You know to skip the cookie aisle, to walk past the bakery without giving the donuts a second glance, to stay far, far away from the soda. It’s easy for a savvy person to keep away from processed junk foods, anything glazed or pumped full of sugar. But sometimes, we get surprised—a food we thought we could trust ambushes us, pushing our calorie count up and our waistlines out. Today, we’ll talk about seven of those foods; junk foods masquerading as natural, healthy, reasonable options for the diet-conscious.
On a Diet Avoid juice like the plague
Fruit juices advertise themselves as the healthy alternative to soda; a sweet, flavorful beverage without all of those nasty additives and whatnot—but ‘sweet’ is the key phrase here. Fruit contains a high amount of sugar, but balances it out by being more nutritious and more fibrous than other sweet treats. Juice loses many of the nutrients and all of the fiber, resulting in a beverage far closer to soda than you’d think; orange juice, for example, has a near-identical calorie count, sugar content, and acidity to your favorite sodas. Heavy juice intake will hamper even the strictest diet.
Be wary of fruits
While we’re talking about fruit, let’s acknowledge that not all fruit is equivalent for diet purposes. Grapefruit, for example, offers more nutrients and a lower calorie count compared to it’s popular cousin the orange. Bananas offer potassium, yes, but also as much sugar and as many calories as a candy bar. Watermelons are essentially sugar delivery systems and little more.
Salad dressing ruins a perfectly healthy meal
Most off-the-shelf salad dressings do their best to undermine the healthiness of your salad, no matter how hard they advertise themselves as ‘natural’ or ‘healthy’ options: check the labels, unless you want to take down high amounts of calories, sugars, trans fats, and other dubious substances.
‘Whole wheat’ doesn’t mean much
Whole wheat means a whole lot of nothing in the form most of us consume it; when you take whole wheat and grind it down into a fine powder before using it to make breads, pastas, etc., it digests just as quickly and uselessly as it’s white wheat cousin. In fact, certain preparations of whole wheat have proven to be less healthy. If you want to consume whole wheat, accept that it’s going to taste like whole wheat, and ditch the over-processed messes.
Agave nectar isn’t diet friendly
This isn’t a healthy alternative to sugar, no matter how it’s marketed. It’s just sugar in a different form than you’re familiar with. Essentially, this is ‘all natural’ HFCS—avoid it the same as you would other sugars.
Vegetable oil’s a double-edged sword
Vegetable oils (canola, margarine, corn, all of them) go through a rather intense refining process, and end up becoming something you might be better off avoiding. Despite a few noted health benefits, vegetable oils create a rather difficult Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio to overcome, countering any benefits. Stick to natural oils and butter, you’ll come out ahead.
Trail mix…what’s in there?
Even the healthiest trail mix is probably calorie dense, given the nature of nuts, but most trail mixes are worse than that. Dried fruit loses nutrients but keeps it’s downsides, and M&Ms, pretzels, and other common fillers are just as bad in a handful of nuts as they are alone.