Many of us have been tricked by misleading marketing on food packages. Brands know that advertising their product as “gluten-free”, “sugar-free”, “fat-free”, “3 grams net carbs”, or “low carb” translate to a healthy choice in minds of most people. But let me tell you, just because it’s labeled “100% natural” does not mean it is healthy. “USDA Organic” does not imply it’s good for you. You’ve got to be smarter than marketers, and that starts with educating yourself.
Start by checking nutrition labels first and foremost. If you don’t know what to look for, begin with the ingredient list. The shorter the list the better. Do you know everything that it lists? Are there added sugars? What about trans-fat? Steer clear of these things.
I’ll admit it took me awhile to learn what is actually nutritious and there are several foods that I loved, but didn’t even realize what I was actually consuming. Here are a few of the foods I see others fooled by:
Peanut Butter. The only ingredient in peanut butter should be peanuts. If you check the ingredient list on jars of peanut butter from Jif for example, you will see that sugar, salt, and vegetable oils are added to it. Nut butters are a great source of healthy fats, but stick to organic brands with few ingredients.
Instant Oatmeal Packets. Unfortunately convenience usually comes with a caloric cost. It’s such a great idea, right? Single-serving packets of oatmeal to take on the go making breakfast super simple, but have you checked the ingredients? Most instant oatmeal packets have a ton of unnecessary added sugar, making them no worse than having a doughnut for breakfast. There are healthier brands than others, but aim for 0g of added sugar. Better Oats Oat Fit is a great choice.
Smoothies. If they’re not homemade, chances are they are packed with added sugar. Fruit itself is composed of simple sugars, so no need to add more. Fruit is natural sugar, which is the best kind of simple sugar there is. Smoothies can be healthy, it just depends what goes into them.
Flavored Yogurt. We’ve all seen it; our grocery stores have aisles upon aisles of assorted yogurt flavors. Things ranging from mixed berry to cookies and cream, sounds delicious, right? It’s likely these flavors contain, you guessed it, added sugar! The best thing to do is buy plain yogurt and add your own toppings, such as nuts, seeds, or fruit so you know exactly what is going into it.
Diet Cereals. The ingredient list in some cereals we have here in the United States is worse than candy in other countries. I mean for real, have you ever checked ingredients in your cereal? Sugar is one of the top ingredients and most have over 10g of added sugar in just one serving. What is most frustrating is when brands like Special K advertise diet cereal. Like, “eat one serving of this for breakfast and you will lose weight.” Of course you will lose weight, because one serving is ¾ cup of cereal and who is going to be satisfied after eating that little?
If you take anything away from this blog post, it better be check the nutrition label for the ingredient list! Having these things in moderation is just fine, of course, but don’t be fooled into thinking that they’re healthy and that you should eat them every day.
When checking ingredient lists, the shorter the list the better. Do you really want to consume something with ingredients that you can’t even pronounce? Be smarter, my friends. Your health is so worth it.