It may sound obvious, but eating healthy is no easy feat. Grocery shopping is hard enough on it’s own, but grocery shopping for healthy options? A nightmare. Not only are organic fruits, veggies and lean meats pricey, but other than the basics, it can be hard to decipher what the best food options are. Plus, it’s easy to fall prey to the clever marketing schemes that so-called “healthy” foods in the grocery store are constantly throwing at you, especially when many of these seemingly nutritious options are actually just unhealthy fads (looking at you, green juice). So, we tapped two top nutritionists to find out exactly which healthy foods are actually imposters. You might be surprised by what they say.
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Froyo may seem like the healthier version of ice cream, but don’t be deceived—it’s still not good for you. “Frozen yogurt is often laden with high levels of sugar and non-organic milk, which is full of hormones,” explains nutritional expert, Simone Laubscher, PhD. These elevated levels of hormones in food can promote weight gain and other unwanted side effects, so steer clear of non-organic dairy and meat if possible.
At a quick glance, protein bars can look a lot like candy bars, and similar to their grocery store lookalike, they’re also super unhealthy. “Protein bars are filled with aspartame (an artificial sweetener), fake sugars and synthetic ingredients,” says Dr. Laubscher. Although, since protein is full of amino acids that create collagen and repair muscle tissue, it’s vital to find other ways to incorporate it into your diet. So, choose lean, organic sources, like fish or chicken, to reap the same benefits of a protein bar but without the unnecessary additives.
“Fruit and vegetable juices are very high in sugar,” says Dr. Laubscher. “They can cause huge sugar spikes, leaving you feeling tired and more likely to gain weight.” Also, since juices are devoid of protein and fiber, they won’t be filling enough to hold you over between meals, so you’ll end up snacking more during the day.
Gluten-free diets may be all the rage right now, but according to nutritionist Maria Bella, who recently partnered with ProNamel Toothpaste, it’s just another misleading trend. “Gluten-free products are worse than regular whole wheat ones since they usually have the same number of calories—or even more—than regular bread and are devoid of fiber and B vitamins,” she explains. But that’s not all, Dr. Laubscher adds that these bakery items are also full of other bad-for-you ingredients, like sugar, palm oil, hydrogenated fats and various chemicals.
Unfortunately, dried fruits don’t provide the same nutritional value as fresh fruits do, so snacking on dried apple, pineapple or kiwi isn’t your best bet. “Dried fruits are incredibly high in calories and sugar,” says Bella. “When given a choice, I opt for fresh alternatives and always pair those with protein to create a balanced meal and slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates.”
“Banana chips are a fried, high-calorie snack that’s hard to chew and sticks to your teeth—not good,” says Bella. However, if you just can’t kick your chip habit, Bella says there’s plenty of healthier options you can try instead. “Baked kale chips or beet chips are also easy to make at home and can be served as a side dish or on top of a tuna salad made with hummus for that extra crunch,” she explains.
Low-Calorie Frozen Meals
Frozen dinners may seem like a dream come true since they’re quick, easy and low in calories, however, they might actually be one of the worst food choices you can make. “These are often packed with high GI carbs, non-organic protein with hormones and are low in good fats,” says Dr. Laubscher. If you’re short on time, opt for a mixed salad or steamed vegetables with a baked protein (fish or chicken work best!). Meals like that only take about 10-minutes and are a much healthier choice.
Lemon or Lime Wedges
While putting a lime or lemon in your water can certainly boast some health benefits, it can have some detrimental side effects as well if overdone. “I used to suck on lemons and any place I could find them, I’d ask for extras with my glasses of carbonated water until my enamel started wearing down and my dentist started getting concerned,” says Bella. The acidity in citric fruits can wear down teeth enamel and ultimately affect gum health, so try not to go overboard on the lemon water.