Since becoming a health counselor, I have conversations with people on a daily basis in which they are so proud to tell me about the wonderful things they are doing for their own health. While I truly admire anyone who tries to improve their lives or the lives of their loved ones, I can't help but take note of how often the general public is misled into believing that the foods they are consuming are actually good for them. The marketing and advertisement on so many of the products out there are sheer genius...they have convinced us all that even the most unhealthy of products are good for us. Even with the colorful packaging and clever wording, some products we can simply look at and know in our gut that it can't be good for us, while others you may be a little more surprised to learn about.
Here is a list of 5 "healthy" foods that may not be quite as healthy as you were lead to believe.
Vitamin Water: Everywhere I go now I see someone drinking Vitamin Water or giving it to their children to drink thinking they are loading them with a healthful beverage packed with their daily dose of vitamins. This is unfortunately not the case - at all. If you look at the ingredient label you will see that the second ingredient listed is sugar (crystalline fructose). Last I checked, sugar was not a vitamin! These drinks also contain added coloring & flavorings, which is generally something you don't want your water to contain. The Coca-Cola Company (which owns the Vitamin Water brand) has recently come under attack for making false claims on this product, including the claim that Vitamin Water is made from real fruit juice, when only 3 of their 8 flavors contain any juice at all. Coca-Cola defended themselves by stating "no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking Vitamin Water was a healthy beverage." How many of you believed it was? Don't feel bad if you did. It was a brilliant marketing ploy to sell products. My recommendation - stick to water and real vitamins! If you need some extra flavor, put a slice of lemon, cucumber or a strawberry in your glass. (see recipe below for Fruit Infused Water)
Protein Bars: I can't tell you how many people I know skip breakfast and reach for a protein bar thinking they are doing right by their body. And why shouldn't they think that? If you look at a box of these bars they make lots of wonderful health claims. They even proudly proclaim that they have a "candy bar taste." That candy bar taste is because you are basically eating a candy bar. If you read the label on one of these products you will see that the bar is actually made up of sugar (sugar and more sugar), tons of artificial ingredients, colorings and artificial sweeteners. Check out the ingredients in Kellogg's Special K Protein Meal Bar. I counted sugar listed 10 times! These types of products fall more into the realm of an UN-healthy DESSERT than they do a healthy treat. This doesn't mean you can never eat a bar again. Simply look for organic bars with limited ingredients, and think of these more as an occasional snack, than a healthy meal replacement.
(Commercial) Smoothies: Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big fan of smoothies. I start every morning with a delicious, nutritious, homemade green smoothie. However, all smoothies are not created equal. Commercial brand smoothies sold at restaurants, supermarkets and chains are a whole different type of beverage. These seemingly nutritious drinks are often loaded with sugar, syrups, frozen yogurt and even ice cream. Check out the ingredients in a Boost Nutritional Energy Smoothie - do you even know what half of those are? I sure don't! Look even closer...do you see any peach listed - or any fruit for that matter?
Before ordering your next smoothie check to make sure that they are using real fruit, water or juice and not adding in any of those unnecessary ingredients, which turn your healthy meal into one unhealthy treat!
Yogurt: I'm sure you have all seen the advertisements for yogurt improving your digestive tract and giving you the healthy bacteria that your body needs. While it is true that traditional yogurt does provide your body with wonderful probiotics and is incredibly nutrient dense, store bought commercial brands are not only LOADED with sugar, but much of the beneficial bacteria that is present in raw, fermented yogurt is destroyed through pasteurization and processing. Add in the fruit (often times artificial) and the yogurt winds up containing more sugar than a candy bar! Now throw in the artificial dyes and worst of all aspartame and sucralose, and you are now consuming a product that is no longer healthy or natural. If you are going to purchase yogurt look for plain, organic brands with limited ingredients. For those who really love their yogurt, consider learning how to make your own.
Fruit Juice: When you eat a piece of fruit you are consuming all parts of the fruit, including the fiber and the nutrients. When fruit is juiced it is stripped of it's fiber, which is what allows your body to absorb the sugar more slowly. Drinking large glasses of any type of juice causes a significant rise in blood sugar levels, which can be very dangerous. Excess sugar intake (Yes, even if that intake is from fruit juice) can lead to inflammation and a variety of diseases.
Aside from the sugar issue, the manufacturing of these juices removes most of the healthy elements. The fruit is picked, squeezed, pasteurized and either frozen or stripped of oxygen and stored in tanks for up to a year. Often times artificial flavoring is used to replenish flavors that have been lost through "deaeration" (essentially deoxygenating). The "flavor" created to mimic one particular fruit can be made up of thousands of different chemicals.
Commercial brand juices have also been found to contain high levels of pesticides and arsenic - a known carcinogen. This link will take you to an article posted by Dr. Oz that includes further information on this issue as well as common fruit juice brands that were found to contain high levels of arsenic.
My recommendation is to have fresh homemade juice or organic store bought juice on rare occasions. Do not drink large glasses and consider watering down any store bought juices.