Now that being healthy and fit is finally having its lasting moment, grocery store shelves and healthy diet articles alike are suddenly overrun with products touted as healthier alternatives to what you’re currently eating. Unfortunately, as with all trends, you can’t believe everything you read (except, of course, what you read on The Organic Beauty!! Wink wink ; ) Along with some awesome new health foods, we have also been exposed to a whole new crop of “pseudo-health foods” masquerading as the real thing, and pretty convincingly at that! So in our ever-present quest to debunk all the food bunk out there, we bring you these 5 top pseudo-healthy foods, and their legitimately healthy counterparts.
1. Whole wheat bread
I know, your head must be spinning! “But, Natasha, everyone and their mother (including YOU!) has been telling me I need to eat whole grains!” Yes, that’s still true. But whole wheat products aren’t the healthy food you think they are. Not only is whole wheat loaded with gluten, which acts as an inflammatory agent in your body even if you don’t have a gluten intolerance, but they’re also often highly processed and filled with all kinds of sub-par ingredients like sugar and potato starch. Instead of whole wheat bread or pasta, eat real whole grains, like quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, and millet. If you need some bread in your life, go for a sprouted whole grain bread like Ezekiel. The sprouting of the grains makes them more digestible, and there are no unhealthy additives at all. If you’re craving some pasta, rock some quinoa pasta instead. It’s delicious, firm, and tastes deceptively similar to white pasta!
2. Soy milk
Yes, cow’s milk is a bad guy that we should be avoiding, but soy milk isn’t that much better, especially if you’re consuming it daily. Soy milk is highly processed, typically comes from genetically modified soy, and as an unfermented soy food, it can flood your system with hormones. If you take milk in your coffee or tea, try coconut milk or coconut cream instead–it’s rich, delicious, and almost like half and half! For your cereal or oatmeal, go for organic, unsweetened almond milk or hemp milk. They are both loaded with protein and nutrients, without any of the hormonal baggage.
3. Protein bars and granola bars
These are some of the sneakiest junk foods out there, having been marketed as health food for decades. Not only are these bad boys loaded with sugar or toxic sugar substitutes, they also feature processed soy, corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and other additives and harmful ingredients. If you need a little snack on-the-go, opt for a bar made from nothing but dried fruit and nuts, like Lara Bars. Or just pop a little handful of unsulphured dried apricots and some raw nuts!
4. Fruit juice
I know you think you’re being a good, healthy beauty, sippin’ on that O.J. with your breakfast, but all you’re really doing is starting your day off with a total sugar bomb! Fruit juice lacks the fiber that helps slow the body’s digestion of sugar, so what you end up getting is only a small step up from soda. To boot, most store bought juices are pasteurized and made from concentrate, rendering them even more useless on the nutritional front. Opt instead for a fresh pressed vegetable juice instead, made from any greens, veggies like cucumber, celery, carrots, or beets, and a bit of fruit like an apple or lemon. Or, go for a smoothie, made of 50% fruit, 50% greens, and liquid of your choice–add a handful of nuts to make it a meal! This gives your body a true nutrient bomb, without the sugary side effects!
5. Fake meats and cheeses
Yes, meat and dairy are super inflammatory and toxic in large quantities, and in an ideal world, we’d all be vegan (or at least pescatarian). But that doesn’t mean loading up your plate with meat and dairy substitutes! These guys are highly processed, loaded with soy, gluten, and additives, offering very little by way of nutrition. If you’re missing meat, go for a soy-free veggie burger, like Amy’s Organics Sonoma Burger, made from beans, quinoa, and veggies. Every once in a while, tempeh can be a healthy meat substitute, and is especially when crumbled into veggie chili or tacos. Use creamy avocado in place of cheese in your salads, on nachos, or in a sandwich. And if you’re craving a cheesy flavor, try a sprinkle of nutritional yeast, which is loaded with vitamins and amino acids! For an occasional cheesy treat, try Daiya Cheese, which is the cleanest of the bunch.