Our dietitian helps you save some coin by telling you the ‘health’ foods that aren’t so healthy after all.
The new year is fast approaching, and chances are ‘eat healthier’ is on your 2022 to-do list. Before you do your first grocery shop, however, I’d advise you to scan my foods-you-think-are-healthy-but-aren’t list below.
You might be surprised by the number of ‘health’ foods diet culture has made you think are good for you – but in my dietitian opinion, are usually just a waste of money.
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Phrases like ‘superfood’, ‘glowing skin’ and ‘antioxidants’ might have roped you into thinking you need to chug a drink made with a green powder every day… but you absolutely do not.
A diet rich in plants like fruits, vegetables (including green ones!), legumes, wholegrains, nuts and seeds provides all of the nutrition and disease-fighting antioxidants your body needs to be at its healthiest. There’s simply no need to rely on a greens powder to top up your nutrition.
This is a controversial one. Most people think that because juice is made from fruit, it must be good for you… and while it’s true that fruit is incredibly good for you, fruit juices lack the all-important gut-loving fibre that whole fruits contain.
Plus, it takes many pieces of fruit to make a single glass of juice, so it can add up to a lot of sugar and therefore excess kilojoules.
Protein shakes, bars and balls
There’s no denying that protein is essential for good health. It works to maintain muscle mass, is important for hormone production and even has a fullness factor. And while gym junkies and every second fad diet under the sun hype up protein like it’s going out of fashion – the truth is most of us already eat far more protein than our bodies need.
So, for the average Joe, there’s no point in throwing money at highly refined protein shakes, bars and balls. Whole foods like meat, poultry, seafood, legumes, nuts, seeds and even dairy can easily help you meet your protein requirements.
Rice malt syrup, agave nectar, coconut sugar
Wellness gurus on Instagram have supposedly taught us that you can satisfy a sweet craving with a ‘healthier’ alternative to sugar in homemade muffins, slices and bars. The reality is, however, that trendy sugar replacements are still classified as ‘added’ sugars, which is the type you should be minimising.
In case you missed the memo: coconut oil is rich in saturated fat, which should be minimised with heart health in mind. Of course, if you like the taste of coconut oil in the occasional cake, muffin or bliss ball, go for it – but I wouldn’t recommend it as your go-to oil for day-to-day cooking. Instead, I’d suggest the old faithful extra virgin olive oil.
Not a food per se, but something many people add to their routine in the name of good nutrition. Now, don’t get me wrong – multivitamins and other supplements most certainly have their time and place when the diet is lacking or if a medical reason means you have increased nutrition requirements.
For the average person, however, using them as a safety blanket or ‘just in case’ is rather pointless because your body will simply excrete the nutrients it doesn’t need or, worse, store excess fat-soluble vitamins which can become quite dangerous.
Gluten free anything
Brownies… pizza… deep fried chicken… just because it’s got a gluten free label slapped on it, doesn’t make it healthier. In fact, many gluten free products contain more additives, sugars and saturated fats than gluten containing ones to make up for the lack of gluten. So, unless you have a medical reason to avoid gluten, there’s no benefit to giving it up.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her @honest_nutrition.
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