It lurks in your cupboard, your fridge, and on your kitchen counter: food that is pretty terrible for you, but nonetheless has somehow acquired the reputation for healthiness. You working hard at boot camp class or in another workout of choice, don’t let these foods get in the way of your goals.
With all the information out there in the world of nutrition, it can be hard to know who to trust. In the scramble for information, popular knowledge may be driven by corporate interests rather than sound science or common sense. Here are some unhealthy foods that have gained a good rep for reasons that can only be explained by the best marketing in the world, or possibly magic.
1. Gluten-Free Foods
Don’t get me wrong — this isn’t one of those ill-advised (and incorrect!) rants about how there is no such thing as gluten intolerance. This is about a tendency we may all have been guilty of at one point or another: assuming that because a food item says ‘gluten-free’ it’s automatically healthier.
That’s because gluten-free products are often promoted as healthy and natural. Take a look around the gluten-free section of your local supermarket and count how many packages are green or brown in comparison to that of their glutinous brethren. How many have images of people being active, or have flowers curling up the packaging’s edge? We as consumers are meant to infer that these products are safer, more natural, and healthier than similar products that contain gluten, though that is far from the case. A gluten-free product is just as likely to be healthy as any other packaged bread product — which is to say, not very. On top of that, cheaper gluten-free foods are often composed of high-glycemic flours such as rice flour and potato starch.
Instead – If you don’t in fact have a gluten intolerance try: Ezekiel bread, whole oats, whole grains from scratch, fewer pre-packaged foods.
If you are gluten-intolerant: be diligent with reading food labels and ingredient lists for unhealthy items lurking
Let’s be honest: as a sweet-obsessed culture, we’re always looking for ways we can have our cake and eat it, too. One of the most insidious new attempts to make us feel as though the sugar we are eating is actually healthy is the use of fructose, or fruit sugar, in packaged goods.
Fructose has over 1.7 times the sweetness of sucrose, or table sugar… and that’s when manufacturers haven’t tweaked it to make it even sweeter in the form of high fructose corn syrup. We handle whole fruit and vegetables well because that sugar is surrounded by fruit and vegetable fiber that slows its absorption, but when fructose is extracted from corn and placed in a low-fiber food, watch out! The intense sweetness coupled with low fiber means a blood sugar spike is imminent, followed by a crash.
We won’t make any value judgments concerning which sugar is better or worse: we’ll stick to the facts. Added sugar isn’t good for you, no matter what the manufacturer chooses to call it.
Instead, try: foods with naturally low sugar, a piece of fruit (with fiber intact!) just don’t substitute veggies with fruit.
Now that you’re getting your nutrition dialed in, sign up for a FREE WEEK of Boot Camp classes HERE to check out Edge Body Boot Camp Omaha.
Yogurt is delicious, and in case we weren’t already convinced that it should live in our fridge forever, yogurt commercials feature slender women closing their eyes as they blissfully ingest some, talking about the desserts they’re now able to skip. So what on earth could be the problem with eating yogurt?
The issue isn’t the yogurt itself, which provides probiotics, healthy fats, and much-needed calcium: rather, it’s what’s added to the yogurt. The average serving of yogurt has 25 grams of sugar, the same amount as a full serving of Milky Way minis; the ‘whipped’ kind is actually often more sugary than its traditional counterpart, and the fat-free versions compensate for the loss of fatty goodness by adding yet more sugar. In other words, a cup of yogurt is essentially ice cream in healthy packaging.
Using an artificial sweetener to replace that sweetness comes with its own passel of difficulties. Aspartame is a neurotoxin with a host of negative effects, including potential weight-gain due to the way it potentially dysregulates insulin expression: you taste a sweet flavor, your body produces insulin; but since there is nothing insulin can help you break down, you have slightly high insulin. This makes you hungrier than before, and you eat more. The long-term consequences of slightly high insulin means a loss of insulin sensitivity, which can lead to more weight gain and eventually metabolic syndrome. Try giving up all aspartame products for two weeks and see how fast you lose weight, if you want to be convinced.
Instead, try: unsweetened Greek yogurt with your own sweetener and flavorings added – that way, you control what goes into your food, or stick with vanilla or honey flavored Greek yogurt with less than 7 grams of sugar.
4) Unsaturated cooking oils
Back in the day, we were all informed that vegetable fats — mostly liquids such as canola, corn, and olive oil — were very good for us, and solid fats — lard, butter, and coconut oil — were very bad. It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that such a simplistic statement turned out to be not entirely correct.
Saturated fats have carbon backbones that are all holding as many hydrogen atoms as they possibly can. This chemical configuration causes the molecules to stack neatly so that they are solid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are thinner and more liquid at room temperature because double-bonds form between some carbon atoms, and this pops the hydrogen atoms off. As a result, the fat molecules don’t stack neatly; they slide against one another and remain a fluid. For a long time, we were told that eating a saturated fat would result in early death by heart disease, while unsaturated fats would ensure we lived long and happily.
In fact, solid fats tend to stand up to being heated to high temperatures without oxidizing, or breaking down, a lot better than fats that are liquid at room temperature. Oxidized fats are tough for our bodies to handle; so when it comes to stovetop cooking, thicker oils such as olive oil, or solid fats such as coconut oil are the way to go. Save the unsaturated, liquid oils for salad dressing and oven-baking, and always use high-quality, fresh oils.
Instead, try: coconut oil, butter or ghee.
There are several “healthy” food myths out there. So be on the look-out! Always turn that package over to examine the food label and ingredient list. OR my best advice?? Limit packaged food whenever you can and opt for whole food items. More tips for healthy eating to come in future Tips from the Trainer blogs- stay tuned!