Junk in disguise
The way to live a long, healthy life is simple -- eat healthy and exercise. But how do you know what's really good for you and what's just junk food masquerading as healthy? Check out some of these so-called healthy foods that you really need to avoid.
When trying to eat healthy, staying away from refined carbohydrates, like white bread, is a great place to start. But if you think you're being good by reaching for the multigrain bread instead of classic white Wonder, think again, says Erin Winterhalter, a registered dietitian and director of the MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education at Villanova University's College of Nursing in Pennsylvania. "It's important to make sure you look at the ingredient list to see what type of flour is being used," she says. "A lot of breads will use a bunch of different refined flours, making multigrain bread not much better than white." Instead, opt for breads made with whole grain flours, Winterhalter says, and preferably without high fructose corn syrup.
The general consensus used to be that fat was the enemy, Winterhalter says, but these days, we know better. While saturated and trans fats, the kind found in red meat, butter and processed foods, are bad, fats from olive oil, nuts and fish can be heart-healthy. However, many people still opt for low-fat foods, without realizing what they're actually eating. "When things are made low-fat, the food company still has to make it taste good," Winterhalter says. "Typically, they'll load it up with salt or sugar. Just because it's low-fat doesn't make it healthy."
While smoothies you make at home are fine, premade smoothies you buy at the grocery store are basically no better than soda, Winterhalter says. "They are loaded with sugar," she says. "And instead of mixing whole fruits and berries together, the food companies just mix together fruit juice, which already has all the fiber and other good stuff taken out."
Granola and trail mix is often seen as a healthy snack, and it can be, Winterhalter says, but only if you adhere to the serving size. Granola is usually mixed with dried fruits or chocolates that can provide a boost to help you get through your day, but oftentimes, it can be loaded with sugar and calories. A serving size of granola is only a quarter cup," Winterhalter says. "It can be a good snack if you're careful, but odds are you're eating way more calories and sugar than you think."
After a tough workout, protein-packed energy bars can help you refuel -- but just what exactly are you refueling your body with? "Many of them are full of saturated fats, fillers and preservatives," Winterhalter says. "Look for all-natural bars or ones with short ingredient lists."