Healthy eating can be a tricky business. The temptation of takeaways and chocolate biscuits is never far away, providing a serious obstacle for all but the most monkish of diners. Obviously, we’re big believers in encouraging people to eat whatever they like. But, if anyone does want to eat something other than fried chicken and cheese, it can be trickier than it looks.
As a way to make healthy living slightly more manageable, many people invest heavily in so-called “healthy” foods. These can range to everything from non-processed to snacks to low fat alternatives to favourite ingredients. On the surface, this all seems fairly sensible. Unfortunately, it turns out that many of the foods that should help us live healthier lifestyles are really wolves in sheep’s clothing. To help you avoid foodie booby traps, here are a few “healthy” foods to look out for.
1. Diet Soda
A drink that tastes just like the real thing, with no sugar, no calories and no downside? Sign us up! Unfortunately, the sales pitch for diet soda is, as it sounds, far too good to be true. All that extracted sugar needs to be replaced with something in order to keep a vaguely normal taste, and the artificial sweeteners and chemicals are often far worse than what was in there to begin with.
2. Soy Milk
Soy has long been touted as the fashionable alternative to traditional dairy, and has subsequently swept the health food scene by storm. The reality, however, is far less appetising. Soy is naturally high in isoflavones - a chemical compound similar to the female hormone estrogen. This can cause real health problems, especially for women, in whom it has been shown that regularly drink soy milk may drastically increase the risk of breast cancer.
3. Trail Mix
Raisins, nuts and the occasional nugget of chocolate might not seem like the most disastrous thing in the world, but trail mix is far less innocent that you might expect. Not only do manufacturers throw a handful of processed sugar on top of every serving, but the nuts that form the basis for the snack are also incredibly high in salt - a potent combination that can cause both sodium and blood sugar spikes.
4. Low fat peanut butter
One of the major benefits of normal peanut butter is the high levels of healthy monounsaturated fats that form a major component. By opting to buy a low fat version of the spread, you are essentially choosing something that has had all the goodness leached out and replaced with hollow calories. You’re far better off sticking with the real thing.
5. Light Salad Dressing
Though dressing is easily the best part of eating a salad, it is also often the least healthy. This has caused companies to try and lure us back with the promise of something lighter, yet still full of flavour. However, much like peanut butter, light salad dressings take out the healthy fats found in olive oil and replace them with chemical alternatives that offer little to no health benefit and are sometimes actively bad for you.
6. Flavoured and fat free Yoghurt
Yoghurt has long been a darling of dieters everywhere. In its natural form, yoghurt can help aid digestion, promote bone health and provide boosts of calcium, protein, potassium and other essential nutrients. Unfortunately, flavoured and fat free yoghurts cancel out any of these potential benefits by replacing them with huge amounts of sugar.
7. Protein Bars
Since we all became obsessed with protein, clever marketers have realised that they can use the quest for bigger muscles to sell us almost anything. Hence the modern protein bar. Despite being advertised as packed full of goodness, many protein bars are actually laden with sugar, making any protein benefits basically redundant.
In many cases, looking for a healthy alternative to one of your favourite foods is a bad idea. Though they may be bad for you in vast quantities, the reality is that any food is fine as part of a balanced diet. Ironically, it’s only when you look for something “healthy” that you can eat more regularly without feeling guilty is when it might become a problem.