There is a lot of food marketing which puts a health halo above foods which do not deserve it. Many of these ‘healthy’ foods have very little nutritional value and are more often than not crammed with sugar and salt to give them more flavour. Below is a list of 10 foods to look out for and alternatives which will be much more beneficial to your health, weight loss and training goals.
What We Think: ‘Low-fat’, ‘aids digestion’ß usually includes lots of good bacteria names ending in ‘um’ and ‘good for strong bones’.
Nutritional Value: Most yoghurt, particularly any ‘fat-free’ options are loaded with sugar which can lead to weight gain, energy peaks and lows, diabetes and upset digestion. A far cry from helping your digestive system! As a sweet treat once in a while yoghurt will cause you no harm, but don’t expect to see any drastic health improvements or weight loss by loading up on this dairy product.
Alternative: Making a fruit salad topped with plain yoghurt will help to maintain flavour and eradicate need for addictives and extra sugar. Plus you will be increasing your portion size and intake of vitamins and fibre without any additional calories!
What We Think: A healthy on-the-go snack.
Nutritional Value: While dried fruit is a much healthier alternative to having a packet of sweets or a bag of crisps, it is still not as healthy as eating the fresh version. Dried fruits tend to contain extra sugar and preservatives to increase their shelf life. They also contain less vitamins and minerals then their fresh counterparts.
Alternative: Stick to plain, fresh cranberries. They are an easy fruit to get hold of in winter and you may actually find that the fresh berries are cheaper than the dry version.
What We Think: A healthy and nutritious alternative to junk snacks.
Nutritional Value: You have to be extremely careful and check the nutritional content before you tuck into these bars! The plain granola bars will indeed bring you all the health benefits you would expect from granola. The whole grains, oats, fruit and nuts provide an excellent source of dietary fibre, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. However, be wary of chocolate coated bars with marshmallows and sauce to flavour them. They are extremely high in fat and are on par with consuming a chocolate bar!
Alternative: As I said, choose the plain options or enjoy a bowl of granola instead! Sitting down with a bowl of granola will be much more satisfying than a few bites of a bar. If you enjoy the almonds in granola the most, then try a handful of these as a snack instead. They are packed with vitamin E, essential fatty acids and an abundance of minerals and will satisfy your hunger pangs for a good few hours!
What We Think: A healthy snack, good for the heart and high in protein.
Nutritional Value: As a snack, nuts are great. However, when they have been roasted (even dry roasted with no ingredients added) the high temperature heating process reduces the nutrient value. The polyunsaturated fats (omega fatty acids) in nuts which are associated with health benefits are very fragile and unstable molecules. Heating the nuts causes oxidisation of these molecules which releases harmful free radicals and ruins any health benefits provided by the omega fatty acids!
Alternative: Avoid roasted, salted and flavoured nuts. It is best if you eat them raw. However, if you are a fan of dry roasted nuts you can buy them raw and roast them on a low heat in the oven to help avoid the oxidisation of polyunsaturated fats.
What We Think: The low fat/healthier alternative to ice cream.
Nutritional Value: Sorbet is fruit based which means it doesn’t contain all of the dairy cream associated with high levels of fat, hence it being labelled low-fat. However, as with most ‘low fat’ foods, the replacement is high levels of sugar and syrup. You only have to take a scoop of sorbet to see the abundance of sugar granules present and as you can imagine, the level of real fruit on the ingredient list is relatively minimal.
Alternative: Only eat ice cream or sorbet as an occasional dessert in small portions. The error is to assume you can eat more sorbet because it is ‘healthier’. If you fancy a low calorie frozen dessert, then ice lollies made from real fruit juice are probably your best bet!
What We Think: A low-calorie hug in a mug which provides 1 of our 5 a day.
Nutritional Value: The average tinned soup contains ~1000mg of salt and preservatives like monosodium glutamate (MSG) which has been associated with headaches, nausea and drowsiness.
Alternative: If you would like to ingest vitamin and mineral rich vegetables in a warm, tasty soup form then you should try making your own. Make a batch of your favourite soup and buy a flask so that you can have it on the go or save it for lunch time. The best way to know exactly what you are eating is to make the food yourself.