Big food companies are notorious for marketing their products as being healthy and natural.
But what does healthy really mean?
Healthy, like all things, has many definitions depending on the person you talk to it.
At Vitality Fitness, we give our clients several markers on what determines if a food is healthy or not.
Does it weigh a lot? Is it heavy when you hold it in your hand? If a food is dense in terms of weight, and less dense in terms of calories, it is probably a good choice.
You will notice that healthy foods tend to have a lot of volume and weight, yet the calories are low in comparison. This means you will feel fuller longer, without taking in a lot of calories, which is a huge benefit from a fat loss standpoint.
On the flip side, foods that are processed tend to be calorie laden and are very light in weight. They will never fill you up and keep you satisfied, but you will be consuming a lot of calories. Low satiety and high calories are a reason why processed foods aren’t a good choice when attempting to lose weight.
5 ingredients or less
Does it have less than 5 ingredients? The fewer the ingredients, the better, as it indicates the food less processing.
Another rule of thumb is can you pronounce the ingredients? If you don’t recognize the ingredients, your body probably won’t either.
Lastly, is the food in a box or in a wrapper. You will notice that foods with more than 5 ingredients tend to be packaged in boxes and wrappers, while foods that are healthier tend not to be.
Is it in the aisle of the store, or around the perimeter?
You will notice that most healthy, unprocessed foods are located around the perimeter of the grocery store. The processed foods are generally found in the aisle, and at eye level so the marketing message is easily seen.
Is there marketing on the packaging?
Foods that have a lot of persuasive marketing on the packaging have it there for a reason. They are trying to convince you that the food item is healthy, when it really isn’t! As you read the nutrition facts on the back, the number, type, and amount ingredients will always tell you the true story, along with the density and weight of the food.
Never be fooled by persuasive, clever marketing. Investigate and don’t take things at face value. The ingredients and overall density will tell you the truth.
Now that we are armed with some guidelines around food selection, you can start to filter out what is healthy and what isn’t.
Even foods that are “disguised” as being healthy really aren’t. Food companies do a great job of convincing consumers of perceived healthy benefits through clever and misleading marketing.
Here are the 4 main food culprits that are considered to be “healthy” by many, but really aren’t.
1. Flavored Yogurts
Flavored yogurts are filled with sugar, sugar, and more sugar. The worst ones are Activia, flavored Greek yogurts, and any store brand style of yogurt (Safeway brand for example).
Some of these yogurts have up to 20 g of sugar per serving!
There are better alternatives out there to flavored yogurt.
If you are looking for other options try plain Greek yogurt, plain regular yogurt, or even yogurt that is sweetened with sweetener as a 3rd option.
Ideally, a plain yogurt variety is best.
If plain yogurt doesn’t satisfy your palate, then add some fruit, protein powder, or a little bit of organic honey to enhance the flavor.
Cereal is one of the worst culprits for being marketed as healthy.
Most cereals are highly processed, have lots of sugar, are low in density, and don’t fill you up.
Even cereals that have the appearance of health like All Bran, Cheerios, Granola, and Harvest Crunch aren’t the best choices.
Most cereals violate the nutrition principles we discussed above, which don’t make them the healthiest option.
The best cereal we can recommended is old-fashioned oatmeal, porridge, and Red River.
3. Protein Bars
About 99 % of protein bars on the market violate our healthy food principles. While protein bars are largely promoted as being healthy, and as a great snack, you may as well eat an Oh Henry bar!
Processed, sugar laden, 15-20 ingredients, and low density make for an unhealthy choice in the majority of protein bars.
If you are stuck for healthy and quick snacks ideas try these:
A. Rice cakes with nut butter
B. Fruit and nuts
C. Fruit and nut butter
D. Protein shake with fruit
E. Make your own protein bars from scratch with healthy unprocessed ingredients.
F. Greek yogurt and fruit
G. Greek yogurt w/ protein powder
H. Veggies and hummus
I. A healthier protein bar. Some great options are Lara bars, whole food Vega bars, quest bars, or Naked Bars.
Be sure to check that your bar is minimally processed, and has at most 10 ingredients. However, 5 or less is ideal.
Does the body good right? Well not quite. Conventional milk is filled with hormones and antibiotics, and is highly processed.
Milk is also very hard on your body to process and break down, due to the lactose, which is a complex sugar.
There are health benefits to milk, but it all depends on the source and what kind.
Stick to organic Cow’s milk, or an unsweetened almond or coconut milk instead.
If you choose not to have milk and are worried about calcium intake, incorporate lots of greens, nuts, and seeds, which are great sources of calcium.
So remember, stick to the nutrition principles we shared and you will never be fooled by food marketing and misleading health claims again!
Always here to inspire and motivate you, David Macdonald and the Vitality Fitness Team