Eating healthy is hard. If you ask the fittest person you know, even they are likely to tell you how hard it can be to stay on the straight and narrow and eat healthy consistently.
This is due in part to an enterprising food industry that wants people to eat more than they need.
The agriculture system in the United States produces twice as much food as we need, according to the USDA Research Service.
This abundance of food encourages creative marketing to unload excess food and maximize profits.
If the food manufacturers were out to boost our health more than profits, it might be a little easier to eat healthily.
But, like any business, they have to make money to stay alive.
So they package foods as "healthy," "smart," and "natural" as an easy way to make a quick buck.
Unfortunately, some of those "healthy" foods aren't any healthier than the foods you are trying to give up.
According to a study by Penn State in 2015, found that the more fitness-branded foods dieters bought, the more they ate and less they exercised.
If you're trying to eat a healthier diet, the first thing you need to do is read the nutrition label.
A general rule of thumb is the fewer ingredients a food has, the healthier it is.
Foods with only one ingredient are usually the best. So, lettuce, chicken, apples, other foods like this that don't need a nutrition label are the foods that you should gravitate towards.
And, we'll list six foods below that you should avoid at all costs.
Table Of Contents
1. Enhanced Water
Sports drinks are for just that - sports. They are high in salt to replenish what you lose during intense exercise.
Drinks like Vitamin Water are essentially sugary drinks mixed with a vitamin pill.
And, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, they are "unequivocally harmful to health."
Whether or not vitamins dissolved in water have any benefit will depend on the individual and if they are already getting enough vitamins.
It could be helpful for some, or some people can end up getting too much of some vitamins and minerals by drinking Vitamin water.
The worst offenders in the enriched water category are the ones not only high in sugars but contain stimulants as well.
The stimulants can be harmful, especially for those people suffering from medical conditions like high blood pressure.
It's in your best interest to avoid enriched waters altogether.
Instead, drink purified tap water. Plain water is best for hydrating your body, and it's calorie-free.
Don't rely on beverages to get your vitamins. Try to get the bulk of your vitamins and minerals from whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
Drink your orange juice! We've heard it since we were kids.
But in reality, that glass of orange juice is almost as bad for you as a can of soda.
Juices are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but they are loaded with sugar.
Juicing extracts all of the fiber in fruits and vegetables that help you feel full and condenses a large amount of sugar in one small bottle that's very easy to drink in one sitting.
If you insist on having a bottle of juice, check the ingredients first to make sure it isn't overloaded with sugar, and you don't want it to have more than 15 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
Your best bet is to skip the juice altogether, drink water, and eat your fruits and vegetables instead.
3. Energy Bars
Energy Bars (sometimes called meal-replacement bars) have a reputation for being healthy. They're thought to promote health and aid in weight loss and muscle growth.
However, these 'benefits' are often far from reality. More often than not, energy bars are nothing more than calorie bombs, glorified candy bars with added protein or fiber.
For many of these bars, sugar is the first or second ingredient on the nutrition label.
Instead of reaching for that energy bar, grab an apple or some celery for weight loss, or some greek yogurt for muscle gain.
If, for some reason, you need a high-calorie snack, like during a long hike or walk, opt for nuts or dried fruit.
4. Veggie Chips
If your carrot chips are actually made from carrots, you're in the clear.
But if your veggies chips are just potato chips with some veggie powder sprinkled on them, you should probably cut them out of your diet.
Check the nutrition label to see how many veggies your veggie chips contain. The ingredients at the top of the list make up the bulk of the food, so the vegetables should be listed first.
Also, keep an eye on the calorie, fat, sodium, and carb counts.
Many veggies chips are just as fattening as the potato chips you're trying to avoid.
It's also possible to make your veggie chips at home.
Slice beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, or another veggie of choice thin, and then drizzle them with olive oil.
Pop them in the oven at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they're crispy.
Sprinkle with herbs and spices for added flavor, and voila — veggies chips healthier (and cheaper) than the ones you will find in the store.
5. Multigrain Foods
Multigrain products like bread, crackers, and cereals confuse many food shoppers.
People see multigrain and confuse it with whole grain.
However, there's a crucial distinction between the two. Most importantly, people who eat whole grains have lower rates of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Consumers of whole grains are also less likely to be overweight compared to those who eat refined grains.
For best results, remember that if enriched wheat flour is listed in the ingredients, it means refined flour.
Do your best to avoid any refined grains and opt for whole grains.
Be sure a whole grain, like whole wheat, whole rye, or brown rice is the first, and preferably the only grain on the ingredient list.
For example, a cereal that lists whole rolled oats as the only grain, or a bread containing whole wheat as the only wheat is the way to go.
Your best bet is to skip the grains entirely and have an egg for breakfast.
If there are only whole grains listed, many breads and cereals contain a considerable amount of refined starch and sugar that will do far more damage to your health than an old fashioned egg will.
6. Prepackaged Salads
If your only choices are chicken nuggets or a prepackaged salad, then the salad is the way to go.
But just because it's the healthiest option in that scenario, it doesn't necessarily mean it's good for you.
Many of the prepackaged salads you find at grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and airports contain upwards of 1,000 calories, nearly half of the recommended daily intake.
The cheese, meats, and croutons are loaded with sodium, which is used as a preservative and to boost the salad's flavor.
Unfortunately, most prepackaged salads don't come with an ingredient list or a nutrition label, so it's hard to tell what you're putting in your body.
If you're in a pinch, and a prepackaged salad is your best option, try to find one with a nutrition label so you can be sure the calories and sodium aren't through the roof.
If possible, make a salad at home and take it with you.
Don't Be Fooled by Unhealthy Health Foods
This is a classic case of "don't judge a book by its cover."
Just because a food is labeled as healthy, doesn't necessarily mean it's actually the best choice for you.
To find out if something is actually healthy, you need to check out the nutrition label and the ingredient list.
Pay close attention to the calorie, sodium, and sugar counts, so you know what you're eating.
To avoid this problem altogether, only eat natural, whole foods and stay away from the prepackaged items.
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