health foods to avoidMany of my patients want to lose weight, feel better, look better.  And more and more are being enticed to try foods wearing a label claiming to be “healthy”, “low-fat”, “reduced sodium”, or “high fiber”.

Lots of consumers are buying products that make these health claims.  So these labeling strategies work.  Big food companies are cashing in on our desire to be healthy.  But guess what?  Most “low-fat” processed foods are loaded with sugar or salt so they still taste appealing.  Reduced sodium only means it is lower than the regular product; the salt content can still be shockingly high.  And here is something scary: many fiber-rich products contain “non-nutritive fiber.”  That means the fiber is from non-food sources.  Do we really want to eat something akin to sawdust?

Here are 10 products people are buying with the hopes of dietary nirvana.

Granola bars and fiber bars
Check the label.  Many of these have as much sugar or high fructose corn syrup as a candy bar.  And again, beware of fiber that does not come from food.

Many people believe a wrap has fewer calories than bread.  A wrap just has less air; it is flattened bread.  And many are high in sodium, just like regular bread.  Check labels and compare.  Smaller is better.

Yogurt drinks and fruit smoothies
These can be loaded with sugar.  Make your own with real fruit and plain Greek yogurt for a truly healthy, high protein drink.

Salad dressings
To make up for less fat, many are chock full of sugar.  And a raspberry vinaigrette can put you into sugar overload.  This is another item that can easily be made at home in a few minutes without any sugar.

Diet soda
That sweet flavor may come with zero calories but it still has a high nutritional price.  Apart from the “artificial” aspect of this not-so-healthy option, it makes you crave sweet food.  People addicted to diet soda are often overweight or obese because they crave sweet food.  Better choices: water or skim milk.

Chocolate milk
Really? Chocolate milk is now being advertised as a smart choice after your work-out.  And who is making that claim?  The manufacturer of chocolate milk!  Chocolate milk can have as much sugar as regular soda.  Back to skim milk, the white stuff.

Rice cakes
Not much nutritional value hear; these are filler foods.  And if you smear your rice cake with jam or honey or Nutella, well, you really are defeating the purpose.

Juice is not a substitute for fruit.  It dumps a mega-burst of sugar into the blood stream.  The fiber we get when we eat fruit helps prevent that rapid sugar dumping.  Eat the fruit.

Wheat bread
If your wheat bread looks like tan white bread, that’s what it is.  Wheat bread will raise your blood sugar quickly.  You want whole grain bread, the darker the better, something with some texture.

Frozen “lean” low calorie meals
These are low calorie because the portions are small.  They are typically packed with sodium. Most are better than a Big Mac, but not something to eat on a regular basis.

The best advice if you want to eat healthy: EAT REAL FOOD, not packaged, canned, processed stuff that has added ingredients.

If you must buy packaged food, always read the label.  Foods with fewer ingredients are better.  Foods with ingredients you recognize are better.  Foods you can pronounce are better.  If sugar or high fructose corn syrup is in the first five ingredients, skip it.

Cook.  If you make it yourself, you can control the amount of sugar, fat and salt in your food.  Cooking gives you the power to control your nutritional destiny.

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