If your new year’s resolution is to be healthier, you’ve probably been scouring the internet for healthy food alternatives. However, many of these foods that are marketed as healthy are actually even more unhealthy than the foods they’re meant to replace. If you’re trying to lead a healthier lifestyle, avoid these 10 unhealthy foods on your next trip to the grocery store.
When you’re in a rush, cereal is a great quick breakfast option, but unfortunately, it’s also one of the unhealthiest. Most cereals are loaded with refined sugar—even the “healthier” ones are often made from processed grains and list sugar as the main ingredient. Starting the day off with a high-sugar meal spikes your blood sugar levels and will lead to an energy crash later on in the day.
2. Energy bars
Energy/protein bars are marketed as a healthy snack option for any time you need an energy boost. While it’s true that occasionally they can be a good source of extra protein and fiber, they’re also extremely high in calories and give you the false impression that you’re being healthy by eating one. Energy is not something that can be packaged, though, and if you’re looking for a quick energy fix, it may mean you’re lacking certain nutrients in your diet.
3. Prepared Salads
Don’t be misled into thinking a salad is automatically healthy just because it’s a salad. When you’re in a rush, you’re likely to want some kind of prepackaged food, and you feel like you’re making the healthy choice when you grab a prepared salad from a fast food restaurant or the grocery store. In many cases though, between the added dressing, cheese, nuts, and other “extras,” those fast food salads have just as much sodium and fat in them as the burgers those chains sell.
4. Gluten-free foods
Unless you have a medical condition that prevents you from eating gluten, there’s really no difference calorie-wise between eating regular foods and gluten-free foods. Often, to make up for the difference in flavor and consistency, gluten-free foods are chock-full of sugar or sodium that make then taste “as good as the real thing.”
5. Anything fat- or sugar-free
You can bet that foods that are marketed as -free of anything are probably full of something else to make up for the lack of the sugar or fat (the things that make the food taste good). Often that “something else” is processed, and while these foods may tend to be lower in calories, sugar, or sodium, they also make you feel like you’re eating healthily, which leads to overindulging and ultimately consuming more calories than you would have with the “unhealthy” food.
6. Sports drinks
Sports drinks, like energy bars, are marketed to the “fit, healthy athlete.” But because these foods are associated with fitness and health, we assume that means they’re healthy and feel like we can drink them infinitely. While it’s true that if you’re a very active person who sweats a lot and therefore needs to replenish your electrolytes, sports drinks are a great post-workout option, in reality, most of us aren’t professional athletes, and the excess of sugar and sodium in energy drinks will slowly but surely lead to weight gain.
7. Flavored Yogurts
Yogurt is very good for you. It contains protein, calcium, and probiotics—all nutrients that we need, but most yogurts also contain tons of sugar. Because plain yogurt is quite bitter, the companies who make them throw in a bunch of sugar to make it more appealing. Even fruit flavored yogurts contain fruit purees with sugar additives masked as real fruit. Instead, stick to plain Greek yogurt and use berries, cinnamon, or honey to add flavor.
In theory, margarine is a healthy alternative to butter. In reality, it’s highly processed and can even contain dangerous trans fat, which butter doesn’t have. And like its dairy-based cousin, margarine is high in calories and fat.
Ideally, you should try to avoid margarine and butter altogether. But if you really want to spread something on your toast, at least check the label for trans fat. That’s the most important thing to avoid.
9. Fruit juices
Ideally, you should try to avoid all fruit juices. They’re chock full of sugar and don’t even end up tasting like real fruit. When you juice a fruit, you shed nutrients like fiber but keep all the sugar and calories. Instead, opt for the fruits themselves. If you really want to drink it, make yourself a smoothie. Blending instead of juicing will preserve all that nutritious fiber and it’ll taste just as good.
Who doesn’t love the extra crunch of croutons in your salad? Unfortunately, they don’t really offer any nutritional value. If you still miss the crunch, try adding nuts. They’re healthier and there’s even more variety of flavors and textures.
Now that you know what 10 unhealthy foods to avoid, check out part 2 and learn how you can start building healthy eating habits!
And If you think you’re up for the challenge of taking on a healthier lifestyle, start with our new year, new you 30-day challenge. It’ll give you the extra motivational boost that you need!