Eating healthily can be an absolute minefield.
You go into any supermarket and there are aisles full of food with ‘low fat’, ‘sugar-free’ and ‘now with 30% less calories’ pasted all over them.
It’s just as bad when you go online where you’re bombarded with new ‘facts’ about what’s healthy, or the latest research uncovering a new supposed ‘superfood’.
It’s so easy to get confused amidst all of the various claims about the benefits of different foods, especially as companies are now trying to promote their products to healthier audiences.
How do you distinguish between what is healthy and what is not? We have put together a list of the top 7 foods that people thought were healthy…but actually aren’t.
We have also offered some alternatives to make sure you keep your diet clean…
1. Orange Juice
Orange juice is a commonly misconceived health food, as it contains full of vitamin C and comes from fruit.
The issue with orange juice is that half of the orange juice you can buy from the shop is from concentrate. Juice from concentrate is a refined version of pure orange juice that is dehydrated for easy transportation and then watered back down to taste. Often extra flavours, additives and added sugars are then brought into the mix too. This refining process means that your natural orange juice is quite different from the fresh orange it was squeezed from!
Then we consider orange juice not from concentrate. Purely fresh juice squeezed straight from oranges. Better, but still very naturally sweet and lacking fibre so when you drink it the effect on your blood sugar can be intense. Juicing fruits strips them of their natural fibre and fibre helps to slow down the release of sugar into your body. A better solution all round would be to fill up on water and add fresh fruit to flavour it, should you wish to add something fruity.
2. Jacket Potatoes
Jacket potatoes have forever filled the pages of diet books and slimming magazines – citing themselves as low fat and healthy because they are natural and from the ground.
OK, so potatoes aren’t a terrible inclusion in your diet, as they are from the earth, contain lots of fibre and are a vegetable. The biggest claim alongside jacket potatoes is their low-fat content.
However, when you look at the complete nutrition of a baked potato – we can see relatively high calories and carbohydrates. Neither of these things will help you to lose weight and then let’s say you fill your jacket potato with baked beans and cheese, maybe a little butter for good measure. Well, you’ve ruled out low fat now, and baked beans are themselves full of sugar so all in all, a pretty unhealthy meal.
Try baked sweet potato skins instead – much fewer carbohydrates, lots of beta carotene and full of fibre.
Healthy Recipe: Sweet Potato Skins
Take one medium-sized sweet potato and bake it in the oven for 25-30 minutes until tender inside.
Slice in half and scoop out the middle. Place half of the potato into a bowl and discard the other half. (If you don’t want to waste it, pop it in a container in the fridge to use for sweet potato mash!)
Add your choice of fillings – think coronation chicken, goats cheese and bacon, chicken tikka, mixed bean chilli. Mix in with the remaining potato and then stuff back into the skins.
Season and bake for a further 10 minutes.
A lot of people who think that they eat healthily will give this answer when asked the question – what is your usual choice for breakfast?
Cereal is commonly marketed as full of vitamins, minerals, whole grains, fibre – you name it, and it seems cereal has it!
There are now ‘low fat’ cereals and ‘high protein’ cereals – more so since the increase in trends surrounding high protein diets. However, if we look at the ingredients of most cereals we can see that they aren’t so healthy at all.
Cereals are often high in sugar and are classed as a refined carbohydrate. For a better breakfast choice why not try our recipe for Overnight Oats.
The amount of carbohydrates in one bagel is usually around 60-65g, which is very high. The Glycemic Index of a bagel is around 70 – meaning it has a severe impact on your blood sugar levels post-consumption.
These facts mean that bagels are terrible when it comes to healthy living – particularly for weight loss goals. The vast amount of carbohydrates will lead to fat storage and hunger pretty soon after eating! Stick to a slice of rye for your favourite toppings on a healthier, open sandwich with tonnes more fibre.
These convenient bottles of fruit and vegetables come in many shapes and sizes and often contain up to two of your five a day. A healthy choice right?
Smoothies are full of sugar and will spike your insulin in the same way that a chocolate bar would. Sure, the sugar is often from fruits, however, the effect it has on your body is no different from refined sugar since the fruits are blended – losing a lot of fibre in the process.
Some smoothies claim to be ‘green’ – packed full of vegetables and added healthy extras like wheatgrass and matcha. However, when looking at the list of ingredients, most smoothies feature a fruit juice (or worse a fruit juice from concentrate) as the main ingredient, several other fruit purees and then a tiny amount of greens like spinach or kale.
You would get a much better health kick from simply adding a side of greens to your plate.
If you want to make your own blended drinks, then go ahead – you can better control the ratio of vegetables to fruit and exactly what goes in, however when it comes to shop bought varieties then steer clear! It would be advisable to keep the ratio of fruits to vegetables 1:3 and try adding a tablespoon of flaxseeds, chia seeds or nuts to increase the fibre content.
6. Fat-Free Products
In a world where fat is the enemy, of course, the range of fat-free products was going to make an appearance and entice us into believing they were better for us. For years it was common belief that eating fats was bad for you and eating a low-fat diet would help you lose weight and stay healthier.
However, we now know that we need fats for a variety of purposes in the body and that not all fats should be treated equally.
Fat-free products are sneaky because when you reduce the amount of fat in a product, to recreate a similar taste you need to add something else.
That ‘something else’ is more often than not sugar, and we know how bad sugar is when it comes to your health and diet goals. So these low-fat labels may contain less fat than the regular products, but you should check the difference in sugar content and think twice about fat-free options.
Which brings us onto our next surprisingly unhealthy food. Now, when we talk about yoghurt we’re obviously not suggesting that all yoghurt is bad for you.
Greek yoghurt, pure and simple, with no added sugar, is a great source of protein – particularly if you’re a vegetarian.
However, how often do you see the words ‘low-fat’ or ‘fat-free’ on the side of a flavoured yoghurt pot?
Flavoured yoghurts are initially an unhealthy choice due to the added sugars from the flavouring process. Fruit purees are the biggest culprit here, and often sugar is simply a listed ingredient too. Add to the mix a low-fat label, and you’ve got yourself a little pot full of sugar!
Try this recipe for a fun DIY yoghurt treat instead!
- 100g Plain Greek yoghurt
- 50g Frozen blueberries
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
Heat the blueberries in a pan until they reduce to a compote consistency. Add the chia seeds and stir well to combine. Leave to cool and thicken and then spoon into your Greek yoghurt.