoghurts, peanut butter, even milk (if you take care with the serving size)!
Fruit or bran muffins
Most bran muffins are made with fairly healthy wholemeal ingredients - the problem is portion size. Whereas muffins were once a bite-sized snack, they seem to have grown immensely in recent years. Bran muffins can contain as many as 350 calories each – and that’s without any butter or jam. Some bran muffins also contain a lot of salt - up to 600mg - which is about one third of the recommended daily intake. So by all means, order a bran muffin – but if you’re given a big one, save half for later.
The calcium content is usually pretty good. but most don’t deliver on their claims – those with fruit puree can really up the sugar content. Instead, get your fill of calcium, Vitamin D, probiotics and protein from plain yoghurt free from added sugars – you can sweeten it yourself with some fruit, honey or maple syrup.
Agave syrup and nectar
Bottles of agave syrup line nutrition store shelves, as if you should be pouring it over everything. Agave syrup is mostly fructose and is so highly processed and refined that it bears no resemblance to the plant for which it's named. Stick with high quality honey or even maple syrup, in small amounts.
You might as well be eating a chocolate bar given the number of calories and lack of nutrients in most of them. They are mostly held together with a sweet syrup - so again, just eat real food (e.g. fruit) for a snack!
The buzzword here is soy, which can indeed be healthy. But many of these products also contain lots of sugar and fat so beware.
Words: Stephanie Dugan / Gen James-Martin