Eating healthier has a huge impact on your ability to lose weight and keep it off. However, all the careful meal planning and prep in the world can’t save you if the foods you select are fundamentally unhealthy. The packaged food industry loves to splash buzzwords like “low fat”, “whole grain”, and “X grams of protein” on their products, so it requires a closer look to know if what you’re eating is really good for you.
At our VeraVia wellness retreat, we talk to a lot of guests who are doing their best to eat well but are so misguided by food labels and advertising that they end up stuck in a cycle of unknowingly unhealthy eating. We’re here to shed some light so you can make a real change.
Here are 6 foods that seem healthy…but aren’t.
Packaged Trail Mix
Packaged trail mix does count as a healthy alternative–if you’re comparing it to greasy, fatty chips. Otherwise, this sugar- and salt-loaded snack is a trap. Most of today’s pre-packaged trail mixes are chock full of sugary bits like candy and chocolate, overloaded with salt, and packaged with preservatives. Some–like those based on chips, pretzels or savory seasoned cereals–don’t even qualify as trail mix. Not only do these finger-dusting snacks encourage overeating, many are full of the very ingredients you’re trying to avoid.
Try instead: Create your own blends of your favorite nuts and seeds. Buy unsalted versions and add your own dash of salt to control your sodium intake.
Learn more about VeraVia’s nutrition and weight management program.
Many protein bars are just sneaky candy bars disguised as “healthy.” Don’t fall prey to their seduction. Avoid anything that is covered in sugary coatings like chocolate or yogurt, or anything sweet that’s labeled “sugar-free.” These sugar-free bars can be loaded with alcohols, additives and “natural flavors” (which bear little resemblance to anything natural).
Try instead: Organic, grass fed beef jerky. Look for a short list of ingredients that are easy to understand and pronounce.
Unless you’re making them at home in your own oven and you can control the process start-to-finish, steer clear of veggie chips. Many pre-packaged veggie chips are made with a base that includes potato starch, so some chips are only slightly healthier than potato chips—while others are essentially nutritionally equivalent.
Try instead: Fresh vegetables. They fill you up and provide that same satisfying crunch.
Download our free guide: Nutrition to Fuel a Healthy Lifestyle.
This one should go without saying, but here we are. Unless you’re an extreme athlete who is in peak physical form and requires electrolyte replenishment during high-intensity extended workouts, skip this artificially colored sugar-water. Don’t let the “performance”-focused commercials and packaging fool you: the only thing Gatorade does for your body is load it up with sugar and salt.
Try instead: Plain old water. It’s not glamorous but it’s what your body needs.
Theoretically, granola should be healthy. After all, it’s full of fiber and iron-packed oats and seeds. However, lots of packaged granola is full of fat, sugar, and preservatives. It’s essentially sugary cereal disguised as a healthy breakfast choice.
Try instead: To get the same benefits of granola without all the sugar, eat a bowl of basic oatmeal. Toss in some chopped strawberries or a handful of blueberries for a touch of sweetness.
“Fat-free” products seem like the ideal healthy alternative. However, food manufacturers need to compensate for the flavor that’s lost through fat removal, so they add in other unhealthy ingredients like sugar, flour, and salt that up the calorie count and counteract the health benefits of eating fat-free.
Try instead: Eat full-fat natural (organic where possible) products—with much less frequency, in much smaller quantities.
Check out our weight loss resources for more information.
Notice anything that these six foods have in common? They’re all processed and packaged. At our wellness retreat, we inspire our guests to think differently about food. With a little time and effort, you can retrain your taste buds to respond to natural foods and make healthier choices your go-to favorites. When in doubt, follow the old grocery shopping adage: avoid the aisles and stick to the perimeter of the store.