By Cristina Pessegueiro, Skinny Gene Nutritionist
We’ve all been duped before. The claims on a package of “natural”, “low fat”, “high in vitamins” – all screaming “pick me! I’m healthy!” As scary as it sounds, some labels can be misleading. The frightening truth is that unless you do a little detective work reading the nutrition facts and ingredient list, there is no other way of knowing just how healthy a product is. Let me help you cross off a few of these terrifying foods from your healthy list.
5 Scary Foods You Thought Were Healthy
1. Granola Bars
Whether it’s in the form of a bar or as cereal, granola can be packed with tons of sugar and calories. Sure it starts out as healthy oats but the chilling fact is that most granola products add honey, dried fruits, chocolate, peanut butter chips, and even yogurt powder. These are all dense forms of calories and sugar you weren’t looking for. Not to forget that portions are often so small you’re hungry again in no time.
Less frightening option: Choose granola bars that are lower in sugar and do not list a form of a sugar as its 1st ingredient. Also try varieties that are made with whole grains (also on the ingredient list) that way you can add a little added fiber to your day.
2. Veggie Chips
Unfortunately a chip is a chip no matter if it’s blue corn, whole wheat, sweet potato or any other substitute for tortilla they have used. If it comes in package you can almost guarantee that the vegetable or whole grain is way down the ingredient list and are sometimes only vegetable colored. They usually contain the same amount of fat and sodium as regular potato chips no matter how you slice them.
Less frightening option: Look for chips with the vegetable listed as the very first ingredient. That way you know you are getting an actual vegetable. Even better bake your own using kale, beets, or any other vegetable you like. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle some salt and bake your way to a yummy chip alternative.
3. Reduced Fat and Fat Free Treats
You’ve seen it before – reduced fat crackers and even fat free cookies. Is that even possible? It is once these treats have been highly processed. These deceiving little goodies make you think they are healthy options and so you are likely to eat three times as many as you wanted to. When you remove the fat from a product you also need to add something to make it taste better than cardboard. That something is usually sugar and salt making them just as caloric and as scary as the regular version.
Less frightening option: If you’re going to indulge in a treat, go for the real thing. As long as you are mindful in portioning out a serving nothing will beat the taste of what you were really craving.
4. Fruit Yogurt
Fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt is probably one of the creepiest hidden forms of sugar you will find. Some varieties have as much fat as a bag of potato chips! Once the mask has been removed you will find the “fruit” is actually just concentrated or soaked with high fructose corn syrup and other sugars.
Less frightening option: Find choices that don’t have any added ingredients or are made with sugar substitutes. Always opt for a lower fat version. Or stick to a simple low-fat plain or greek yogurt and add your own toppings for a delicious treat.
5. Pre-Made Smoothies
Those little blends may be the greatest con artist of all. A 16oz bottle can almost have as many calories as a burger and more grams of sugar than a bottle of soda! Same goes for ones you find at fast food restaurants. Most pre-made smoothies don’t use the whole fruit –only juice- so you are missing out on all the fiber and nutrients fruit has to offer. While some of the sugars in pre-made smoothies may actually be natural fruit sugars often they add sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup making it a horrifying calorie bomb.
Less frightening option: Make your own smoothie by using whole fruits, yes with the skin, to get all of the fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and enzymes. Add some low fat yogurt and you have a great treat for you and any of your little monsters.