As if eating healthy, exercising regularly, taking the right combination of supplements, and getting enough sleep, etc., weren’t challenging enough already…then you have to navigate your way through the ever-changing fads and trends, experts and so-called experts claiming their way is the best (or only) way to eat, and countless diets that come and go…and then come and go again.
Worse, there are numerous foods masquerading as “healthy” that clearly aren’t. And others that aren’t so clear—are they healthy or not?
It’s pretty likely that some of these not-so-healthy “health foods” are hiding in your fridge or pantry right now.
Deception survives in darkness, so let’s turn on the lights and reveal which ones to ditch before they ruin your diet!
10 “Healthy” Foods That’ll Ruin your Diet
Remember when a large glass of orange juice was considered part of a healthy, balanced breakfast? Now there are even more tasty flavors available—from apple to pomegranate to exotic mixes.
Unfortunately, many of the juices available on grocery and convenience store shelves are much more closely resembling their sugar-sweetened brethren (read: soda) than their much more distant cousin fruit. Even if they say 100% juice, they might mean “flavor packets” rather than freshly squeezed and can provide as much sugar (and sometimes more) as a similarly sized soda.
So, unless you’re looking for blood sugar spikes (and subsequent crashes), hunger pangs, deep energy dives, and mood swings, reach for the whole fruit instead. While fruit can indeed be part of an overall healthy diet (and many of us could actually use more), when it comes in juice form, we remove several of the key components, including the fiber, which helps us stay satiated. If you’re thirsty, go ahead and grab some water—you can even add sliced fruit for a flavor boost.
2. Egg whites
Okay, there’s nothing wrong with egg whites—as long as they are combined with the yolks. While the whites are high in protein (they contain about half the protein in an egg) without the fat, many of the health benefits of eggs come from the whole egg, including omega-3 fats, choline, carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin), calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, vitamins B1, B5, B6, B12, and folate. Here are 6 reasons to eat the whole egg!
3. Fruit and yogurt parfaits
You find yourself out and about, hungry, and in a pinch. What can you eat that’s healthy? Because the colorful fruit looks so enticing (after all, you need to eat more fruits and vegetables, right?), you may think you’re doing your body a favor by leaning toward the “lighter” fruit and yogurt parfaits over fast-food sandwiches and pastries…not so fast.
These parfaits are loaded with sugar—the fruit is sweetened, the yogurt is sweetened, and even the toppings are sweetened—and that often adds up as much (or even more) sugar and calories than many of those “unhealthy” pastries. You’re left with a sugar bomb that will leave you feeling lethargic soon after.
It’s not the concept that’s wrong—it’s the delivery. If you want a yogurt parfait, just make your own. Take plain yogurt layered with fresh berries. You can easily add some extra protein and flavor by mixing a scoop of your favorite high-quality protein powder into the plain yogurt first and top with nuts or seeds for a delicious, truly healthy treat.
4. Low-fat salad dressing
Salads are healthy, and they’re even better with a “light” dressing, right? After all, the dressings are what add all of the fats and calories.
Unfortunately, when you grab your dressing off the shelf, you’ll find most are loaded with added sugars (even high-fructose corn syrup), chemicals, preservatives, and perhaps most offensive of all, omega-6-rich, industrial refined oils.
Making your own dressing is so simple and takes just a few ingredients and moments to prepare. For example, you can take some avocado or olive oil, add your choice of vinegar, and then some spices or herbs of your choice. As an added bonus, these healthy fats can help your body absorb even more of the fat-soluble nutrients in the vegetables.
You can also simply drizzle lemon or lime juice over your salad or steamed veggies for some extra flavor. Looking for more ideas? Give any of these delicious dressing recipes a try.
5. Vegan snacks
Going vegetarian or vegan is really trendy right now. How can eating more plant-based foods be bad? Unfortunately, junk food is still junk food whether it’s vegan, gluten-free, organic, fat-free, or what have you. These are simply marketing terms for “foods” that are likely just vehicles for empty calories that aren’t helping you become any healthier.
While a plant-based diet can be very healthy, remember to reach for whole, minimally processed foods like fresh fruits or vegetables with a home-prepared hummus.
6. Fiber cereals
We know fiber is good for us, and chances are you aren’t eating nearly enough. Enter cereal—it’s loaded with fiber, right? It’s also typically highly processed, the fiber is rarely “intact” and part of the whole grain, and these cereals are often a surprising source of added sugars. Skip the cereals and try these 7 easy ways to eat more fiber instead.
Head to your local smoothie shop for a creamy, yummy, nutrient-rich, fruit- loaded smoothie—and walk out with a concoction that’s loaded up to 1,000 sugar-laden calories. Smoothies can be exceptionally healthy or not at all (even the green ones) depending on how they’re prepared.
Fortunately, you can easily save money and calories by making your own smoothie at home. Load up on vegetables, limit your smoothie to just one serving of fruit, and feel free to add your favorite protein, plain yogurt, or herbs and spices (like cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, and even a little chili) for an extra splash of flavor and nutrition.
8. Veggie chips
If it’s in a bag and looks like a chip, it’s probably not good for you—even if it’s made from veggies. (After all, potatoes are veggies too.) Once you slice up, deep fry (i.e., add unhealthy fats), season (with sodium chloride/salt), and preserve the chips, it’s just a chip—that’s pretty much the definition of junk food.
That doesn’t mean you have to give up this type of treat. You can make them at home with whole, real ingredients, like these simple zucchini chips.
9. Canned soup
Just take a quick glance at the labels of most canned soups, and you’ll quickly realize many are highly processed soups loaded with additives rather than what you’re looking for. While it can take some time to make healthy soup from scratch, it’s also often easy to make large batches so you can freeze leftovers for a quick, convenient meal later. Here’s one soup that will nourish your body and your soul.
10. Skim milk
During the fat-free frenzy, many people swore off full-fat dairy for the “skim” fat-free versions. While it contains fewer calories (which may seem like a good thing), you also have to use a lot more of it if you’re looking for any flavor. And if you’re stuck in the trap of focusing on grams of fat and calories, then you’re also missing out on the fact that full-fat dairy products contain higher levels of nutrients and have been linked to lower incidents of both diabetes and obesity. Skip on the skim milk and skinny lattes. You deserve better.
10 “Healthy Foods” That Ruin Diets
There you have it, a simple list of so-called “healthy” foods to ditch and what to eat instead. Not only will your diet be more nutritious, it will also taste better and be more satisfying. A win-win-win!