It’s not just the pizza rolls and milkshakes that are tripping up your diet. Some of the biggest culprits promote themselves as “health foods”, and yet contain as much fat, sugar and preservatives as their counterparts, if not more.
These diet bombs can set your progress back by months without you ever knowing what you’re doing wrong.
If you’re watching your weight, these are some five health foods to look out for.
1. “Healthier Choice” labels
Singapore’s Health Promotion Board places “healthier choice” labels on Coke Zero and instant coffee sachets, and that says a lot. Wholegrain bread can contain up to 70% refined flour, but they can still advertise themselves as the real deal. Foods with “no added sugars” labels are often loaded with artificial sweeteners to compensate for the bland taste.
Unfortunately, we often have to do the heavy-lifting when it comes to reading nutrition labels. Remember: how much you eat is just as important. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a “healthier choice” food label gives you the permission to overindulge.
Even trading in organic honey for refined cane sugar can be overdone if taken in large helpings. To be safe, eat everything in moderation.
2. Fruit juices
Juices taste great, but the juicing process strips fruit of important fibres, vitamins and minerals. Calorie-wise, many juices are just as unhealthy as a soft drink. Not a good bargain!
The average glass of apple juice is the equivalent of eating 3-4 apples at once (that’s a lot of sugar), and it doesn’t even begin to fill you up. Compare this to one whole apple, which is more satiating and provides you with numerous digestive benefits.
Not surprisingly, fruit juices don’t do much for weight loss.
If a refreshing drink is what you thirst for, vegetable juices are relatively kinder on your waistline since they’re much lower in sugar and calories. Better yet, just have your fruits whole.
3. Sugary breakfasts
Many healthier-option breakfasts are actually sweet desserts disguised as health foods.
This can range from cereal and muesli, to yogurt and smoothie bowls. An acai bowl is essentially a giant serving of smoothie with delicious, calorie-rich toppings – it’s no wonder it can contain as much as 400 calories per bowl. A bowl of granola easily contains more!
These all taste great, and are healthier than chocolate fudge, but they’re not necessarily diet-friendly.
Waking up earlier to cook a high-protein, high-fibre rich breakfast may just be the radical lifestyle change you need. Since you are already at the stove, you will also be more inclined to prepare a healthy lunch for the day. That’s a double-win!
4. Hidden starches in potatoes
All this talk about fattening processed grains might prompt you to stay away from white rice. But if you’re thinking of replacing it with potato as a staple, you may want to reconsider.
Like many root vegetables, the spud contains a massive amount of starch. The same applies to even the humble-looking carrot. In fact, potatoes cause sugar spikes even more aggressively than rice, which activate the hunger hormones that are responsible for your hunger pangs.
A healthier option is sweet potatoes and yams, but avoid fattening toppings like butter. Also, deep-frying them in batter negates whatever wholesome benefits they might have.
Instead of making generalisations about food groups, calculate the calories that go into your meals – before sacrificing your favourites for options that are only marginally better.
5. Veggie burgers
On the whole, veggie burgers can claim to have less trans fat than the average cheeseburger. But even veggie burgers aren’t as guilt-free as they seem.
We’re not just referring to the burgers that are loaded with avocado and butter, either. Many veggie burgers contain highly processed soy and preservatives, along with salt – lots of it. Again, anything that is overly processed or salted defeats the purpose of going healthy.
The solution: make your own veggie burger from scratch. It’ll be a great excuse to pour your leftovers into something delicious.
Do you have any pointers on what health foods to cut back on? Share them with us in the comments below! If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to read about the must-have foods in your weight loss diet.