Watch out for these sneaky schemes.
When I was a child, I never paid much attention to the food I put into my body. I ate a generally healthy diet, with one major exception.
Typical meals that I ate quite often included baked potatoes, pasta with tofu and vegetables, cereal, avocado sandwiches, and peanut butter and banana sandwiches. My diet was pretty average, except for the fact that I didn't eat meat, as I became a vegetarian at around 7 or 8 years old.
However, my diet included a large excess of one unhealthy ingredient - processed sugar. Between my meals, I snacked on granola bars, cookies, ice cream, and packaged snack cakes. Now, some of these foods are quite obviously unhealthy, like the cookies, ice cream, etc. I understood that they weren't the most nutrient dense foods to eat, but I still got plenty of nutrients through my main meals.
Yet, there were other foods in my diet that I didn't even realize had loads of processed sugar, because they were disguised as health foods. Even as a young teen, I assumed that they were healthy, because they were marketed in that way.
What I came to realize was that they were advertised in this manner to get people to buy them, but they truly weren't benefiting me in the way I thought they were. The following are five unhealthy foods that, to this day, are often marketed as healthy, but they really aren't. Once you become aware of them, you'll better understand what actually goes into them.
1. This Popular Spread
One of my absolute favorite, go-to spreads is peanut butter. I have enjoyed it for years, and it provides a source of protein and healthy fat in my diet.
When I was a teenager, and I started to be more proactive about eating healthy, I switched to natural peanut butter. I assumed that natural correlated with healthy. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I quickly found out that the natural peanut butter wasn't actually natural. It had added sugar, which I was trying to avoid eating in excess.
Nowadays, I always check the label before I try out a new peanut butter. Many of them sneak in added sugar or oil, even if they are advertised as natural. I always go for the simplest ones that are made only of peanuts or peanuts and salt.
2. This Breakfast Favorite
One of my all-time favorite breakfasts is oatmeal. When I first started eating it, I tried some of the flavored packets. I had always heard that oatmeal was a super healthy breakfast, so I didn't even think to check the label as a teenager.
As it turns out, the supposedly healthy breakfast can quickly be made less healthy when you go for the flavored packets. They are often packed with added sugar that adds up quickly.
I have since ditched the packets for the big tub with one simple ingredient - oats. It's also worth noting that buying your oats this way is typically cheaper. Not only will you reap the health benefits, but you'll also save yourself some money in the process.
3. Salad Dressings
When you think of a healthy meal, what's the first thing that pops into your head? Salad is probably at the top of your list.
Unfortunately, a healthy salad loaded with fresh vegetables can quickly turn unhealthy if you buy one of the salad dressings advertised as healthy that secretly isn't. Many of the salad dressings you'll find at the grocery store, including someo of the ones that are advertised as low-fat or low sugar, contain a bunch of additives, chemicals, oils, and sometimes even trans fats.
What I have started doing is making my own simple dressing using fresh olive oil and lemon juice, or even balsamic vinegar. This method allows you to top your salad with far more natural ingredients, and avoid all the added sugar and chemicals as well.
4. This Sweet Beverage
I remember when they finally took sodas out of school vending machines. Parents were happy because kids had been drinking liquid sugar with no nutrients. Everyone knew this was unhealthy, so they were glad to see the sodas go.
The unfortunate part is that those sodas were replaced with fruit juice. This seemed like a healthy alternative at the time, but fruit juice actually contains a lot of sugar.
Even worse, fruit juice takes out the fiber from the fruit, so it's really a sugar sweetened beverage in disguise. While it may be advertised as a super healthy option, whole fruit with the fiber intact is actually a better choice.
5. Granola Bars
When I was in high school, I used to pack a granola bar in my lunch almost every day. I thought it was a healthy alternative to a candy bar, but the truth is, it wasn't all that much better.
Many granola bars on the market today are loaded with sugar. While they may be advertised as healthy, nutrient dense snacks, some of them have as much added sugar as a candy bar.
Really, they are more like a dessert. Still, the way that many of them are advertised makes them seem healthy, which is misleading for the consumer.
You have to watch out for false or misleading advertising. It truly is everywhere you look, because many companies try to make money in any way they can, even if the consumer is negatively impacted as a result.
Once I started to become more mindful of reading through the ingredients before purchasing new products at the grocery store, I was able to make more educated decisions as to whether or not I wanted to put that food into my body.
Remember that the cover doesn't always tell the full story. Sometimes, you have to dig deeper and pay attention to the details to gain a better understanding of a situation. When it comes to packaged foods, the nutrition label is the most telling part. So the next time you go shopping, don't forget to check your labels. Your health just might receive a boost as a result.