Updated: Feb 27
There is nothing worse than thinking you're eating healthy when you’re really not.
Ugh. All that hard work wasted!
When you set out to eat healthier, you may be tempted to start by cutting out all the foods you love, drop your calories crazy low, and veer toward the cleverly marketed 'health foods.' And it can feel all consuming.
As a health & fitness coach I see it all the time. Clients come to me after making a few healthy changes. They've cut out sugar, increased fruits and veggies, and stocked their pantry, fridge and freezer with all sorts of 'healthy' foods. Many of them have even added in exercise. And while they had some success, now they're stuck. Their weight loss stalled, and worse, their energy is zapped and they generally they're feeling like crap.
Maybe you can relate. Look there are A LOT of advertising and food myths out there that make it all too easy to fall for foods that have a reputation for being 'healthy,' but really are anything but.
That's why I put together this quick cheat sheet of ten foods you want to avoid when you're trying to eat healthy!
Here are Ten Food to Avoid and Why:
Fish, rice, and seaweed sounds healthy, light, and low calorie. And in fact, sushi from exceptional Japanese restaurants is just that. It’s also brutally expensive. What most of us consume is grocery store or “to go” quality sushi that ends up being high in carbs, low in protein, and scarce on vegetables. All that non-nutrition will leave you hungry and craving more sugar.
Think about it. Sushi rice is short-grain white rice dressed with sugar and rice vinegar, high in carbs and high in sugar. Most “rolls” are 60-75% rice which is equivalent to two slices of bread. And the amount of fish in a roll is pretty slim. If you are trying for a deck of cards sized serving you’ll need to swallow a whole lot of sushi rolls.
To up the quality of your sushi supper, consider requesting brown rice. Avoid too much soy sauce to keep your sodium down. And be wary of California Rolls that contains imitation crab which is a processed food.
2) Trail Mix
A handful of trail mix seems like the ultimate power snack but there are nearly 700 calories lurking in one cup, so tread softly. It’s lightweight, tasty, and portable, but if weight loss is your goal, trail mix should not be your only go to snack.
These days packaged varieties are oiled up to keep them from sticking to packaging and their paired with delicious diet pitfalls like chocolate and fried banana chips.
If you're a fan of trail mix like I am, just limit yourself to a single serving and portion it out (not eating from the bag). Try making it yourself with a mix of raw, low, or no salt almonds, walnuts, or peanuts and sugar-free naturally dried raisins, apricots and cranberries. You can even add pumpkin or sunflower seeds with a bit of dried
coconut for sweetness. Just keep in mind that nuts while generally healthy are also calorie dense, so when you eat them, keep your servings snack-sized!
3) Spinach Wraps and Veggie Pasta
Just because it’s green doesn’t mean it’s healthy. The allure of green pasta and wraps is undeniable. You can eat a ton of these right? I mean it's made of spinach or a host of other veggies! But the truth is that pasta and wraps are still noodles and flour tortillas, which tend to be high in carbs and not necessarily in nutrition.
Most spinach wraps and pastas are made from white flour and the green color comes mainly from food coloring. When you scroll the nutrition label, spinach is usually way down on the ingredient list. These foods prey on your belief that green = vegetables which equals healthy! Fact is, green is a color. It’s what’s in your green that counts!
4) Veggie Patties
Have you ever been proud of yourself for subbing a veggie patty for a burger? Consider this, most veggie burgers are highly processed food products made mostly of soy. They’re usually loaded up with salt too. That said, not all veggie patties are created equal. Check the package for chemicals, additives, GMOs, and unhealthy oils.
In most cases a big fat portobello mushroom or a homemade veggie burger made of grains and beans is a much better meat substitute. Pass up the store bought versions and check out my tasty recipe for simple and delicious homemade Spicy Black Bean Burgers instead. You'll save on empty calories and relish all the great flavor!
This quick cooking carb from exotic lands can lure you into thinking it’s healthy, but the truth is that couscous is really a tiny pasta with nearly zero nutritional value. Made popular in vegetarian and foodie circles, t’s a processed grain product made from little balls of durum wheat or semolina flour.
It is possible to find whole wheat couscous but your better option is to choose quinoa, bulgur, or cracked wheat when you want a fine textured grain and quality carb to include in your meal.
6) Commercial Granola
The word “granola” conjures images of healthy outdoorsy folks eating breakfast cereal on a mountain top. But watch out. Most granolas tend to be low in fiber and protein and high in fat and sugar, which is pretty much the opposite of a healthy breakfast.
One cup of granola usually weighs in at more than 600 calories which is about a third of the average woman’s daily total. Think of it like eating a bowl of oatmeal cookies. If you love it just portion it accordingly, adding a Tablespoon to your Greek yogurt. And making granola at home using whole oats, unsweetened dried fruit, mixed nuts and cinnamon, baked with olive oil is easier than you think!
7) Commercial Salad Dressing
What’s better for you than a salad? Often times, one that doesn’t contain store-bought salad dressing. That huge bowl of healthy green stuff can be totally destroyed by a salad dressing packed with fats, sugars, salts, artificial flavorings, colors and preservatives. Processed-food companies create a cocktail of flavors meant to entice you into pouring on the dressing and suddenly that crisp, fresh salad in front of you is an unhealthy diet bomb.
The best way around the salad dressing dilemma is to read the label and watch for added sugars and salt, look for brands with minimal and natural ingredients or just make your own. You can whip up a simple homemade dressing by whisking together olive oil, lemon juice and some of your favorite spices. Pair a fat with an acid and plenty of spices and voila! You have a wholesome salad dressing that, when used sparingly, won’t add too many calories or chemicals to your meal.
8) Sports Drinks
Most people think of sports drinks as a healthy source of electrolytes and hydration for active people. Fact is that most sports and energy drinks contain nearly as much sugar as soda, artificial colors and flavors, a whole lot of processed salt, and caffeine. None of which will help you get healthier. Even the 'sugar free' varieties are just using fancy chemicals to sweeten up their beverages.
Go natural instead. Coconut water is a much better natural source of electrolytes and water and is a better hydrator than any processed sports drink.
9) Flavored Yogurt
Yogurt is often marketed as the ultimate health food but if you are eating fruit-flavored yogurt cups, you’re likely just eating loads of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame and a host of other sweeteners but not much actual fruit.
Usually, any fruit in your yogurt comes from high-calorie, high-sugar fruit extracts or purees. In fact, in an 8oz cup of fruit flavored yogurt, you can be looking at 47 grams—that’s twelve teaspoons—of sugar, nearly double the recommended daily limit one tiny little cup. You might as well be eating dessert.
If you don't want to give up your yogurt, opt for a healthier alternative. Look for a low or non-fat plain Greek yogurt that you can sweeten naturally with slices of fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup for a much healthier alternative.
10) Fat Free Anything
When you’re trying to lose weight, the words ‘fat-free’ are like a siren song. Just remember that when a food manufacturer cuts fat, they have to replace it with something. And that something is almost never good for you.
Fat gives food flavor. When you take it out you have to make up for that with something, and it's usually more sugar, more salt, and more chemicals. Your body needs healthy fats. It recognizes them and knows just what to do with them. But those food additives used to replace fats are completely foreign and do your body more harm than good, confusing your hormones and making it harder to lose weight. My advice for sustained weight loss always begins with, “Eat real food.” Not the franken-foods your body won't recognize.
The best way to make sure that the food you’re eating is really healthy and not just being called healthy on the label, is to keep it as fresh, simple, and clean as possible. Don’t rely heavily on packaged foods. Look for hidden sugars. Watch for added salts and bad fats. And manage your portions. And remember that you have more control when you make it yourself.
Are you ready to ditch boring diets forever and create healthy, balanced, and sustainable food habits for lasting weight loss? Join me inside my FREE women's only Facebook group: Slim & Trim with Coach Mindy. It's for women who are ready to achieve weight loss the smart way by creating simple, realistic and FUN habits that help them live healthier, happier and become the best version of themselves!