If you’ve been eating healthy and exercising yet the bulge is still refusing to budge, then something is wrong. That “something” is probably the fact that you’ve been duped by the food industry’s marketing tactics, and all that healthy stuff you thought you were consuming isn’t healthy at all.*
Turns out, added sugar is hiding in a large percentage of packaged foods (including the stuff labeled healthy)—from yogurts, sports drinks, bread, even ketchup. The World Health Organization recommends we get no more than five percent of our calories from added sugars, but Americans consume around 66 lbs. of added sugar every year.
So, while we’re not going to be able to change how the food industry markets their goods, what we can do is read labels, see through their fluff, and start putting alternate options in our mouths.
Below are 7 foods you’re eating, but shouldn’t:
1. ENERGY BARS
While they seem like the perfect snack to grab and go, most energy or protein bars are nothing more than glorified candy bars! Even though they say they’re loaded with protein, vitamins, and minerals, what the manufacturer forgot to mention is that they’re also loaded with enriched white flour, high-fructose corn syrup, and other sweeteners.
- Make sure your bar has LESS THAN 15 grams of sugar and 2 grams of saturated fat. And AT LEAST 3 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein.
- Or you can make your own Shakeology® energy bars, which is a delicious option as well.
2. LOW-FAT YOGURT
The main reason why low-fat foods taste so good is because after the fat is removed, sugar and salt are added. While you may be thinking your nonfat yogurt is a healthy snack, you might be mistaken. Take Chobani’s blueberry fruit-on-the-bottom nonfat yogurt, it’s packed with 15 grams of sugar for a 5.3-oz serving. And Stonyfield’s blueberry fruit-on-the-bottom has 22 grams of sugar per 6-oz serving.
- Get your much-needed probiotic fill by taking supplements.
- Buy plain yogurt and add your own berries to make it sweet. You can even add some nuts for that much-needed fiber.
3. FRUIT SMOOTHIE
While a piece of fruit is good for you, most fruit smoothies you buy these days are comprised mainly of fruit juice (which doesn’t contain the fiber from a real piece of fruit), and sugar-laden yogurt or sherbet to satisfy your taste buds. But because these smoothies lack fiber to keep you full, chances are you’re going to be starving way before your next mealtime arrives. Which means, snack time is almost inevitable.
- Make your own! Simply blend ½ cup of plain yogurt, ½ cup milk or water, 1 cup of berries or a banana, 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed, and some ice.
- Have a Shakeology, blended with ice.
4. FLAVORED MILK (Almond, Soy, Coconut)
We’ve all come to expect chocolate milk to be high in sugar (because it’s chocolate). But most of us don’t think that vanilla-flavored soy, almond, or coconut milk is bad for us. Again, the food industry wins! For example, Almond Breeze Vanilla has 13 grams of sugar per cup, yet if you go with the unsweetened variety, it contains ZERO grams of sugar! So you can still enjoy the vanilla flavor you’ve come to love, just make sure you choose the “unsweetened” version so you can avoid all that extra sugar.
- Use non-vanilla or unsweetened versions.
- Make your own nut milk (it’s mostly water anyway).
5. SPORTS DRINKS
If you want to rehydrate yourself after a hard workout, sure, a sports drink like Gatorade will supply your body with potassium and electrolytes to help you recover. But what the marketers aren’t telling you is that a 4.8-oz serving of the original formula will also flood your body with 21 grams of sugar. Good thing you worked out so hard in the first place, huh?
- Drink coconut water instead.
- Look for postworkout powders that you can mix into water that have natural ingredients.
6. PREPARED SALADS
What could be unhealthy about a big bowl of leafy greens and veggies? Nothing, actually. It’s all the other stuff that gets piled on top that turns this healthy option into a calorie- and carb-packed feast. The unhealthy villains to watch out for are: bacon, ham, deep-fried anything, cheese, croutons, pasta, and creamy dressings.
- Ask for dressings on the side, then instead of pouring it all over your salad, simply dip your fork into the dressing before digging in.
- Substitute dressing entirely for a scoop of hummus or fresh salsa.
- Just say no to croutons or bread.
7. REDUCED-FAT PEANUT BUTTER
Nut butters are filled with healthy fats and proteins and are usually very effective healthy snacks. However, the packaged reduced-fat peanut butters usually contain added oils that contain the wrong types of fats, as well as added sugars to enhance taste. Instead of going for the low-fat version, just reduce your portion size of the real deal. Pair it with some carrots and celery and you’re in taste heaven without any health sacrifice.
- Buy natural peanut butter with “peanuts” as the only ingredient listed.
- Go to stores where you can grind your own peanut butter for the freshest option.
Read labels. Eat smarter. Lose weight.
By paying more attention to nutrition labels, chances are there are a handful of things you’ve been consuming that you might think twice about now. Because when you cut out a few extra grams of sugar here and there, bam, it makes a big difference.
* All brand names and trademarks used above are owned by their respective owners. All nutritional information used was obtained from the respective products as of April 17, 2015.