“Health foods” that should be questioned

by Carla Bolstridge in Nutrition | Training

health foods

There are plenty of foods out there that many people assume are healthy, maybe because it contains oats, labelled as “fat free” or “skinny,” but can actually contribute to weight gain. It is not to say that the foods I am about to list should be banned completely, especially if you enjoy the food. However, the problem with a lot of these “health foods” is that, because people assume they are healthy they tend to think its ok to completely base most of their meals and snacks around these foods or over consume them, thinking that they are some kind of free food that they can eat in abundance.

So what are these foods? Many of you might already be aware of these healthy food imposters, but read on as you might actually be surprised.

“Natural ingredients” Granola and Cereal Bars

Yes they may contain natural ingredients but they are also packed with sugar (after all sugar cane is a natural ingredient so they aren’t actually lying). Not only are they loaded with sugar but they don’t really contain much protein, instead just simple carbohydrates. In the morning, it would be a much smarter choice to go for foods rich in protein that will keep you fuller for longer rather than simple carby granola or cereal bars that can rapidly rise blood sugar levels and fall again making you hungrier a lot sooner.


Coffee shop “skinny” muffins

They may be lower in calories due to having reduced fat, but they have to be flavoured with something? You may have guessed it, sugar. Again, these skinny muffins are just basically simple carbohydrates, and whilst there is a time and a place for simple carbohydrates, especially for athletes, you’re not likely going to be putting them to good use sitting in a coffee shop.


“Fat free” yoghurt

You have probably noticed a pattern by now, which is sugar and again fat free flavoured yoghurts are loaded with it. In fact yoghurt should be a great protein source, and many plain types of yoghurt are, but the fat free kind contain that much sugar, they are more of a carbohydrate source than protein. Of course, I am not bashing carbohydrates, they are very important, but I do think these yoghurts can be very misleading in their branding.


Fruit juice “drinks”

I am not necessarily talking about pure juices, although these can be over consumed, I am talking about juices that are labelled “fruit juice drink.” Basically, companies are being careful with their labelling as they aren’t lying by saying fruit juice, in a nutshell, fruit juice “drinks” are partly fruit juice and part…sugar, fructose syrups and lots of other sugary nonsense. In fact some of these drinks can have as little as 25% real fruit juice in them. So double check the ingredients list when purchasing.

“Gluten free” goods

Ok, so there are many people that are genuinely allergic to gluten or have a gluten intolerance. However, there appears to be a culture of self-diagnosing gluten intolerances, and people assuming that gluten free products must be healthy. I am not talking about gluten free oats, I’m referring to the breads, cakes and biscuits that have about 50 ingredients and actually have the same, if not more calories than the original product. So, unless you have a genuine intolerance, it is worth considering if you really need to consume a product with lots of replacement ingredients, some of which you may not have a clue what they are, sodium stearoyl – 2-lactylate? Huh?


Margarine and spreads

Ok, so I know I said that you didn’t have to completely ban the foods I have listed, but this may be one that really does not have a place in your fridge. Margarine was originally created as a cheap substitute for butter, key word here being cheap! Fats are important, such as mono-saturates, poly-saturates and even saturates, but one fat we do not need is trans fats. It is basically a man-made fat that has no place in our bodies and margarine can be full of it! In my opinion you’re better off consuming the real deal, yes butter! Just make sure you keep your eye on portion control as it is very calorie dense.


Hopefully this blog has shed some light on these foods that are commonly mistaken for optimal health foods. Of course you can enjoy most of these foods in small quantities and still hit your fitness goals (although margarine with trans-fat is a definite no go in my opinion). However, be smart and do not based the majority of your diet on these foods or over indulge on them, as they often offer little fibre and hardly any nutritional value. There has also been a big theme here on sugar, and although we need sugar to a certain extent, there is a lot of emerging research that concludes people are over consuming sugar which plays a major role in sabotaging their health and waistline.