Friday, May 18, 2012

6 “Health Foods” That Will Ruin Your Weight Loss Efforts

Way to die young #11: Binge on these health foods.


The first step many people take on their journey to weight lost is identifying healthy alternatives to the junk food they once enjoyed so much. And, many people get frustrated after a while because they claim they are eating healthy but, are still gaining weight. Grocery stores are full of foods that claim to “healthy” but, which ones really pass the test?

I realize there may be more healthy versions of the foods listed in some instances, especially “beef jerky” and “health drinks.” But, the majority of foods in these categories are really junk. And, don't worry, I will give you some healthy alternatives for each. Here are the top 6 fake health foods:

1. Granola

Granola has been around a long time. It made a big revival as a hippie health food in the 60’s and then came back again to become a health food staple in the 80’s and 90’s. It was highly touted as a healthy breakfast food and better alternative to cereal as it was “whole grain”. Many companies jumped on board and started adding flavors, sweeteners and other ingredients, like dried fruit. They also started making granola bars and marketed them as a healthy snack.

Doesn't this just look so healthy?
But once you look past the marketing B.S. you quickly realize that granola is more of a dessert, much like a sugary cereal, than a health way to start your day. Granola consists of the worst types of carbohydrates in the forms of simple starches and sugars. They then add more sugar in the form of honey, brown sugar, or dried fruit.

Here is a look at the nutrition profile of a typical granola: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/breakfast-cereals/1545/2

Healthy alternative: If you absolutely have to get your granola fix reach for something like Grawnola. It is a raw alternative made without traditional grains offering a lot more nutrition with fewer carbs, more protein and vitamins & minerals. Check them out at www.grawnola.com. You can also buy a case here:

1 CASE, Grawnola, Granola Bar, Sweet & Sour, 1.3 oz, 12 per case


2. Health Drinks

The health drink market is a multi-billion dollar industry. Even the dairy alternative industry has surpassed 1 billion dollars. The winning combination for health drinks is this:

Sugar+Flavored Water+Perceived Health Benefit=Profit. 

It doesn’t matter if it is an energy drink, a relaxation drink, a concentration drink, a recovery drink, or a hangover cure tonic. They all follow the same formula and rarely ever work as promised.

One of the most popular marketed health drinks of all time is Gatorade. Gatorade claims to help recovery and hydration for athletes. Sure, maybe it contains electrolytes and sugar. This does help the recovery process. But, then again, so does tap water and an apple. I understand the convenience of these beverages for athletes, but I guarantee 99% of the market for Gatorade aren’t actual athletes who need this instant replenishment. Since normal people see fit, healthy, athletes drinking Gatorade then naturally, if they drink it, they will be to. They are just drinking empty calories and somehow feel proud because it is not a soft-drink.

Coconut water is also a very tasty drink that is often labeled, “natures Gatorade” because of its high levels of potassium and electrolytes. While it is true that coconut water is natural and much healthier than Gatorade it doesn’t give you an excuse to make it your exclusive beverage. Just remember, in nature you would have to scale a tree and then hack away at a fresh young coconut just to get a cup full of the liquid. Imagine the calories you would expend!

Unless you look like him-you probably don't need gatorade.
The same goes for Vitamin-Water. People shouldn’t need a sugary beverage to obtain their vitamins. They should obtain the vitamins they need where they are found naturally, and best bio-available-in actual fresh food.

Energy drinks are on a class of their own, besides being laden with sugar they often cause other serious health problems. I won’t go to deep on this but just Google “Energy Drink Health” to find thousands of articles.

There are many other types of health drinks but always beware of the “health drink formula” and ask yourself if you couldn’t better obtain this health benefit by eating some actual food.

Healthy Alternative: Sugar-free tea and herbal infusions. Mountain Rose has an amazing selection of bulk herbal goods and teas. Davidson’s also makes a very good cranberry orange tea.

Davidson's Tea Bulk, Herbal Cranberry Orange, 16-Ounce Bag

3. Dried Fruit

One of my personal favorite weaknesses. It is hard to say fruit is unhealthy but, let me explain. The reason fresh fruit is so healthy is because its on average 85% water. When you extract the water from fruit it essentially becomes sugar and some fiber. Since its volume and weight is reduced you eat a lot more of it and end up consuming a lot more sugar. You still get the vitamins and minerals but, you are overdoing it! There is too much of a good thing, even vitamins and minerals. So, don’t let this be your defense.

Another problem is that most commercial dried fruits are prepared with added sugars, oils and preservatives to keep the fruit looking appealing and to help avoid it from getting all stuck together. The sugar is just a flavor bonus. Needless to say, this makes the dried fruit situation even worse.

Healthy Alternative: Fresh fruit. If you must have something dried, try dehydrating your own fruit and you can avoid all the added junk. This guy will show you how to build a solar dehydrator. I bought a commercial dehydrator off Amazon and use it for Beef Jerky, which I will discuss next.

Nesco/American Harvest FD-80 Square-Shaped Dehydrator

4. Beef Jerky

Beef jerky can be one of the best health snacks out there if done right. Unfortunately most commercial varieties of beef jerky are loaded with sugar, sodium and msg. Just look at the ingredient’s list for JackLinks Teriyaki Beef Stick:

“BEEF, FRUCTOSE, BROWN SUGAR, SALT, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF DRIED SOY SAUCE (SOYBEANS, WHEAT, SALT), MALTODEXTRIN, WATER, SPICES, PINEAPPLE JUICE POWDER (PINEAPPLE JUICE SOLIDS, SUGAR, NATURAL FLAVOR), ONION POWDER, MOLASSES POWDER (MOLASSES, WHEAT STARCH, SOY FLOUR, SOY LECITHIN, CALCIUM STEARATE), HYDROLYZED SOY PROTEIN, GARLIC POWDER, WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE (DISTILLED VINEGAR, MOLASSES, CORN SYRUP, SALT, CARAMEL COLOR, GARLIC POWDER, SPICES, TAMARIND, NATURAL FLAVOR, SULFITING AGENTS), SODIUM ERYTHORBATE, LACTIC ACID STARTER CULTURE, SODIUM NITRITE, BHA, BHT, CITRIC ACID. TREATED WITH A SOLUTION OF POTASSIUM SORBATE TO ENSURE FRESHNESS. CONTAINS: SOY & WHEAT”

One serving of this beef jerky has ⅓ of your daily recommended sodium intake. If the second ingredient to your favorite beef jerky is sugar-this should be a red flag.

Healthy Alternative: Make your own! It is incredibly easy, way cheaper and beats store bought any day, hands down. If you’re not that ambitious, there are a few healthy alternatives out there with low to no sugar and low sodium.

5. Agave Nectar and Other Alternative Sweeteners

Organic. Raw. Still not healthy.
It doesn’t matter what health benefits they try to push on you. One may have more minerals than another, one may have a lower glycemic index but, they are all just different forms of concentrated sugar. This include: coconut sap, coconut sugar, honey, brown sugar, white sugar, confectioners sugar, powdered sugar, maple syrup, maple crystals, and any other new sugar I haven’t seen. Please don’t be fooled. They all have the same nutritional value with a different flavor and label.

Healthy Alternative: This might sound weird but, I use cinnamon to sweeten things (like smoothies, fresh fruit, etc). I also use licorice root to sweeten tea. Don’t use artificial sweeteners, they only make your cravings for sugar worse. If you have to use sugar, just use it sparingly and pick the one with the flavor you like best!

6. Trail Mixes and Nuts

I don’t know where trail mixes got a reputation for being a health food but, they are far from it. Trail mixes are one of the mostly calorically dense foods in supermarkets, today. They are mostly fat and sugar. We all know this is a recipe for weight gain. The problem with trail mixes are that it very easy to eat over 1,000 calories in one sitting because the amount it takes to satisfy your appetite.

Nuts are very delicious and have many vitamins and minerals. I try to avoid eating nuts all time, but when I do, I do so sparingly. Also, please note that peanuts are not nuts and are a legume. I avoid peanuts at all costs because of harmful elements they contain. You can read more here about why peanuts and peanut butter is bad. I know this will be heartbreaking for some of you.

Healthy Alternative: Avocados, seeds (pepitas, or pumpkins seeds are really high in protein). I know someone who also makes a mix of nut butter with water and ground chia seeds. The chia seed water mush creates a gelatinous goo that lends itself well to the nut butter when mixed.

Are you eating any of these foods while trying to lose weight? Try eliminating them completely from your diet for 30-days and record your results. You will be pleasantly surprised. If you have any questions on any other foods you suspect to be “faux” health foods, please ask in the comments below!


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