It’s easy to believe that you’re automatically buying healthy food just by shopping at Whole Foods or other natural grocers, no matter what you put into your basket.
Once we’re through the doors of a health-food store, we stop reading labels and assure ourselves that everything here is good for us!
Sorry to burst your “all natural” bubble, but depending on your health and fitness goals, there may be some ingredients you will want to look out for, and even some items you’ll definitely want to avoid:
- Gluten-Free Products
Not all gluten-free foods are healthy — they’re just free of gluten, a protein found in certain grains like wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten-free crackers, breads, cookies, cakes, and other processed baked goods are just as full of sugar and devoid of fiber and nutrients as their “regular” wheat-filled counterparts.
Takeaway: Health-food store or not, limit or avoid processed baked goods.
- “Healthy” Drinks: Tea, Soda, Juice, Smoothies
Just because a drink is sweetened with organic sugar, agave or other “healthy” sweeteners doesn’t mean it won’t have an impact on your blood sugar, energy, and overall health. Many of these so-called healthy drinks are just as hard on your system as regular soda. If you’re just dying for a sweet, flavorful drink, add 8-10 oz. water or club soda and split it with someone. You’ll get half the calories from sugar but enjoy a sweet treat every now and then.
Takeaway: Choose unsweetened drinks, infused waters, or make your own ice tea and soda at home where you can control the portion, type, and amount of sweetener added.
- Multi-Grain Products
Labeling terms can be totally misleading, causing you to think you’re eating grains with greater nutritional value when you’re not. Words like “multi-grain, stoneground and cracked wheat” essentially mean nothing. The bread could very likely be enriched white flour with some brown coloring and a few crunchy seeds sprinkled in to get the visual look of wheat bread.
Takeaway: Look for products with minimal ingredients in their whole form and follow my “Rule of 3:” less than 3 g of sugar, 3 g or more of fiber, more than 3 g of protein per serving.
- “Vegan” Desserts
While these desserts are no doubt “healthier,” they are still dessert. Sugar is a major problem in our society — don’t be fooled thinking vegan food items give you a free pass to pig out!
Takeaway: No matter what you are eating, eat with mindfulness and watch portion sizes.
- “Organic” Snacks
The term “organic” can be confusing — and it’s not synonymous with healthy. Organic refers to the method of growing foods and raising animals without hormones, pesticides, fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms. It is not synonymous with “healthy, eat as much as you want.” While organic products are highly recommended, don’t be fooled by yogurt-covered pretzels, chocolate-covered gogi berries, and beet chips. Most of these “junk” foods — organic or not — are full of sugar, low in fiber and super easy to overeat.
Takeaway: Save organic junk food for special occasions and eat appropriate portions. If this is impossible, simply don’t buy it.
It’s important to set and keep boundaries around food — even “healthy” food. Your mind, body, energy and waistline will thank you!