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Top 10 Foods You Think Are Healthy That Are Not

Bread with chocolate creamIt’s time for a “Top 10” list! Haven’t done one in a while and they’re always such a kick in the pants.

Let’s take a look at ten foods you might assume are healthy that actually are not.

It shouldn’t surprise you that most of the foods on this list are highly-processed. It also shouldn’t surprise you that they’re being advertised and marketed to you as healthy. But you know better than that, don’t you!

Whether you do or you don’t, let’s bust a few myths today, shall we?!?!

  1. Wheat bread: Nutritionally and calorically indistinguishable from white bread. It’s a waste of your money and calories. Instead, eat whole wheat bread but eat it sparingly. Most Americans eat waaaaaaaaay too much grain. Try wrapping sandwiches or burgers in lettuce. Oh, stop groaning!
  2. Protein bars: They’re high in protein, but many of them are very high in sugar and calories as well. They’re fine for athletes who are exercising at a very high level, but most of us don’t need that much concentrated sugar. Even if you’re using it as a meal replacement (which, let’s be honest, most of us aren’t),if you wouldn’t eat a Snickers bar, don’t eat a protein bar.
  3. Sports drinks: Just like protein bars, these are designed for athletes participating in high-intensity exercise. They’re very high in sugar (a 20 oz. Gatorade has 35 grams, or more than 8 teaspoons, of sugar) and are completely unnecessary. Stick with water before, during and after workouts.
  4. Crackers: Most are made with partially-hydrogenated oil, a big, bad, evil ingredient that does nasty stuff to your insides. I especially dislike the newest varieties that tout “healthy” ingredients like brown rice and sweet potato. Don’t get me wrong, brown rice and sweet potatoes are healthy… when you actually eat brown rice and sweet potatoes. The amount in these crackers is negligible, and just like all crackers they are essentially nutritionally-empty filler. Pass.
  5. Nutella: You knew I was gonna say that, didn’t you?! Sorry. For those of you eating this – or serving it to your kids – rationalizing that it’s healthy because it has hazelnuts in it, guess what? It’s basically chocolate frosting. Seriously, the nutritional profile is almost identical. You wouldn’t put chocolate frosting on your kids’ toast! Don’t put Nutella on it either.
  6. Nut butters: I’ll be the first to admit, I have a peanut butter problem (ahem). But what I don’t do anymore is buy the big name brands that contain partially-hydrogenated oil (see above re big, bad, evil ingredient in crackers). Buy the all-natural nut butters that have no partially-hydrogenated oils and no added sugar. Even then, nut butters are very high in fat and calories, so measure, measure, measure. (Remember what my son Connor learned about measuring???) An added benefit is that the good ones are so darn expensive you won’t eat much!
  7. Fruit-flavored, nonfat yogurt: Those little blue containers of yogurt, with lab-created flavors that do not exist in nature have no place in a healthy diet. There’s a reason gives Yoplait nonfat yogurts a C+ rating: they’re loaded with Frankenstein ingredients (artificial sweeteners, thickeners, goodness knows what else). Real yogurt is a beautiful thing. So is real fruit. Mix them together and you’ve got a little piece of heaven right in your breakfast bowl.
  8. Commercially-made smoothies: Orange Julius started the trend, but now we’ve got Jamba Juice and a slew of other places that have taken smoothies out of the mall food court and onto every street corner. You’ll also find them in the freezer section at the grocery store. No surprise, these are loaded with sugar and highly caloric. Skip ‘em and make your own at home where you can control the ingredients.
  9. Granola and trail mix: You may think it’s just a portion control thing – and you’d be right, appropriate portions of granola and trail mix are so small they’re dissatisfying – but both usually come loaded with simple sugars, trans fat and refined carbohydrates. Nope.
  10. Cheese: Mother of God, don’t hate me. I’m not saying that cheese is inherently unhealthy. Of course, it’s not. What’s unhealthy is the amount of cheese we eat and the way we justify eating so much of it. Americans now eat an average of 23 lbs. of cheese per person, per year. That’s a 300% increase since 1970.

There are some inescapable truths about cheese we must acknowledge:

  • Cheese tastes good.
  • Cheese is everywhere, and in almost everything.
  • Cheese has some protein in it.
  • Cheese has some calcium in it.
  • People use those two things as an excuse to eat lots and lots of cheese.
  • Cheese has lots of saturated fat in it.
  • Eating saturated fat is unhealthy.
  • Especially when you eat too much of it.

And we’re back to the beginning: Americans eat lots and lots of cheese.

Mon Dieu! Non, pas le fromage!

Relax. There’s no need to give up cheese; we just need to be mindful of how much we eat and be discriminating about eating high-quality, minimally-processed cheese.

Go ahead, let out a collective sigh. You’re entitled.

Whether you knew all of this or not, it’s a lot to take in. There are serious choices to be made here; it’s not just a matter of giving up soda and french fries.

(And by the way, I didn’t put diet soda on the list, but if you’re drinking it thinking that it’s “nutritionally neutral,” think again and step away from the can.)

We’re off and running all summer long. Let’s make our food and beverage choices the best they can possibly be!

C’mon, we got this!

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