Some foods are obviously bad for us: ice cream, soft drink, anything fried. These are foods we know we should stay away from. Other foods are less obvious. Find out which unlikely foods dieticians say you should avoid. You may be surprised by what you find on this list.
1. Muesli bars
A popular snack choice for people on the go, muesli bars promise nutrition in the form of protein and fibre but they’re actually packed with excessive amounts of sugar and few quality nutrients. You might even hear some dieticians refer to them as ‘glorified candy bars’. If you love muesli bars, try making your own at home with wholegrain cereals, nuts, honey and a little dried fruit.
2. Fat-free foods
Beware of foods boasting about being fat free. What you save in fat can actually be paid for in other ways. In fact, manufacturers often just replace the fat they remove with sugar, which is even worse for your health – especially if the fat was a healthy mono- or polyunsaturated fat, such as found in full-fat dairy products.
3. Flavoured jelly
Otherwise known as ‘nothing food’, this sweet, wobbly dessert comes in a rainbow of colours but it contains nothing special. There is practically no nutritional value in this mixture of water, sugar, artificial colouring and animal by-products. Doesn’t sound too appealing when you put it that way, does it?
4. Pre-packaged meals
If your meal comes in a bag or box, you’re in trouble. Don’t be fooled by packaging that calls meals ‘homemade’ or ‘fresh’, because the truth is that these meals are usually laden with fat, sugar and salt. For the time-poor among us, whipping up your own pasta with mince and pasta sauce is just as easy (and certainly much healthier) than flinging a pre-made lasagne in the oven and waiting for it to cook.
Once considered a healthier alternative to butter, margarine has now been exposed as a dietary ruse. Margarine is created by hydrogenating vegetable oil – a process that also produces trans fat. Trans fat is a dangerous substance that increases your bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) and reduces your good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol). Research suggests that the more dense the margarine, the more trans fat it contains. Butter is a healthier option but should still be eaten sparingly. If you must eat margarine, opt for one that is low in saturated fat, high in unsaturated fat and free of trans fat.
Juice might seem like a good way to eat your daily fruit but it’s really just a sugary drink pretending to be healthy. While it does contain some vitamins from real fruit, most have been lost during the juicing process. Juices can also contain as much sugar as a regular soft drink, so you’re consuming a lot of extra calories for little benefit. Better to stick to drinking water and eating fruit.
7. Diet soft drink
Diet drinks are often promoted as healthier alternatives to regular soft drinks because they contain artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. But these drinks come with their own health hazards. Some medical research suggests that diet drinks confuse the body’s natural ability to manage calories based on tasting something sweet. Diet drinks have also been linked with kidney damage, Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and depression.