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Amidst all of the marketing and hype and information overload, it can be difficult to really know what to believe. If you regularly consume these “healthy” choices, you just might want to reconsider…
1. Fruit Juice
Juice seems like it should be healthy, right? In reality, it is concentrated sugar. It takes 2-4 oranges to make one cup of juice. It is unlikely that you would eat that much fruit in one sitting, yet it is not uncommon for someone to consume multiple servings of juice in one day. Since you are drinking and not chewing, it is difficult for your system to register the caloric (and sugar) intake. Fruit contains fructose, a special type of sugar, that bypasses the liver and goes straight into your bloodstream, which makes it very easy to overconsume. Opt instead for whole fruits, since the fiber found in fruit slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream and limit yourself to one to two pieces per day for optimal health. Your best beverage options continue to be water or herbal tea.
2. Foods Labelled “Low Fat” or “Fat Free”
Most low fat/fat-free foods have had the fat replaced by sugar and/or chemicals to compensate for the change in flavor that fat provides. Sometimes, this change doesn’t even mean the product is lower in calories! Not only does your body need healthy fat, fat is what helps satisfy your appetite. Every year, the food industry tries to dupe us into believing eating fat makes you fat, when in reality, we continue to eat our “low-fat” and carb-rich diets and get heavier every year. If you are going to eat store bought mayonnaise, buy the best (& healthiest) one you can afford and enjoy it.
3. Antibacterial Soap
Antibacterial soap contains triclosan, a known hormone disruptor that contributes to antibiotic resistance. Opt instead for regular soap and water, as it is equally effective in washing away bacteria as antibacterial soap.
4. Bottled Water
Plastic water bottles are simply not sustainable. It is estimated that it takes 450 years on average for the earth to digest a single plastic water bottle. Add to that the chemicals that leach into the water as it gets packaged and transported (even if it is not BPA) before consumption. And to top it all off, bottled water itself has fewer, if any, regulations that ensure it is healthy drinking water. Some brands are nothing more than tap water that has been filtered and repackaged for you. From both a health and financial standpoint, you are better off carrying a reusable glass or stainless steel bottle for when you are out and getting a good quality filter (I like Santevia) for the tap water you have at home.
5. Frozen Yogurt
We think of yogurt as a health food. Even the non-frozen variety is often candified, unless you choose plain quality yogurt. What people don’t realize is that frozen yogurt often contains more sugar than ice cream. If you are buying it from a frozen yogurt boutique, that means you are likely indulging in bigger portions with added toppings (usually candy or chocolate) that increase the sugar content even more. Not all yogurts contain probiotics and even when they do, it is not usually in an amount that makes any noticeable impact on your health.
6. Scented Candles/Air Fresheners/Incense
Scented candles and air fresheners are a quick and enjoyable way to either mask unpleasant odors or create ambience. The scents in these products are created by hazardous substances such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), allergens, and phthalates, which have been shown to cause hormone imbalance, respiratory difficulties such as allergies and asthma, and even DNA damage.
Most candles are made from paraffin wax, which emit toxic toluene and benzene when burned (both known carcinogens). When lit, scented candles also give off formaldehyde and contribute to indoor air pollution (the air inside your home is 10X more polluted than the air outside). Their wicks are often contain heavy metals like lead which also get airborne when burned.
A better choice is to buy candles made from soy wax or beeswax (which help to improve indoor air quality) and/or an essential oil diffuser. Other ways to improve your air indoors is to get a good quality air filter (I like IQair), have indoor houseplants (your best choices are weeping fig, Boston fern, peace lily and English ivy) and use salt lamps regularly.
Generally, sushi is considered a healthier eating option. The reality is, depending on the sushi you choose, eating two sushi rolls is like having six slices of white bread! Sushi rice is so tasty because it has added sugar. A better choice is to have sashimi (or at least sushi made with brown rice instead of white) with reduced sodium soy sauce and skip the tempura or rolls made with heavy sauces. Don’t indulge too often though, as tuna tends to be high in mercury. Salmon and shrimp are better options.
8. Protein/Meal Replacement Bars
A protein bar or meal replacement bar will never outperform an actual meal or snack. Sometimes it is convenient to have something you can have on the go. But not all bars are created equal. Be careful to look at the ingredient list, the number of ingredients, the added sugars and the overall calorie count. Choose a bar with a small list of ingredients that you can identify, with low sugar content and depending on whether you need it as a snack or as a meal, calories that range from 200-400. Otherwise, you might up with something that is no better for you than a candy bar.
Smoothies from a juice bar or a restaurant are usually loaded with fruit with additional sugar added and can end up as calorie (and sugar) bombs. Make them at home instead, being careful to use an unsweetened base milk or water, low glycemic index fruit (like berries), an added serving or two of health promoting leafy vegetables, some healthy fat (like avocado, nut butter or seeds) and protein for a balanced meal.
10. Honey/Maple Syrup
People seem to think that if they make treats with honey or maple syrup, somehow that has made them sugar-free, which of course, is not the case. Treats are treats and while it is certainly better for you to have ones that are homemade with quality ingredients and less processed types of sugar, sugar is still sugar. If you really want to make a serious impact on your health, you could omit eating baked goods/desserts completely, and opt instead for fruit to satisfy sweet cravings. Barring that, don’t kid yourself into believing that if it is made with honey or maple syrup, that a muffin is suddenly transformed into a health food, because, well, it is still a muffin.