Ah, health food; it's a tricky business. Often, an edible item the public has come to believe is synonymous with healthy living is actually just the product of some very seductive food marketing and doesn't offer any health benefits to consumers at all.
Take soy or chocolate milk as examples. In both cases, research funded by serious stakeholders in the success of these products, positioned them in the marketplace as "healthy". The reality of the situation is, however, that proof of their beneficial properties has yet to be seen. And in the case of the dairy industry framing chocolate milk as the ideal sports recovery drink, well, I think it's safe to say that a lot of people out there have chugged away their caloric deficits for the day, not to mention spiked their sugar levels, after following that advice.
For the most part, we know that real, whole foods, are the way to go, but what about those products that we have become accustomed to that claim to be doing us good, but are really just hurting us in the long run? Here is a look at a few supposedly healthful favourites that we would all do well to rethink.
Blog continues below slideshow...
It's surely the holy grail of phony health foods. Yes, granola starts in a wholesome place (though not if you consult with those Paleo-minded folks) of whole-grain oats, but by the time manufacturers are done with it, simple granola has been coated in sugary syrups and cooked in hydrogenated fats, negating any beneficial properties those grains once possessed. Anyone looking to lose weight isn't using their calories wisely with any type of cereal, but a seemingly harmless bowl of granola and milk can cost you upwards of 600 calories and surpass your daily sugar intake targets in one fell swoop.
When it comes to reaping the benefits of water, you really can't beat the real deal. If you feel like you need an extra hit of vitamins every now and then, pop a multi-vitamin instead of opting for a bottle of nutrient-enhanced H2O. The handful of B and C vitamins you get from one of those bottles is certainly not going to make up for the sugar, artificial ingredients and empty calories you are taking in with them. People that follow a healthy way of eating are already getting the vitamins and minerals they need from their food sources, so investing in vitamin waters is literally flushing money down the drain.
Who likes bran, right? It doesn't taste very good, so it must be healthy! Unfortunately not. While there are certainly a lot of ways to make your homemade muffins extremely healthful, those found at your local coffee shop or deli do not qualify. Don't let the title of muffin fool you -- these are essentially cupcakes without the perks of icing, and even the bran varieties often contain more white flour than the fiber-packed stuff you think you are getting. The rest of the recipe includes straight-up sugar, butter and typically a healthy dose of calorie-charged enhancements like nuts, dried fruit or chocolate. Don't fool yourself into thinking that muffins are a better choice than a doughnut with your morning coffee either, as the portion size usually puts them somewhere in the 500 calorie range. And 500 calories of nothing with staying power at that.
Don't get me wrong, for many people liquid nutrition is a solid option. Especially when it comes to people on the go. There is a massive difference though, between a smoothie you make for yourself at home and one you pick up at a commercial chain. When you are the one controlling everything that goes into the blender, you are controlling the quality of the ingredients and the quantities of fruits and vegetables that you are getting. The commercial chains, however, are notorious for filling your "healthy" smoothie with ridiculous ingredients like fruit drinks and syrups, ice cream or sherbet, full-fat yogurt and even chocolate, all in the name of taste. Large sizes of these can weigh-in upwards of 1000 calories. For some women that is two thirds of their daily calories in one styrofoam cup! Do yourself a favour and get acquainted with a few at-home smoothie recipes rather than buying one that will break the calorie bank.
I get it, sometimes you really do just need to grab something to eat on the fly and pre-packaged bars are very convenient. The majority of the big brands out there fall into the same category as granola in terms of what they are offering you nutritionally though. High in saturated fats and loaded with sugar, hydrogenated oils and fillers like artificial additives and preservatives, these should be considered as healthful as chowing down on a Snickers. If you're activity level isn't high enough to burn off these calorie bombs, they will also sabotage your weight loss just like a chocolate bar would.