When I decided to turn my life around with a whole new healthful lifestyle, there was a bigger learning curve involved than I was expecting. I’d studied the food groups back when I was in school, but there’s a lot more to nutrition than eating the right number of veggies and grains per day.
Over time, I found that I had to re-learn what it meant to eat a healthy, balanced diet. The funny thing was that many of the foods I’d thought were healthy at the start of my lifestyle changes are quite different from the ones I consider to be healthy now.
The problem is that there a huge number of products that have a great reputation when they aren’t much better than the junk foods we’re trying to avoid. Here are five of the foods I used to eat specifically for their health benefits that I’ve since cut out altogether because they’re not nearly as healthful as I thought.
1. Veggie chips
These are chips that claim to be made from vegetables, suggesting they’re better for you than traditional potato chips. Take a closer look at the ingredients list. Veggie chips, more often than not, are made primarily of corn flour or potato starch. There may be some vegetable powder in the ingredients but that’s mainly there to add some colors to the chips that make them appear to be more vegetable-based. If you really want to enjoy healthy veggie chips, make your own or look for products that are made with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale or beets as the first ingredient.
2. Cereals with flakes or twigs
Yes, these cereals may be high in fiber, they could be organic, they might be made with whole grains, but they’ve been coated in sugar to make them taste as good as more traditional cereals. Look for whole grain alternatives containing unprocessed nuts and no added fiber or artificial sweeteners. Look for a very short ingredients list. It should have less than 6 grams of sugar per serving.
3. Pre-made green juices
Those expensive bottles of green juices in your supermarket’s refrigerated section look like they should be great for you because they claim to contain ingredients such as spinach, kale or spirulina. However, these juices contain all the sugar from the fruits they contain, without the fiber which is extracted in the juicing process. If you really want to enjoy the benefits of greens in a beverage, blend them with some fruit in a high-powered blender. Leave the juicer out of it. It will keep all the fiber in the drink so it will be considerably better for you.
4. Frozen veggie burgers
Many of these products are highly processed and usually consist mainly of “textured vegetable protein,” which is essentially wheat and/or soy and not what most of us consider to be vegetables. As an alternative, consider burgers made from actual vegetables or make your own from black beans or adzuki beans.
5. Gluten-free snacks
Unless you have celiac disease, gluten-free foods don’t offer any additional health benefits over those that contain gluten. In fact, a recent study has shown that a gluten-free diet isn’t as good for your cardiovascular health as an equivalent made with whole grain wheat products.