As nutritionists, it’s our job to set the record straight. Though we’ll admit it’s not always fun to burst our client’s bubbles, it’s also our duty to enlighten (and hopefully inspire) them!
When we review food diaries we commonly encounter many foods that our clients believe to be healthy, but unfortunately are simply carrying a health halo due to a brilliant marketing campaign.
Check out our 7 culprits below, along with delicious and nutritious substitutes.
1. VEGGIE BURGERS
They may sound healthy but the majority of veggie burgers can contain more processed filler ingredients and sodium than actual vegetables or beans. In addition, it’s been shown that processed soy (which most veggie burgers are made of), can disrupt hormone balance. Finally, most soy beans used to make products like soy protein concentrate have been genetically modified (GMOs) – a process that introduces unpredictable elements into our food supply.
Check out the ingredient list on one popular brand- questionable/damaging ingredients in red (carrots, water chestnuts, celery, water, bamboo shoots, onion, soy protein concentrate, corn oil, soy sauce (water, soybeans, salt, wheat), egg whites, cornstarch, green onions, sugar, contains two percent or less of wheat protein, sesame seed oil, salt, soy protein isolate, garlic, maltodextrin, yeast extract, spices, natural flavors from non-meat sources with chablis wine solids, dextrose, autolyzed yeast extract, methylcellulose, dehydrated pineapple juice, malic acid, whey powder, citric acid, distilled white vinegar, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, modified corn starch, caramel color, lactic acid, ascorbic acid, carrageenan, turmeric for color.)
- GURU UPGRADE: If you are looking for a good convenient alternative, we love two brands that you can find in your local health food store. They are Sunshine Burgers and Hilary’s. Both are made with whole, real foods, no fillers and no processed soy. Compare the above ingredients to those found in the Sunshine Hemp Burgers: Organic cooked brown rice, organic ground raw sunflower seeds, organic cooked adzuki beans, organic hemp seeds, organic onion, organic green pepper, organic paprika, sea salt, organic sage, organic black pepper. Ahhh that’s more like it.
Once a staple of the fat-free diet, pretzels are completely devoid of nutritional value. They are pure refined carb, and without the balance of any protein, fat or fiber, can cause large blood sugar spikes, leaving you feeling hungrier than before you snacked. We are also tend to suggest snacks that don’t rely so much on wheat as we already eat so many foods that contain this popular ingredient (think bread, bagels, pasta, crackers, etc), and we find that many clients do better when limiting or avoiding wheat-based products.
- GURU UPGRADE: If your are craving “crunchy and salty,” and want pure convenience, go for organic corn chips (one of our favorite brands is Sage Valley). Serve with some fresh guacamole to round out your snack with good fats and fiber. We are also huge fans of toasted pumpkin seeds, which will deliver a big nutritional punch with zinc, fiber, protein, magnesium and potassium. Check out our favorite super simple recipe HERE. Make a batch and store in the pantry for easy munching.
3. LOW-FAT SALAD DRESSING
“Light” and fat-free dressings line grocery store shelves, but most are generally crammed with extra sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and lots of preservatives and additives to make up for flavor and maintain a long shelf life. AND . . . they are too often missing all the heart-healthy olive oil (or walnut or avocado oil) that makes vinaigrette’s both good for you and delicious.
- GURU UPGRADE: Making your own dressing takes just seconds! To boot, you are guaranteed that the oil you use is top notch, actually contributing to your health instead of hindering it. Our salad dressing article has all the juicy details PLUS some great recipes for you to try.
4. BRAN MUFFINS
High in fiber yes, but also potentially way too high in sugar and preservatives (if they’re pre-packaged). We did some research and found the sugar content averaged from 35-40 grams in Starbucks, Panera and Au Bon Pan muffins. That’s 9-10 teaspoons worth! In all honesty, commercial bran muffins have more in common with a piece of cake than a healthy breakfast option.
- GURU UPGRADE: Try our Flax Muffins. Bake a dozen at a time and enjoy these nutrient-packed low sugar muffins for breakfast or a filling snack.
Most bottled smoothies or yogurt drinks you’ll find on grocery shelves, in health food stores, or at your local smoothie establishment contain about 40 grams of sugar (there’s our 10 teaspoons again). They are also usually lacking in good protein, healthy fats, and fiber, which will keep your blood sugar even and your stomach satisfied for hours.
- GURU UPGRADE: Ditch the excess sugar and make a smoothie at home using fresh or frozen fruit, a veggie or two, nuts/seeds, and/or protein powder. Get the recipe for our famous Mocha Tahini Smoothie HERE. Many of our clients are also big fans of THIS pear smoothie.
6. WHOLE WHEAT BREAD
Check the nutrition label of almost any popular 100% whole wheat bread and you are likely to find at least 3-4 grams of sugar in just ONE slice. Who would have thought a sandwich on whole wheat bread could deliver almost 2 teaspoons of sugar, along with hydrogenated oils, preservatives and caramel coloring?
Just look at the ingredient list from a bag of Pepperidge Farm 100% Whole Grain Natural Bread: Unbromated Stone Ground 100% Whole Wheat Flour, Water, Crushed Wheat, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening (Soybean and Cottonseed Oils), Raisin Juice Concentrate, Wheat Gluten, Yeast, Whole Wheat Flakes, Unsulphured Molasses, Salt, Honey, Vinegar, Enzyme Modified Soy Lecithin, Cultured Whey, Wheat Starch, Unbleached Wheat Flour and Soy Lecithin.
- GURU UPGRADE: We favor Ezekiel bread, which is a wonderful sprouted grain bread that has 0 grams of sugar (except their Raisin bread has a few grams from the natural sugar in the raisins). This bread can be found in the frozen section of almost any supermarket or health food store. For those who need to strictly avoid gluten, be aware this bread is NOT gluten free. Another delightful treat is our homemade cinnamon almond bread. Try this easy recipe which can be found HERE.
Combine oats, nuts, seeds and a dried fruit or two and what could go wrong? How about a hefty dose of added sugar, inflammatory oils, and the occasional processed soy protein? That’s what you’ll find in many commercial granola brands. So be wary and make sure to check the ingredient list . . . decent options are few and far between and at best, mediocre.
- GURU UPGRADE: Since homemade granola is so easy to prep, this is really our best suggestion. Here is a basic, clean, low sugar recipe. Make a large batch and store in a glass container in your pantry.
We want to hear from you! Share your favorite homemade or store bought food upgrades.