5 Supposedly Healthy Products You Need to Ditch
I have noticed that when my clients, and people in general, say they have been eating healthy but not seeing any results, it’s because they have been eating what seems healthy rather than what actually is. When I was still in high school and knew little about what’s truly healthy, I ate a sickening amount of junk without even knowing it. Granola/muesli with yoghurt and fruit for breakfast, popcorn and nuts were the perfect snack to bring to school, and protein shakes and bars were a must after gym, otherwise what am I even working out for if I’m not getting twice the amount of protein that my body actually needs? Everything seems really healthy, right? It makes me laugh, but it also makes me sad knowing that so many people live up to these beliefs and then blame their bodies for not being capable enough and good enough.
The truth is that all these foods can be healthy if you choose correctly. Continue reading if you’re interested to find out how to make the right choice, so that you don’t have to work in the gym twice as hard later!
1. PROTEIN SHAKES & BARS
Protein shakes and bars are some of the most convenient and popular snacks to carry around in case you get hungry. Unfortunately, so many people, including teenagers who have just started going to the gym and working on their first gains, are taking in toxic ingredients without knowing it. I don’t blame them. Who expects you to know what those words mean on the back of the label? If a ripped guy at a supplements shop or your personal trainer advised you to get this brand, you’re most likely going to go for it. Another unfortunate fact is that most sales assistants in sports shops and most personal trainers might know very well how to get those gains, but they know very little about what certain products can do to your body internally.
Some ingredients that are often used in shakes and bars include:
- Artificial sweeteners: aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, splenda are some of the most dangerous toxins, known for their ability to cause death. They are forbidden in some countries. In the best case you might suffer from migraines, depression and weight gain.
- Glucose and dextrin: known to be contributing causes to insulin resistance, which often causes weight gain and even obesity in the long-term.
- Natural sweeteners: the world natural means absolutely nothing. Sugar is also natural and so are gas residues.
- Whey protein concentrate and casein: these are milk derivatives that have high levels of lactose. Even if you’re lactose tolerant, these ingredients are very dense in lactose and therefore can cause bloating and gastrointestinal inflammation.
- Xanthan gum: commonly used thickener, which is manufactured from genetically modified corn and soy and can cause bloating and gas.
So basically, by eating what your body is not used to digesting over years and years of evolution, you’re causing a shock reaction to which your body responds by bloating, indigestion (which can cause weight-loss), bad skin and other allergic reactions.
I think that even if you’re not eating a plant-based diet, there is no reason why you shouldn’t switch to plant-based protein shakes and bars. It’s a simple way of avoiding the toxic concoction and you still get what you want – a good dose of protein. Of course, it is important to make sure your vegan protein is organic, as otherwise you might be consuming GMO soy in concentrated amounts. I personally wasn’t a fan of vegan protein powders back in the day because their structure was like sand and the flavours were all pretty bland. Luckily, today we are shifting towards the right side of things in terms of healthy and many brands have done a great job delivering us products that are creamy in texture and delicious in flavour.
A few of my favourite plant-based, organic protein powder brands are – Amazing Grass (chocolate & peanut butter flavour), Sunwarrior PLUS (chocolate and vanilla flavours), Vega (they make protein powders that are also mixed with probiotics and other daily needed vitamins).
While there is nothing wrong with popping some corn at home, using a good old pot and some coconut oil, I bet that’s not where you usually get your popcorn from. Unfortunately for you (and for me, because I love popcorn), the ones sold at cinemas or supermarkets are not your friends. At least not if you care about your health and don’t want to feel bloated all the time.
To begin with, conventional popcorn is made using processed vegetable oils, otherwise known as trans fats. These are the bad fats that do no good in any case without exception and are often disguised as canola / rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and vegetable oil. Trans fats are known for clogging up veins and causing heart disease, besides doubling people in size. I don’t know how about you, but I’d rather make my popcorn myself, so that I don’t have to worry about not fitting into my clothes now and getting really sick later on in life.
I could go on and on about what the flavourings are made of, even the natural ones (beaver’s but as an ingredient in some natural flavours is my favourite example because everyone remembers it), and what health hazards they can cause. What you need to know and remember is that in today’s world ruled by marketing, natural doesn’t mean anything and any of those ingredients that you can’t pronounce or understand are definitely not going to help you look and feel your best.
You’re probably thinking that if you just go for the salted popcorn with butter it’s fine, because there are no flavourings. Wrong. Besides an unhealthily high processed salt content, which makes you retain water and therefore, bloat for days, there are flavourings that taste like salt and butter, with no actual butter involved.
The brands that I trust and love for when I don’t have the time to make popcorn myself are “Nom” - love all their flavours, but Salted Maple is my favourite as it’s a divine healthy version of salted caramel, and “Planet Organic” - also love all flavours, but the Cheezy Kale definitely stands out of the popcorn crowd! Both of these brands use organic, non-GMO corn and coconut oil as their base ingredients.
Actually, I would say it’s more for convenience than time that I buy popcorn from time to time, because it only takes a few minutes to make! Here is how I do it:
- I don’t actually ever measure the exact proportions of popcorn and oil I use
- Choose the largest pot I have, because when popcorn pops, it takes up lots of space
- Put about a tablespoon (not heaped) of coconut oil (in its natural state, not heated) into the pot
- Heat it at low heat (1-3 on digital cookers)
- Wait for the oil to heat and melt
- Then I put about 100g of popcorn the pot and cover it
- Wait until I hear popping and let it pop for 10-20 seconds before opening the pot, mixing and adding more oil if I see that the pot is dry. If not immediately, at some stage you will need more oil, so don’t snooze and wait too long before opening the pot
- Listen to more popping for a bit and shake up the closed pot every once in a while
- When popping becomes slower, open the pot, pour popcorn into a bowl and let it cool for a minute
I have to admit I’m not a master of adding flavours, besides sprinkling lots of cinnamon on top (I LOVE cinnamon), so if you guys know any tasty, flavourful recipes, please share in the comments below!
3. ROASTED AND SALTED NUTS & DRIED FRUIT
Cheap nuts = empty calories. This is because some nut-producing countries drain their nuts off their oils to be used in nut oil and nut butter production. So, all these healthy fats that you’re aiming at are long gone.
After being sucked dry, nuts go through a roasting process, where they are covered in vegetable oils. ALERT - bad trans fats from processed oils are present. WARNING – stay clear. If you don’t remember why you should avoid vegetable oils, scroll up back to popcorn. The salt issue is also very relevant here too.
On top of that, during the roasting process, nuts are heated at temperatures that are way too high for any nutrients not to die.
Solution - don’t be a cheapskate and invest in nuts if you want to save on weight-loss plans later. Look for either raw nuts, or oven-roasted. Read the ingredients and make sure no processed oils have been used. You can also check that by looking at “trans fats” content on the label containing nutritional information. My trick to avoid going through the hassle of reading nut labels is going for the weigh-able ones.
When it comes to dried fruit, it doesn’t get any safer when you go for any product on the shelf.
I don’t even need to mention the crazy amounts of sugar that go into making dried fruit. No wonder they are also known as “candied fruit”. Also, sulfites are used to make dried fruit appealing and more durable. Dried fruit that are bright in colour particularly contain a high sulphites content. Last, but not least, dried fruit needs to be packaged appropriately not to go off. If air is allowed into the packaging, there may be fungi and other toxins found eating your fruit (and your insides).
Solution - dried fruit shouldn’t contained anything else besides the fruit. Make sure there is nothing else in the pack besides what you are actually aiming to buy - dried fruit. You can also dry your own fruit by using a cooking dryer or an oven - it’s easy and quick. Either use a cooking dryer or an oven.
4. FRUIT JUICES & SMOOTHIES
Packaged juices and fruit concentrates are not even worth going into detail, as they rarely contain actual fruit or whole ingredients at all. What I think causes quite a lot confusion is supposedly healthy, raw, cold-pressed (insert whatever word that makes you fall for it) juices and smoothies.
While using a fruit to sweeten your smoothie and add some phytonutrients and fiber to it is a great idea, blending / juicing 3 oranges, 2 apples, a whole mango and a few carrots all in one smoothie / juice - is a terrible one. You wouldn’t eat an entire shopping bag of fruit in one go, would you? So why drink it? You think you’re doing yourself a favour by spending extra on your super boost, but actually you’re just paying to get a sugar rush. Fruit sugar is of course much better than processed sugar, however, its chemical composition is exactly the same, meaning that your body also metabolises it in the same way. Your body doesn’t really know whether you ate a block of chocolate or a bag of fruit and unfortunately, the consequences might start showing on your waistline.
How not to go wrong - make sure your juice / smoothie is based either on vegetables or on a protein source, not on fruit. I personally use berries or coconut water to sweeten my smoothies as both as significantly lower in sugar than most fruit. If I buy a juice or a smoothie, I always go for the option that has one fruit on the ingredient list or make my own juice / smoothie if there is an option to do so.
5. GRANOLA / MUESLI / CEREAL
Recently a client was telling me that she switched from eggs to this really delicious, healthy muesli for breakfast. She had the same breakfast every day for a few weeks and liked her muesli so much, that she often served herself the second time. This was unusual, since she doesn’t normally feel that hungry in the mornings. She then noticed that while nothing else changed, she started noticing that her abs were starting to hide. Since the rest of her diet stayed more or less the same and she still exercised on most days, she came to the conclusion that it must be the healthy muesli that tricked her. She then checked the ingredients in her muesli and that was the last time she ever picked it up.
So, what is the problem with these usually very yummy cereals and granolas? The answer is – there are many nasties that hide behind words like skinny, healthy, fit, and so on, even in products made by supposedly healthy brands.
Un-hiding the nasties:
- Watch out for coconut or palm sugar. While these sources are less processed than conventional sugar, your body still metabolises it in the same way. In other words, it doesn’t mean that it’s ok to consume copious amounts of sugar from natural sources either.
- Once again, you don’t know how your granola / muesli has been roasted and what oils have been used in the process. Instead of asking you to scroll up to points 1 and 3, I’m going to list the most commonly used bad oils again, because I really want you to remember them:
- Canola / rapeseed oil
- Sunflower oil
- Safflower oil
Besides the use of bad oils, the roasting process in extremely high temperatures removes the nutrients, so you are sold some empty, fattening calories in pretty packaging that make your abs hide.
Some of my favourite granola and muesli brands are “Deliciously Ella” and “Emily’s Kitchen”. There are a good few other brands and amazing products, but I’m the kind of person that sticks to the same thing, once I find my favourites. It’s pretty easy to find the brands I mentioned in supermarkets in London and the rest of the UK, but otherwise you can order them on Amazon or choose your local healthy options. Don’t forget to read the ingredients!
What particularly upsets me is that after learning that some seemingly healthy foods are actually unhealthy, people lose hope and think “nothing is healthy, it’s just frustrating”. I totally get that it’s annoying to be spending extra time in a grocery store reading labels, but know that you only have to do it once! Once you find your healthy gems, it’s all easy peasy! I hope I eliminated that annoying step for you by providing healthy alternative options, which I’m sure will leave you happy and satisfied, and also won’t make you carry extra kilos without your permission!
Since learning to be more aware of what’s in their food, my clients have been able to drop weight within a few weeks with no magic pills. If it’s possible for my clients, it’s possible for you too! Getting rid of everything processed should be your first step towards looking fab and feeling more confident and powerful than ever!