Here are six foods that you may have thought were the healthy choice, but are in fact laden with sugar and salt and empty of nutrition.
- Reduced-fat peanut butter: One of the biggest benefits of peanuts is that they’re full of monounsaturated fats, which are the good fats. Take that out of the peanut butter and what do you have left? Tons of sugar and the same amount of (now empty) calories. Typically whenever you see reduced fat in any product, it means that the fat was replaced with sugar or salt. Make sure you choose an organic peanut butter with no added sugar, oils or salt. Also try almond butter as a great peanut butter alternative. The key here is to control portion size and without sugar, you will only need a small about to feel satisfied.
- Fruit smoothies: Most juice and smoothie bars are marketed as the healthy beverage choice but the average fruit smoothie can contain more than 30 grams of sugar, with no protein or healthy fats. Juices should contain mostly vegetables, with a little fruit added for sweetness. The same rule applies to smoothies, but in these you can also add coconut water for hydration, vitamin powders for added nutrition such as spirulina, and peanut butter or protein powder for fat and protein.
- Protein bars: If you read the label of a protein bar, I doubt you could recognize half of the ingredients. Too many protein bars are just processed bricks of artificial ingredients and fillers. Also many of them are very high in sugar, fat and calories. If you want a quick snack, try and apple or celery sticks with peanut butter, quinoa crackers with avocado or carrot sticks with hummus. You can also make your own protein snacks at home, try some of my recipes.
- Low-fat frozen yoghurt and ice-cream: While some of these products may be fairly low in calories, they are nutritionally empty and send straight sugar into your blood stream, which often turns directly into fat. If you want a cool treat, try a protein rich yoghurt (such as Chobani which is low in sugar) and add in a tablespoon of flavored whey protein powder, a tablespoon of LSA (linseed meal), and blueberries.
- Sushi: Japanese food is often an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, but Westernised versions of these meals often contain added fat and sugar. Watch out for meals rich in sweet and salty sauces or sushi rolls made with fried foods, mayonnaise or cream cheese. The best choice is sashimi, edamame or seaweed salads, which are all high in nutritional value and low in carbohydrates, sugar and processed fats.
- Vegetarian or gluten-free options: Just because a meal is labelled vegetarian or gluten-free does not automatically mean it is good for you. Vegetarian foods can be laden with oils, cheese and fats to substitute meat. Make sure you look for fresh options that include some lean protein, such as tofu or legumes. Gluten-free products like baked goods or pastas are often just as high in sugar or carbohydrates as the wheat-based equivalents. Make your own healthy versions of muffins at home (here are some recipes) and try substituting pasta for shredded zucchini.