3 Misleading “Healthy” Foods You Should Avoid

Let’s say you drive a brand new 2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class AMG valued at over $225,000. The owner’s manual clearly says to only use Premium Unleaded fuel. When you go to the gas station to fill up, what kind of gas do you use? Premium Unleaded Fuel. That’s a no brainer. You use the exact type of fuel that you need to use in order to maximize the health of your precious vehicle.

Why is it that people can grasp this concept with a material item, like a car, but not with their own lives? Food is how you fuel your body, just like gasoline is how you fuel your car. Let’s start putting premium food only into our mouths because that’s what maximizes our health and general well being.

There are so many healthy options out there, but unfortunately, way more unhealthy options. To make matters worse, the unhealthy options are typically more convenient, cheaper and promoted with marketing campaigns. Often times, the combination of those three factors drive consumers into making an unhealthy decision.

Some brands even go a step beyond that. They advertise their products as healthy, when they are anything but. Here are 3 extremely popular “healthy” foods that are misleading.

#1: Low Fat or Reduced Fat Peanut Butter

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Reducing fat sounds like a great thing, doesn’t it? Usually it is, but in the case of Reduced Fat Peanut Butter it is not a good thing at all. First of all, why would anyone want to reduce the fat in Peanut Butter? Peanut Butter is a great source of healthy, mono and polyunsaturated fats which are linked to weight loss, improved heart health and excellent brain function. Why on earth would anyone want to reduce those benefits?

Let’s take a look at the most popular “reduced fat” Peanut Butter, made by JIF. At approximately $5 per 16 ounces, you’re basically paying more money for a product with nutritional deficiencies compared to its natural state. The fat that is taken out of this product is replaced by some shady ingredients.

PEANUTS, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, SUGAR, PEA PROTEIN, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: SALT, FULLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OILS (RAPESEED AND SOYBEAN), MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, MOLASSES, MAGNESIUM OXIDE, NIACINAMIDE, FERRIC ORTHOPHOSPHATE, ZINC OXIDE, COPPER SULFATE, FOLIC ACID, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE. (1)

There are 17 ingredients in this Peanut Butter. How is that even possible? Reduced Fat is a synonym for increased chemicals. If I were you, I’d stay away from ANY product that has claimed to reduce its fat. That is an immediate red flag!

What to eat instead:

pb2

You can spend a pretty penny looking for a great peanut butter, I’ve seen them priced as high as $10 for a 12 ounce jar. If you can afford it, by all means, go for it but if you’re frugal like me you can go with the Smucker’s Creamy Natural Peanut Butter. Guess what its ingredients are? Peanuts and Salt (2). That’s it and that’s how it should be. Oh, by the way it’s about $3 for a 16 ounce jar, compared to the $5 you would have spent on a garbage reduced fat “peanut butter spread.” Other great Peanut Butter brands you can check out are MaraNatha, Peanut Butter & Co., Justin’s and Barney Butter. You should also check out the Almond Butters that those brands produce!

bar

#2: Protein Bars

Protein bars are another very misleading “healthy” food. I’m not saying that every protein bar out there is terrible for you, but a lot of them are glorified junk food. Take these two bars, for example:

Bar A has:

250 Calories

12g Fat

27g Sugar

120 mg Sodium

18 Ingredients

(3)

Bar B has:

270 Calories

4.5g Fat

30g Sugar

240g Sodium

33 Ingredients

(4)

Which bar would you rather eat? You’re probably not too thrilled about either of them but if you had to choose one, I bet you’d go with Bar A. It’s lower in calories, sugar, sodium and overall ingredients. If you chose Bar A, like I would, you chose a Snickers Bar. It’s not even a protein bar! Bar B, which is higher in calories, sugar, sodium and ingredients is actually a protein bar; it is the extremely popular Promax Cookies & Cream Protein Bar. Essentially, this protein bar is a candy bar with extra protein added. Sadly, many of the popular protein bars on the market follow this same trend. They’re extremely processed, chemically enhanced and misleading.

I have a confession. I have a little bit of a sweet tooth. 9 times out of 10 I can ignore the sweet tooth begging me to feed it, but every now and then I give in to the temptation. Instead of a cookie, cupcake or candy I feed my sweet tooth with protein bars. We all have our vices. It’s actually my New Year Resolution to quit eating protein bars in 2015, so I’ll let you all know how that goes. But, I digress…

Bottom line is that we should acknowledge that most protein bars are fraudulent and replace them with healthy options that are actually beneficial. If you eat protein bars, ask yourself why. Here are three primary reasons for eating protein bars, along with suggestions for making a healthier decision.

  • Increase protein intake for the day.
    • If you’re looking to increase your protein for the day try to get it from whole food sources like chicken, fish or grass-fed beef. An extra 1-2 ounces of these protein sources at lunch and dinner could give you the extra grams of protein you’re looking for with a relatively low calorie count. Not much of a carnivore? You can’t go wrong with Black Beans!
    • If your goal is to eat more protein and you’re dead set on using a supplement, try out Sun Warrior Protein Powder or Plant Fusion Protein Powder. These are two great plant-based protein powders with minimal ingredients, excellent taste and awesome health benefits when used correctly.
    • Lastly, if you’re stuck on the idea that a protein bar is for you, try out the RISE Protein Bar. These bars are packed with 20g of protein and taste excellent. They come in 4 different flavors and none of them have more than 5 total ingredients.
  • Quick, convenient and tasty snack.
    • Looking for a quick snack, but you’re not concerned about the protein? Try to snack on a handful of almonds or cashews. Not a nut person? You could always have an apple, pear or portable veggies such as snap peas. All of these are delicious and easy to eat on the go.
  • Fulfills sugar cravings.
    • This may be the most difficult of the three. A craving is a craving, we can’t control them but we certainly can contain them. Fresh fruit is a great way to deal with a sugar craving. I would even say it’s okay to eat a fruit you normally wouldn’t eat, that way it feels like more of a “treat.” Bananas, dates and mango would get the job done. 

#3: Subway

subway

Subway: Eat Fresh! Right? Not really. Subway prides itself on being a healthy fast food option, tricking people into thinking that Subway is “good for you.” Sure, a 6-inch Subway sandwich is healthy when you compare it to a Big Mac, McChicken and a Large Fry but in no way should it be considered to be a healthy option.

Money talks, as you all know. Subway is the largest single-restaurant chain globally with 43,000 locations in 107 countries. According to Forbes, the brand is valued at 6.6 BILLION dollars (5). They can go out and pay high-profile professional athletes to say, “Subway is the official training restaurant of insert name here.” That, mixed with Jared Fogle’s weight loss story is enough to make Subway look like a viable healthy eating option.

Subway will wow you with their lineup of low calorie, low fat sandwiches, but please read the fine print. The version of the sandwich they’re describing is drastically different than what the consumer usually gets. Subway’s nutritional statistics are taken from 6-inch sandwiches on 9-Grain Wheat Bread, with lettuce, tomato, green pepper and cucumbers. These stats do not take into account the fact that a lot of people are going to order a footlong, add a sauce, add cheese, add chips, add cookie and/or add a drink. By doing that, you go from bad to worse.

If you have the willpower and discipline to stand in front of a lineup of beautiful meats, cheeses, sauces and breads and STILL get the plain 6-inch… well, I commend you for that. Very impressive. But, unfortunately, you’re still eating junk.

Do you know what dimethylpolysiloxane is? I didn’t either, until I saw it on the ingredients list in Subway’s egg patty (6) used in their breakfast sandwiches. Dimethylpolysiloxane, obviously, is not a food. It is a chemical defined as a polymer of silicone used especially in pharmaceutical and cosmetic preparations (7). Seriously, I Googled dimethylpolysiloxane and terms such as Silly Putty and Dermasil show up in the results. Of course, there are extremely small amounts of this chemical in the food, but why is it even there to begin with? How are the ingredients of Subway’s eggs not simply “eggs.”

It doesn’t stop there. One of the 20+ ingredients used in their chicken strips is “flavors.” If you want to get a good laugh, take a look at Subway’s official ingredients list.

If you’ve been eating Subway thinking it’s a healthy option, I think the notes above are enough to convince you otherwise. However, I do understand that we’re all busy. Subway is extremely convenient. There is practically one every 5-10 miles, so it seems like an ideal place to hit on your 30-60 minute lunch break from work. It’s also very cost efficient, which is always a great thing. If either, or both, of these are reasons you enjoy Subway I would like to challenge you to a meal prep Sunday. Next Sunday you should prep your lunches for the week, put them in Tupperware and bring them to work with you every day. I will follow up with a separate blog dedicated to “meal prep” within the coming weeks! I guarantee this will save you time and money compared to eating out at a fast food restaurant! Most importantly, it will be a way healthier meal for you, getting you closer to your fitness goals every single day!

SOURCES:

(1) “JIF Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter Spread.” JIF Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter Spread. JIF. Web. <http://www.jif.com/products/reduced-fat-creamy-peanut-butter>.

(2) “Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter.” Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter. Smucker’s. Web. <https://www.smuckers.com/products/peanut-butter/natural-peanut-butter/natural-creamy-peanut-butter-65>.

(3) “Snickers Bar.” Snickers Bar. MARS. Web. <https://www.snickers.com/Nutritional-Info>.

(4) “Promax Cookies ‘N Cream Protein Bar.” Promax Cookies ‘N Cream Protein Bar. Promax. Web. <http://shop.promaxnutrition.com/Cookies-N-Cream/p/PMX-126690&c=Promax@CoreFlavors>.

(5) “World’s Most Valuable Brands.” Forbes. Forbes. Web. 31 Dec. 2014. <http://www.forbes.com/companies/subway/>.

(6) “Subway Nutrition.” Subway. Subway. Web. 31 Dec. 2014. <https://www.subway.com/Nutrition/Files/usProdIngredients.pdf>.

(7) “Merriam-Webster: Dimethylpolysiloxane.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam.Webster. Web. 31 Dec. 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/dimethylpolysiloxane>.