Between the alternating ice cream and pizza shops on every block, and the temptation of new sweets (Cronut, anyone?) constantly popping up, New York City makes it hard enough to eat healthy. So when it comes to those sneaky health-food-fakers, it’s important to know what to avoid. Here are ten things you may have thought were healthy but aren’t:
1. Wheat and Multi-Grain Bread: Chances are, you grabbed one of these loaves thinking it was a healthier alternative to traditional white bread made from refined flour. Truth is, ‘wheat’ bread is often made from the same refined flour, and multi-grain simply means many grains were used (in other words, it doesn’t mean the whole grain was used). When opting for healthy bread, you should be looking for 100% whole grain bread in order to reap the benefits of the entire grain.
2. Smoothies and Fruit Juices: A drink made from all fruit is supposed to be healthy, right? Smoothies, in theory, sound good, but the amount of fruit it takes to actually make a smoothie and even 100% fruit juice is rather shocking. To make a traditional 16oz juice can use upward of 8 oranges… not exactly the light snack you were thinking of. Not to mention, some smoothies use more than just fruit, knocking that sugar count up even further with frozen yogurt (which can contain surprising amounts of sugar). Your best bet if you are trying to avoid sugar is a greens juice which will limit your sugar intake.
3. Sushi: As sad as it is to us all, sushi is not the iconic health food so many of us believe it to be. The average sushi meal probably includes 3 rolls which is essentially the same as eating an entire loaf of white bread. And that’s before you consider the calories and fat in the spicy mayo, eel sauce, and shrimp tempura. For a healthier option at the sushi restaurant, opt for sashimi (fish without the rice) to save yourself the extra calories.
4. Trail Mix: Trail mix may seem like a healthy, filling snack, but store-bought trail mix is surprisingly filled with added sugar, making those seemingly healthful nuts a less-than-optimal option. The dried fruit is often injected with sugar to make it sweeter, you have the irresistible little chocolate pieces that are naturally sugary, and at this point, you might as well be eating a Snickers. Instead of buying trail mix off the shelf, take a few extra minutes to scope out whole nuts (no added sugar), and make your own.
5. Granola Bars: A quick bar in between classes seems like a harmless snack, but similar to trail mix, granola bars are usually just glorified candy bars: sugar-packed, caloric, filled with unnatural ingredients, and generally unsatisfying. Of the bars out there, Kind Bars are your best bet, so if a bar is calling, that should be your go-to.
6. Frozen Yogurt: Contrary to the trendy “low-fat” and “non-fat” claims that may make fro-yo seem like a safe snack, it’s actually not much better than ice cream. It may have less fat, but the amount of sugar is no healthy option. Not to mention, the serving size is 4 ounces, and let’s be honest: who is going to 16 Handles and stopping at 4 ounces? Nobody.
7. Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter: Peanut butter is healthy and delicious, if eaten in the recommended portion, but everyone knows peanut butter is high in fat; however what people fail to recognize is it is these mono-unsaturated fats make it healthy. Big companies have begun to market low-fat peanut butter to appeal to the fat-phobic in all of us, but what they don’t tell you is that they are removing the healthy fats and replacing them with sugar. The best PB out there is the natural kind made from 100% peanuts.
8. Vegetable Pasta: Pasta doesn’t exactly scream diet food, but if you throw the word vegetable in front of it it’s automatically better, right? Actually, that spinach fettuccine is still made from the same white flour that regular pasta is made from, but the scant amount of spinach added to it makes it green and deceitful. As far as pasta goes, whole wheat is still the best bet, but for a true “veggie pasta,” spaghetti squash is an excellent alternative.
9. Raisin Bran: As students, cereal is a great, easy breakfast that doesn’t require much thinking (much appreciated before those 8am-ers), but cereal is sugar central. Raisin Bran, recognized as the healthy choice because “bran” is in its name, doesn’t mean it has much less sugar than its brothers and sisters. Instead of cereal, opt for oatmeal which is naturally higher in fiber and lower in sugar.
10. Sweet Potato Fries: Between Pomme Frites, Shake Shack, and every burger place bordering campus, fries are the inevitable diet blunder that make it near impossible to resist temptation, so in an effort to feign nutrition, sweet potato fries became the go-to for many. Truth be told, when fried, sweet potatoes lose many of their nutrients, as do regular white potatoes, so you’re really not saving yourself by opting sweet. Instead, make your own baked fries, such as these.