Health cereals and muesli
Most highly processed breakfast cereals are not healthy and are often loaded with sugar and refined carbohydrates. The manufacturers fortify them with synthetic vitamins and put tiny amounts of whole grains in the mix to market their products as healthy. For the same amount of sugar, you may as well replace your morning bowl of Special K for a bowl of coco pops, and similarly you’d achieve the same results of the ‘Special K diet’ than you would with a ‘Kellogg’s Frosties diet’. Even muesli, known for being a health-freak’s breakfast, can contain vast amounts of sugar. Play it safe and make your own granola, with plain rolled-oats and mixed fruit so you can monitor how much sugar goes into your bowl.
Hate to break it to all those sushi lovers, but this assumed ‘healthy’ treat isn’t the vegetable-filled treat you hoped it to be. Sushi contains very little fibre, and with the large intake of rice involved in these tiny treats, it also contains high levels of sugar and carbs. So whilst you may think you’re tucking into a healthy light bite or socialising round a guilt-free conveyor belt, think again. It’s always good to treat yourself, and sushi isn’t going to kill you (unless it hasn’t been made hygienically!), but beware if you’re grabbing it for lunch on the go, as it’s high-GI and will leave you feeling hungry in a short space of time. If you’re eating for convenience and not for the novelty of food looping round on a belt and a chef dicing up tuna steaks in front of you, then something with more substance and protein will keep you fuller until tea time, or at least until you finish work.
Fruit juice is like fruit with most of the good stuff removed. All that is left is the sugar and a few vitamins. Orange juice, for example, contains the same amount of sugar as Coca Cola. There’s no fiber in it, no chewing resistance and nothing to stop you from downing massive amounts of sugar in a short amount of time. Despite the cartons claiming to be part of your ‘5 a day’, this is a cheat’s way to get your portion of fruit, as you miss out on the vital nutrients provided by actual fresh fruit itself. Stay old-school and exercise your nashers on a juicy apple.
Nuts and Dried Fruit
Nuts are hailed for being high in protein and an excellent ‘healthy’ snack as they are full of vitamins and healthy fats. Whilst this is true, beware before you munch your way through a giant-sized ‘snack pack’. They’re called ‘trail mix’ for a reason - and unless you’re climbing a mountain, steer clear. Often the nutrition labels on the front are deceiving, in that they show the calorie content for a minuscule portion of the pack, and even a handful can contain over 300 calories. There’s also the fact that ‘once you pop you can’t stop’, and before you know it, idle eating will have lead you right to the bottom of the packet, leaving you feeling unsatisfied and still hungry. When health advice says to ‘snack on nuts’, this also doesn’t mean go for a bag of salted peanuts, or coated chilli nuts. Flavoured nuts contain even more calories and fat, and are a sure way to pack on the pounds.
Butter spreads/ Margarine
A side effect of the anti-fat hysteria is a plethora of so-called ‘healthy’ butter alternatives. The most notable example of these is margarine. It used to be loaded with trans fats, now it tends to contain processed vegetable oils instead. Butter consumption went down, margarine consumption went up. One study by the Harvard Medical School, Boston found that replacing butter with margarine lead to a drastically increased risk of death from heart attacks. Stick to the good ol’ stuff, but in moderation, as with anything else.
These are a ludicrous part of the health market, despite their zero benefits. These popular drinks such as Vitamin Water contain 32.5 grams of sugar per bottle, so you might as well hydrate after a workout by drinking a bottle of water and tossing a full sized Snickers (30 grams of sugar) down your throat. Save your money, and rehydrate with tap water and a banana which will provide you with all the post-workout nutrients you need, including potassium, vitamin K, and fibre. To jazz up a glass of water, throw in a slice of cucumber or a strawberry for a delicate but refreshing taste.
features writer & lifestyle blogger and avid shoe wearer.