Healthy eating is a lifestyle that more and more people are finally subscribing to. …And corporations are totally taking advantage of it! Strolling the aisles of your favorite grocery store, you’ll pass innumerable products that label themselves as “health food”, doing their best to capitalize on this noble trend.
We can all be a bit skeptical of ‘to-good-to-be-true’ advertising (rightfully so!), and food companies should not be exempt from our suspicions. While the FDA does have rules in place to protect consumers, food corporations can stretch the rules to their limits in order to satisfy certain ideals. So, for the common consumer, how do we know if a “health food” is actually that? Let’s take a look at a few products that you should be choosy with:
Granola Bars: Often viewed as nutritious on-the-go snacks, granola bars are easy to stuff in a desk drawer or a backpack for a quick afternoon pick-me-up. While most granola bars feature a few wholesome ingredients (usually whole oats or nuts), it’s important to read all of the ingredients. These easy snacks are far too often loaded with added processed sugars, syrups, and other preservatives you that you can’t pronounce the names of. This leads to a nutrition chart that’s far too heavy on sugar, and light on the sustaining protein you’re looking for. This kind of nutrient balance (or lack there of) may provide a speedy energy boost, but will likely lead to a hard hitting crash.
That said, some bars are worth grabbing for a quick snack. Look for bars that rely on dates or coconut for their sweetness— not added sugars or syrups. Examples of recommendable bars are Rx Bars, Lärabars, and The Urban Juicer’s Vegan Energy Balls. Each of these options include whole-food ingredients that you could find in your local market.
Smoothies: Fruits and vegetables in a tasty, meal-replacing treat? Perfect! Right?! Not so fast. Smoothies from the national chains, even those claiming to be made with real fruit, often contain other less-advertised ingredients. You might get a few strawberries and bananas, but make sure your smoothie maker isn’t slipping in sugar-laden syrups or sherbet for additional sweetness. If you check out the nutritional facts, you’ll likely learn that you’re sipping down much more sugar than you bargained for!
Ready to be shocked?
We put the nutritional information for two berry smoothies side by side.
- Our own “Fountain of Youth” berry smoothie
- Jamba Juice’s “Razzmatazz®” Smoothie.
According to their own website, the smallest size of Jamba Juice’s smoothie contains 54 grams of sugar and just 3 grams of dietary fiber. The 16 oz. serving of Urban Juicer’s berry smoothie contains just around one-third the sugar, while providing two times the amount of dietary fiber! I think the lesson here is to know all the ingredients. Jamba Juice boasts about containing “real whole fruit” and “100% juice”, which is great, but what else is in there?
As you can see, it’s important to know what you’re eating. Don’t be afraid to ask what’s in your food, because not all ingredients will be highlighted in big, bold letters. Opt for whole-food ingredients like fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds while steering clear of syrups, some oils, and added sugars. This is the best way to enjoy satisfying meals that will provide long-lasting energy like real food is meant to do!