Remember Mean Girls? In one of the scenes from the now classic movie, Cady tries to sabotage Regina George, leader of the “Plastics”, by telling her that Kalteen bars were “these weird nutrition bars my mom uses to lose weight”. In the dialogue that ensues later around the high school lunch table, Cady insists with a passive aggressive grin, “Yeah, you know, there’s some weird ingredient that’s not legal in the US yet… Burns carbs! It just burns up ALL YOUR CARBS!”
That was good enough for Regina – until a few weeks later when her sweatpants were the only thing in her closet that fit!
Imposter Healthy Foods
Like Regina, we sometimes just put our blind trust into what we are told about food (but hopefully not by “frenemies” secretly trying to make us fat!). We obviously know not all food is healthy food, but let’s be real. Not all “healthy food” is created equal either.
Thanks to skillful marketing or just plain not knowing, we can get sucked in by “imposter” healthy foods, that if used in the wrong context, can really sabotage our progress.
God Didn’t Create Kalteen Bars
We know that the best of nature’s healthy foods are the ones that are the least processed and come straight from the plants and animals that God has provided for us. Our bodies know what these foods are and what to do with them as far as our digestion and metabolism are concerned. The closer we can get our nutrition in line with this, the better!
If you are trying to lose weight, you are very likely learning to become more selective about what foods you are consuming. It’s not an easy task, with all the temptation around us. After all your effort, the last thing you need is to realize you are eating the equivalent of those Kalteen bars when you thought you were doing your body good!
Those Hidden Ingredients
There are often hidden ingredients (many of them chemicals) in seemingly healthy foods that are perceived as weight loss helpers, but that are not actually doing anything for your progress. A good rule of thumb is if you don’t recognize an ingredient, chances are your body won’t either. Learning to read labels for real ingredients, nutrients, and portions will definitely help.
Let’s take a look at 5 foods that most would consider “healthy”, and how we can be more informed consumers.
Healthy Foods, or Just Hype?
Protein bars: Getting your energy through high-carb/high-calorie protein bars may be appropriate if you are on an intensive training program. Unfortunately, for some brands, the positives (quick, convenient source of protein) are outweighed by the negatives (high sugar), making them more like a candy bar than a weight loss supplement. You should also know the context – are you using it as a pre- or post-workout snack? A meal replacement?
Read the labels carefully to know exactly what you are eating. In some cases, you’re better off just having a banana.
Trail mix: While it’s true that nuts and dried fruit are good snack choices, many trail mix manufacturers load up on the salt and sugar, with some even adding candy right in to their mixes, causing a small handful to easily contain 300+ calories. Costco’s Kirkland brand lists only 9 grams of sugar, BUT a serving size is only 3 tablespoons! I’ve never eaten just 3 tablespoons of that stuff!
Am I saying you should NEVER eat trail mix again? No. I mean, if you are choosing between that or a few Krispy Kremes then OK, the trail mix is probably the way to go (even with those M&Ms). All I’m saying is, just be informed and go in with your eyes wide open. As an alternative, you can check out your grocery store’s bulk nuts/fruit section to mix and match and create your own version. Pinterest is also a great source for healthier trail mix recipes.
Granola: Rolled oats, nuts, and fruits – how can we go wrong with this one? Again, like many of the trail mixes, watch out for the added sugar. Look at the ingredient list for fillers in the form of preservatives and chemicals, and for saturated fat from the oils used. Also like trail mixes, a common mistake people make with granola is not checking portion sizes.
Remember, a sprinkle of granola on top of your yogurt is much different than an entire cereal bowl full!
Yogurt: Yogurt is a great source of calcium and probiotics to help boost the immune system and promote a healthy digestive tract. That said, be aware of falling for the “light”, “fat-free” or “healthy fruit added” trap, without reading the labels to check the ingredients before you buy.
Many of the flavored yogurts have as much (or more) sugar and/or artificial sweeteners than a can of soda. Best bet: Buy plain yogurt and add your own fresh fruit. Bryan over at Leanitup.com has a great article comparing some of the best known Greek yogurt brands.
Smoothies: The smoothie industry is definitely booming, and while they may taste amazing, you don’t need the ice cream, syrup, or artificially sugar-laden fruit juice base that many are made with. According to CalorieLab.com, the Orange Dream from Jamba contains around 30% of your day’s daily value of carbs, and most of that comes from sugar (73 grams!), not to mention its 390 calories.
Alternatively, you can try your hand at creating your own smoothies. I drink my superfood shake every morning. It contains no refined sugar, just a natural sweetener blend of non-GMO fructose and stevia (6 grams). At 17 grams of protein, and only 160 calories (click here to see the ingredient label), it’s a wonderful supplement that I highly recommend.
The Label on the Back
Crazy health claims are made all the time in the food industry, and frankly, it can all get a little confusing. My best advice is to keep it simple. The label on the front of the package, touting “low-fat, less-fat, fat-free, less sugar, gluten-free” and the like, isn’t where you should be spending your time. If you must eat packaged food, focus on that label on the back, and aim for the shortest ingredient lists of foods you can actually pronounce, as well as guidelines for the correct portion sizes.
Know that a gluten-free cookie isn’t a “health food”, any more than an Oreo is. Eating handfuls of “healthy” trail mix can quickly add up to over 30 grams of sugar in a single sitting. A microwaved Lean Cuisine lunch everyday isn’t going to do much to help you lose 20 pounds with the nutrition your body needs to sustain it.
No matter at what stage of the weight loss process you are in now, there are certainly many factors that could be sabotaging your progress – taking in too many or too few calories, going on deprivation diets, skipping meals, and even not getting enough sleep, to name a few. But if you are serious about getting on the right track with your wellness, start teaching yourself the habit of reading labels.
By providing true healthy foods for yourself and your family, everyone wins!
Genesis 1:29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.
Remember when it comes to food, your best bet is usually to keep it simple, keep it whole, and keep it real!