By now your New Year health and fitness kick might be well under way, but switching to a new lifestyle isn’t always simple. Some foods are marketed as healthy but have hidden nasties, so it can be a bit of a minefield.
Nutritionists know the ins and outs of healthy living, so what foods wouldn’t they touch with a bargepole? We found out.
1. Breakfast biscuits
Jeraldine Curran founder of The Food Nutritionist, says: “Consuming a packet of biscuits first thing in the morning means you start your day having consumed a total of three and a half teaspoons of sugar. One serving [of Belvita’s Breakfast Muesli Biscuits for example] contains 13g of sugar, which is over half the recommended daily intake of sugar. With just 4g of protein and 3g of fibre, there are other more nutritious breakfast options, rather than having a sweet packet of biscuits.
“A sweet breakfast option, low in protein and fibre, is more likely to cause a sugar spike and have you reaching for that mid-morning snack. Whereas, if you consumed a protein rich breakfast of eggs with salmon, tomatoes and mushrooms, or Greek yogurt with a sprinkle of nuts, seeds and berries, you will stay fuller for longer. So, leave the breakfast biscuit where they belong – in the biscuit section.”
2. Virtually fat-free fruit yoghurts
Rob Hobson, Healthspan’s head of nutrition, says: “I really don’t like them. I prefer to eat less of a delicious full fat Greek yoghurt that is more natural. These products contain a whopping amount of ingredients, offer little nutritionally and do not help to keep you feeling full between meals. Plus the high amount of artificial sweeteners leave a bitter aftertaste. Full-fat all the way here!”
3. ‘Plastic’ American-style cheese
Frida Harju-Westman, nutritionist for health app Lifesum, says: “Burgers are increasingly a gourmet food in their own right, with a plethora of restaurants today offering burgers containing high-quality, and often exotic, ingredients. However, I always avoid burgers that contain the classic, plastic-looking ‘American cheese’.
“This typically highly processed cheese contains little calcium, but many additives, such as milk concentrate, fat, gelatine, salt, and even colouring. Processed American cheese also has high amounts of sodium, sometimes up to 480mg in a slice – which is the same amount you can find in some entire burgers.”
4. Diet soft drinks
Jeraldine says: “Diet soft drinks are being touted as the better option than the regular soft drink, this is not to say that either is a ‘healthy’ option but, [we need] to understand that they both contain sugar, even if they claim to be sugar free.
“The only way our bodies can deal with artificial sweeteners is to turn them into glucose and store them in our fat cells. There is a growing body of evidence to show drinking diet drinks increases your risk of heart failure, cause kidneys problems, increases your risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, along with increasing the size of your waist circumference and affecting the way we think and feel. Opt for sparkling water with a slice of lemon instead.”
5. Yoghurt drinks
Nutritionist Rick Hay says: “For me, it’s the so-called ‘healthy’ breakfast drinking yogurts. Many of these are marketed as being healthy but are still loaded with sugar and the extra calories this sugar provides. The ones that contain fruit often have very little, and so often what you end up with is something that is quite sugary, with just a little fruit, if any at all. They result in blood sugar spikes and cravings later in the day.
“I like my breakfast to be healthy and protein based – my Healthista Lean Vegan Diet Protein smoothie is a much better option for me as it keeps blood sugar levels steady and cravings at bay.”