The food industry often uses coy packaging and hidden unhealthy ingredients to sell processed foods. But the same deceiving marketing tricks are also used on quite a few of your favorite “healthy” foods. Here are some things to watch out for in the grocery store.
Multigrain: The term multigrain means that the product is made with more than one type of grain, but it doesn’t mean that any of those grains are whole grains. Make sure you read the nutrition label carefully and look for whole-grain flour.
Packaged kombucha and kefirs: Kombucha and kefirs are rich in vitamins and minerals, but have a naturally bitter taste. In an effort to mask the flavor, many packaged drinks have excess sugar, negating the health benefits. Opt for kombucha brands with less than 3 grams of sugar per serving and dairy-based kefir with less than 10 grams of sugar.
Vegetable juice: While one glass of vegetable juice can equal two full servings of vegetables, many store-bought juices are heavy on starchy vegetables like beets and carrots. Others include fruit concentrates, sugar and salt for added flavor. Look for juice with organic vegetables, fruit and spices; one serving should not exceed 15 grams of carbohydrates.
Bottled green tea: Bottled green teas often have chemical additives, sugars and corn syrup. Plus the benefits of green tea can degrade very quickly unless it has been stored in a light- and temperature-controlled environment. To make the most of green tea’s nutritional benefits, brew it yourself.
Gluten-free snacks: It’s easy to forget that gluten-free crackers, cookies and muffins aren’t necessarily good for you. These snacks are often made from refined potato or rice fours that have added fat, sugar and artificial flavorings. Opt for gluten-free snacks that also contain fiber. Better yet, think of the snack as an opportunity to eat vegetables, pairing hummus and pea pods.
Store-bought smoothies: Store-bought smoothies often contain juices, syrups and purees that are loaded with calories, contain added sugars, and lack the nutrients of whole fruit. Choose organic options with no more than 15 grams of carbohydrates and at least seven grams of protein per serving.
Vegetable chips: These seemingly healthy carbohydrates are often colored with beet or spinach juice, made of wheat or rice flour, and contain virtually no vegetables. If you’re craving crunch, snack on free-dried vegetables like wasabi peas.
Dried fruits: Because the drying process removes a lot of water, the fruit becomes a concentrated source of sugar. Dried tart fruit, such as cranberries, often contain added sugar or juice, causing even more calories. Opt for no sugar added varieties and keep in mind that one dried apricot (two pieces) still equals one apricot, even though it’s much smaller.
Agave nectar: Agave contains fructose, a type of sugar found in fruit that the body doesn’t digest as easily as fruit. If consumed in high quantities, the body can store it more easily as fat. Because agave is sweeter than table sugar, you can use less.