The clearest evidence of the health food craze lines the grocery store shelves. Packages of processed foods claim to be the missing piece of your health food journey—but they might just be carefully marketed junk. It takes time and effort to make sure your diet is well balanced, and the first step is to kick these snacks to the curb.
1. Stay away from “instant.”
Anything with the words “instant” printed on the label isn’t going to be as healthy as you wish it were—even oatmeal. Oats are a great breakfast option since they contain protein and important vitamins and minerals—plus they’re high in fiber. However, if you buy pre-packaged, flavored instant oatmeal, you’re burying all those good qualities in a ton of sugar. Most healthcare professionals say a healthy diet contains no more than 50 grams of sugar per day. Some believe in limiting sugar even more, allowing just 25 grams per day. A single packet of some flavored instant oatmeal can contain close to your daily allowance of sugar. Instead of buying instant packets, grab a box of plain oats and add your own fruit or a little bit of honey. Granola and energy bars are also sugar-laden snack foods in disguise. You’re supposed to eat these bars on the go, but they won’t benefit your diet. Even when these bars contain protein and fiber, their sugar content is so high that you’re basically eating candy.
2. Deli Meats vs. Your Blood Pressure
Turkey is a great protein to include in your diet. It’s a lean meat with a mild flavor that is easy to incorporate in salads or on sandwiches. But beware…if you’d like to include turkey in more of your meals, you need to go with the real stuff. There is a big nutritional difference between fresh turkey and deli-packaged turkey. Both are fairly similar in calorie count, but fresh turkey contains more protein and less fat than packaged deli turkey. The biggest health issue when it comes to deli turkey is its sodium content. Four ounces of deli turkey can contain 1,049 milligrams of sodium. The recommended daily allowance is just 1,300 to 1,500 milligrams. It’s worth the extra time to prepare a fresh turkey and pass on the convenience of deli slices.
3. Sweet, Sweet, Probiotics
Yogurt can be a superior dairy-based treat considering that it’s packed with protein, calcium, B vitamins, and probiotic bacteria that aids digestion. Unfortunately, as in the instant oatmeal dilemma, many flavored yogurts are full of excess sugar. Look at the yogurt labels next time you’re in the dairy aisle. A single-serving container of fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt can contain up to 18 grams of sugar. That’s a lot. Plain yogurt shouldn’t have added sweeteners, and it’s usually available in low-fat and nonfat varieties, allowing you to select what’s best for you and your family. Plus, you can flavor plain yogurt any way you like.
4. “Light” isn’t better.
Food items that are labeled “light” are not necessarily as healthy you think. Light foods may have fewer calories, but they are often heavily processed and filled with additives. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Marketing Research shows consumers regularly overeat foods that are labeled “low-fat.” This renders the lower calorie count of these foods pointless. When it comes to eating a healthy diet, the best approach is to stick with what’s real. There’s no quick fix or shortcut when it comes to your health, no matter what a box of granola bars tells you. Snacking on fresh fruits and veggies or fresh, lean meats is always the best choice.