5 Not So Healthy Items Hiding in Your Health Food Isle

Author: Alyce Cimino  

We have all done it – the slow stroll down the health food isle of the supermarket, stopping along the way to look at the different packets, boxes and jars that have made it into the exclusive ‘healthy section’. These are the items that have been specially chosen and categorised as healthy – but what if marketing is not what it seems? What if those ‘healthy’ items are not as healthy as they claim to be?

Let’s have a closer look at the not so healthy items in our healthy isle:

Gluten Free Foods

Gluten free is getting a lot of attention of late and while it’s good that people are interested in the benefits of different grains and seeds, there is the perception that if its gluten free, it must be healthy - but the reality is a gluten free label does not equate to being healthy.

Gluten free cookies are still cookies; and often contain higher levels of sugar and additives than their regular counterpart. This is a strategic move from manufacturers as a way to make them more palatable to consumers. In the same way that gluten free bread usually contains higher levels of additives and binders to make it taste like ‘normal’ bread.

Healthy alternative:

Bring it back to wholefood ingredients, choose sources of seeds and grains that a naturally gluten free such as quinoa, rice and buckwheat. Make your own bread and healthy cookies! Always read the ingredient list to see what it hiding inside the packet.

Obviously if you are a coeliac or are gluten intolerant, then it’s extremely important to avoid gluten in your diet.

Low Fat Options

As humans we need fat - good fat that is. We require good fats for healthy brain function and hormone development. However, over the decades the topic of dietary fat has been very heated and this has created a large amount of confusion.

We know that the body requires good fat; unsaturated fat to support our general health, our cardiovascular health and healthy cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats can be found in oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocado. It is when we consume high levels of refined Trans fats or saturated fats that can negatively influence our health. These saturated fats are commonly found in processed foods and fast food meals.

As well as being a key nutrient for our general wellbeing, we also know that dietary fats have a role on our taste buds and for overall satiety - that little feeling that tells us when we are full. When we consume foods processed to reduce fats they do not taste nearly as good, which is why manufacturers need to add extra sweeteners and additives to make them delicious again. It is these additives that can cause havoc on our health and wellbeing. It also means we tend to over consume these items as they don’t signal when we are full.

Another thing to be mindful of is when we remove the natural fat content of our food we also reduce the fat soluble vitamins. These are vitamins that require fat for absorption and transportation in the body.

Healthy alternative:

Enjoy your fat - Just enjoy good quality fats (organic where possible) and enjoy it in moderation. If you are going to choose yoghurt, choose the wholefood full fat option; unflavoured, natural and pot set. Enjoy the 100% nut butter or some avocado and drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over your salad.

Sugar Free Foods

It is estimated that around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes, so it is no wonder that there are more and more sugar free options hitting our supermarket shelves. While it is always a nice idea to reduce the amount of artificial and processed sugar in our diets, when we reach for sugar free alternatives they are more often than not packed full of additives to achieve the same level of sweetness.

Healthy alternative:

Swap sugar free foods for products naturally free from sugar such as raw cacao chocolate. Swap out processed foods with wholefood snacks rich in protein to support satiety, such as fresh vegetables and hummus.

Ready Made Meals

While ready-made-meals can be quite the lifesaver at the end of a long work day or a convenient way to support portion sizes throughout the day, they often do not stack up on the wholefood nutritional scale. Often these meals are lacking in vegetables, fibre and they are usually higher in salt and sugar as a way to keep our taste buds happy.

Healthy alternative:

To help save time, money and support your health, a simple trick when cooking is to add a little extra ingredients and freeze some as a way to create your own readymade meals to be used as needed.

Muesli Bars and Granola

Granola and muesli get a category all on their own. They are often found in school lunch boxes and in sports bags – and recently have started to move out of the health food isle and into the confectionary isle, and this is no coincidence. Granola bars often contain high levels of sugar, refined sugars and additives.

Healthy alternative:

It is a little bit more time consuming but the healthiest option is to make your own. To use ingredients that you enjoy and avoid the ones you don’t. This way not only do you avoid large quantities of added sugars but also all the additives.

Ok, I know what you are thinking… if these are not healthy, then what is? The simplest answer is to enjoy a healthy, balanced wholefood diet! Go back to basics and enjoy foods in its most natural state, enjoy foods that are free from a packet and busting with wholefood nutrients and remember, enjoy a rainbow of fresh seasonal produce every day.

Helpful links:

Understanding Dietary Fats:
https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/fat-salt-sugars-and-alcohol/fat

Understanding Dietary Sugars:
https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/fat-salt-sugars-and-alcohol/sugars

How to read food labels and nutritional information:
https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/eating-well/how-understand-food-labels

 

Written by Alyce Cimino

Alyce Cimino (BHSc Naturopathy) is a qualified Naturopath with a passion for nutrition, food as medicine and helping others achieve their health goals towards a happy and healthy lifestyle. Alyce believes health begins with delicious whole foods and in her spare time you can find her in the kitchen creating something deliciously healthy or at the beach enjoying the sunshine and ocean.

Alyce has a love for herbal teas, but all teas are better with a little raw cheesecake on the side.


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