5 Food Products Disguised as “Healthy Foods”

Marketing claims can make it hard to distinguish a healthy food from a junk food. Here's five foods wrongly disguised as a healthy food!

Marketing claims make it hard to distinguish truly healthy food from junk food these days.  Here are five foods that are sometimes mistaken for a “health food”, and what to eat instead.

Bottled Smoothie Drinks

Smoothies, especially the pre-bottled variety, are often disguised as a healthy food. The problem is that many smoothies can have as much sugar as a bottle of soda!

For example:

Naked Mighty Mango smoothie drink: 68 gms of carbohydrates

Coca-Cola bottle: 65 gms of carbohydrates

While Naked smoothies obviously have more vitamins and minerals, the sugar in these drinks are processed the same in our body. Drinking high amounts of sugar can lead to “rollercoaster” levels of sugar in our blood, causing more sugar crashes and cravings later in the day.

What to drink instead:

If looking for a pre-packaged juice or smoothie, make sure the carbohydrate content is reasonable (<15 grams). If the juices contain fiber and/or protein, this is an added plus.

You can also make your own smoothie at home, and include sources of protein and fat. These nutrients slow the absorption of carbohydrates into your blood (thus balancing your blood sugar levels), and will satisfy your hunger, for longer. Keep the fruit to <1 cup per smoothie to ensure you keep a balanced ratio of carbs:protein/fat.

 

 

Food Farmacist RD “Green Machine Smoothie” Recipe:

  • (Makes 1 serving)
  • 1 cup of frozen peaches (or pineapple)
  • Handful of spinach
  • 1/2 cup (5 oz) plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • Instructions: Add all ingredients to blender, and blend until smooth. Add water to thin out mixture as needed.

Packaged Oatmeal

Oatmeal is generally considered a healthy food, but oatmeal packets are usually high in sugar. Even the “lower-sugar” varieties contain added sugar. These lower-sugar varieties also contain sucralose (Splenda) which is a sugar substitute that is 600 times sweeter than sugar. Remember that lower-sugar does not necessarily mean healthier.

These oatmeal packets are void of protein and healthy fats, too! When our breakfast is mostly carbohydrates, we feel hungry an hour later. On top of that, without fats or proteins in our breakfast, we often experience more sugar cravings throughout the day.

What to eat instead:

Choose plain oatmeal instead of the pre-sweetened variety. Add a handful of fruit for a higher fiber source of sweetness. Most importantly, add some type of protein and fat (like nuts, nut butters, and chia seeds) to sustain your hunger and balance your blood sugar during the day.

Grab my free breakfast guide for more quick & healthy breakfast ideas!


Sports Drinks

Unless you’re an athlete doing two-a-days or high-intensity cardio, you probably don’t need the Gatorade. The type of sugar found in sports drinks is fast-absorbing. This is great for someone who is burning energy (in the form of glucose) due to exercise. But for most of us, the extra spike in blood sugar due to the quick absorption is only going to send us on a blood sugar crash later in the day.

I’ve also seen people use Gatorade for electrolyte replacement (for things like diarrhea, illness, or a hangover). Although sports drinks WILL help you replace actual fluids, the electrolyte content is minimal. A regular 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade contains 75 milligrams of potassium. For comparison, a medium banana contains 422 mg! Womp womp.

Again, fluids are helpful when you are dehydrated. BUT, if you’re having a lot of diarrhea, sports drinks may actually have too much sugar, and too little salt to be of any help. The added sugar in your intestines draws in more fluid, potentially worsening diarrhea!

What to drink instead:

Unless exercising for more than 60-90 minutes, most people only need water to hydrate during physical activity. For rehydrating in times of illness, use something called an “oral rehydration solution”. These drinks have the perfect mixture of salt, water, and sugar to promote resorption of water in your intestines (aka you benefit more). Pedialyte is an example of an oral rehydration solution.

You could still use Gatorade in your own DIY recipe, by adding more salt:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups Gatorade
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Find more oral rehydration solution recipes here!

*This information is for educational purposes only. Please consult your doctor in times of illness or for medical advice regarding dehydration. 


100 Calorie Snack Packs

Don’t be tempted by the low-calorie snack packs! The marketing industry has tricked us to believe that low calorie = healthy. This is not always the case. Low-calorie snack packs are usually sold in the form of cookies, crackers, or popcorn. Many times, these snacks are lacking in fiber, protein, and healthy fats, which nixes them as healthy food. Plus, lower calorie snack packs are often high in refined carbohydrates and sugar.

What to eat instead: 

A concept called snack pairing is the best route when planning healthy snacks. Pairing a fiber food with a protein/fat food can help reduce portion sizes at meals and control sugar cravings.

For example:

  • Fiber foods: fresh fruits or vegetables, whole grain crackers, oats
  • Protein/fat foods: whole milk plain yogurt, cheese, avocado/guacamole, nuts, nut butter, hard-boiled eggs

Grab my free snack pairing guide for over 30+ snack pairing examples!


Agave Sweetener

“I don’t use sugar, I only use agave”. I’ve heard variations of this comment many times! I’m not sure how agave started trending as a natural alternative, but unfortunately, it is not all that healthy. Agave is a syrup made from the Agave tequiliana (tequila)  plant.  Agave is 90% fructose, which is the simplest form of sugar. For reference, high fructose corn syrup is about 55% fructose content.

High fructose diets have been linked to diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Agave, and other high fructose foods can also worsen bloating and diarrhea in people with conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

What to eat instead:

Using real fruit as a natural sweetener is a better choice. Whole fruit also contains fiber, which can help stabilize your blood sugar. Dates are often used as a high-fiber sweetener. If you’re just using a “squirt” of agave in your coffee or tea (but otherwise eating a wholesome, lower sugar diet) you’re probably fine. But, if you have any issues with bloating or diarrhea, you may want to use a lower-fructose sweetener instead, like maple syrup.


 

 

 

FREE Breakfast Guide

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8 quick and healthy breakfast ideas to start your day right!

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