Are you able to keep track of the latest nutrition flip-flops? Can you follow what the experts said yesterday improved your health, but today causes heart attacks?
You’re not alone in believing that stocking your fridge and pantry with healthy stuff can seem confusing. When we started our real food journey we sometimes felt like we couldn’t eat anything (which is why we had the epic kitchen purge!).
Sometimes it feels like you have to read up on the latest nutrition news before every grocery store trip just to see what today’s new study says.
All you want is a healthy family.
You want them to live long lives, free of disease, without being slaves to a dozen prescriptions at a time.
Is that so much to ask?
Here are the 32 most common “healthy” meals or snacks you rely on – that are actually masquerading as some of the most unhealthy foods in the world. Quit these and watch your waistline and health improve!
1. Breakfast Cereal
Yes we are talking about purty much all boxed cereal including my vice Crispix. Oh the humanity!
To form those cute little “o” shapes, or the convenient flakes we see in our cereals, the grains have to go through a process called extrusion.
Essentially, extrusion heavily processes the grain and “destroys much of their nutrients. It denatures the fatty acids; it even destroys the synthetic vitamins that are added at the end of the process. The amino acid lysine, a crucial nutrient, is especially damaged by the extrusion process.”
Throw in the amount of “kid-friendly” added sugar and the dubious benefit of synthetic vitamins, and you’re probably better off having a bowl of ice cream for breakfast. Go make yourself some homemade granola to break your cereal habit!
2. Multivitamins/Added Vitamins
Vitamins created in a lab can never be as good as the real thing. In order for your body to properly assimilate vitamins, other factors are needed such as fat, water, enzymes, or other vitamins. Swallowing a chunk of pure vitamin doesn’t contain the natural balance of cofactors, meaning that synthetic vitamins often pass right through your body.
In fact, Dr. Phillip Maffetone states that “in nature, vitamins come packaged with many other molecules including minerals and cofactors. These enable the body to use them. Since synthetic vitamins are isolated and not recognized by the body, they are often excreted in urine or stored in fat.”
Not only do we pay for these vitamins only to pee them out, but they can also keep our bodies from shedding fat because our adipose tissue fills with toxins.
Mounting evidence shows that synthetic vitamins can actually be toxic, such as synthetic vitamin A known as retinol palmitate.
3. Diet Soda
In a 25-year study finished in 2005, diet soda drinkers were found to be much more prone to serious weight gain than regular soda drinkers. Also, each diet soda consumed per day increased their chances of obesity by 65%.
Part of the problem is that most artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, are harmful chemicals. In fact, aspartame is commonly referred to as a neurotoxin.
When we consume artificial sweeteners our bodies crave more calories, especially sweets. Our internal calorie regulation mechanism is thrown out of whack, and can even wreak havoc on insulin production in our bodies.
And … this is what we tell overweight people and diabetics to drink all day long. Awesome.
Answer: because companies looking to make a buck with chemicals disguised as foods (like margarine or veggie oils) taught us that butter is worse. We say that eating fat’s terrible, yet we eat less butter and whole milk than we did in 1900 and we’re still getting fatter and sicker.
Anyway, we’ve been taught by the most biased source imaginable that margarine is healthy – despite being mostly hydrogenated vegetable oils. Read that point again about veggie oils (point #3) to see why we should toss them over a cliff.
5. Vegetable Oil
No wonder everyone’s confused about veggie oils – even the FDA (in March of 2014) said “Cook and bake with vegetable oils (liquid or spray) instead of solid fats, like solid shortenings, butter or lard.”
On that very same page, the FDA demonizes trans fats – which are found in huge quantities in hydrogenated veggie oils.
Vegetable oils are highly processed, becoming a “food” your body doesn’t recognize. It causes inflammation, which leads to many chronic illnesses (especially diabetes, cancer, and heart attacks).
Use coconut oil as a super-food alternative. We made a complete guide to cooking oils that you should check out if you want to know some more healthy alternatives.
6. Multigrains/Whole Grains
Terms like “multigrain” were created to trick us into shelling out more money for words on a package – with no actual benefit.
Multigrain products could contain 98% white flour, 1% wheat flour, and 1% barley flour. Technically, it contains multiple grains, right?
Some other terms that we pay extra for are unbleached flour, stone-ground, whole grains (means that it contains some whole grains), and enriched flour.
In fact, even 100% whole wheat (where most doctors place their trust) can cause such issues as leaky gut syndrome, obesity, diabetes, infertility, autism, and many other chronic and autoimmune diseases. Improperly prepared grains still contain gluten, phytates, and other anti-nutrients that can be toxic to your system.
Stick to homemade sourdough, or sprouted, coconut, almond, and spelt flours.
7. Whey Protein Powder
Many whey protein powders contain ingredients like soy lecithin, or even derive their protein from soy.
According to the Journal of Nutrition “Excessive soy intake has been reported to be responsible for the development of goiter, including thyroid enlargement, in both iodine-deficient rodents and infants fed soy-flour–based formula without iodine fortification. Animals fed a soy diet require almost twice as much iodine compared with animals not fed soy. . . [Studies] suggest that intake of soy may reduce the efficiency of thyroid hormone function and that soybeans may contain goitrogens that can interfere with the utilization of iodine or functioning of the thyroid gland and cause thyroid problems.”
Also, did you know that infants fed soy based formulas can have 20,000 times more estrogen in their body than they should? Excess estrogen in men can lead to fun side effects like formation of breasts, infertility, low sex drive, heart attacks, and weight gain.
Plus, the highly processed nature of whey protein helps denature the proteins, often rendering them near useless.
A well-balanced diet provides more than enough protein and nutrients for even avid weight-lifters.
8. Low-Fat Options
I love my low-fat yogurt… said no one ever!
America is confused about fats. Studies show that canola oil is about as dangerous as a firing squad, so we assume that ALL fats are terrible… but simple biology shows that healthy sources of fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol are some of the most important molecules in our body and have no correlation to weight gain or heart attacks.
Low-fat options often remove healthy fats from the product – only to have the lost flavor replaced with sugar or processed additives. The full-fat version is always the way to go and I’m sure nobody will complain about that one.
Sure, you can go with the flow and keep avoiding fats and packing in carbs, but clearly going against the grain in our disease-ridden, extra-large society is the smarter way to go. Or not.
9. Sugar-Free Options
Much like diet soda or low-fat options explained above, sugar-free has its pitfalls as well.
Yes, sugar causes heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. But even worse is when that sugar is replaced by a toxin such as aspartame or another chemical sweetener.
Looking at yogurt or granola bars? I’d say leave ‘em on the shelf – but at least don’t fall for the low-fat or sugar-free options.
10. Slim Fast/Meal Replacement Shakes
Slim Fast, like protein shakes, are processed meals with added sugars, chemicals, and vitamins. Synthetic vitamins can have harmful side effects, and the added sugars and chemicals contribute to most diseases that we have a name for.
Yes, they’re low in fat and calories, mostly because it’s such a small amount.
Focus on a nutrient dense, real food diet and exercise a little, and the weight will start to come off!
11. ‘Healthy’ Frozen Dinners
Instant dinners, such as Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine, call themselves low in fat and calories.
What they keep secret is that they are low in nutrients (besides maybe some synthetic junk) and high in chemical additives as well.
In order to create a meal that can last in storage, food companies process the heck out of these (removing most nutritional value) and add harmful additives such as MSG.
Sure, these meals are low in fat and calories, but a wholesome meal made with healthy fats and natural foods won’t lead to chronic conditions such as diabetes, ADD, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and cancer.
Too bad their so stinkin’ convenient right? We’ve learned to make A LOT of one meal so we have leftovers for the next several days. Let’s just say we use our 6-quart crock pot all the time.
12. Deli Meats
People have been curing meats for thousands of years in order to store them – but we’ve only recently learned how to use synthetic chemicals to do the same thing.
Deli meat additives like nitrates and nitrites are linked to cancer, especially stomach, colon, rectal, bladder, and esophageal cancer.
While many people consume deli meats as a quick, low-fat meal, they’re actually causing you more harm than good.
13. Fast Food Sandwiches (Subway)
Subway’s not-so-subtle messaging informs us that they are the healthy option.
They hire professional athletes as spokespeople, use the color green conspicuously, favorably compare nutrition information to other fast food options on their napkins, and sell the idea that their food is fresher. The “Subway Diet” even figures prominently as a popular weight loss option.
What isn’t prominently displayed is that their bread contains massive quantities of carbohydrates, and even has sugar, vegetable oils, and several other harmful chemicals. Throw in the oil-based or sugary sauces and processed deli meats, and you’ve got a meal just as bad as your other fast food options.
Download the PDF of their ingredient list for a good late-night scary story.
14. Salad w/ Extras
A personal pet peeve of mine happens when people delude themselves into thinking their dressing-drenched salad counts as a health food.
Most salad dressings are either mostly made of sugar or vegetable oils – both of which contribute mightily to obesity and disease.
Croutons are processed white flour with chemicals thrown in to make them taste good.
And please, for the love of everything good, don’t put Goldfish crackers on your salad. Yes, I’ve seen that before.
15. Canned soups
Just like most foods created by large food companies, many canned soups contain nightmare ingredients.
We’re taught to believe that something like Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup can be a quick, healthy lunch because it contains few calories. However, ingredients like the flour in the noodles, vegetable oil, soy protein, and the chemical pot-luck known as “Flavoring,” make this the worst choice when you’re feeling under the weather.
There they go again, big companies taking an age old tradition and destroying it. Grandma’s homemade chicken noodle soup is something I considered a super-food for nasty colds.
16. Soy Sauce… or Soy Anything
Sure, soy sauce has been consumed for thousands of years, but the traditional preparation process requires fermentation. Newer food companies have found quicker and much more damaging ways to create soy sauce.
As mentioned under the Whey Protein Powder section (point #7), soy causes unhealthy spikes in estrogen.
Furthermore, the vast majority of soy is genetically modified, which causes tumors, organ failure, allergic reactions, premature death, and more.
Another supposed health food that helps uninformed consumers swap healthy meats for harmful soy products. See previous point for more soy info.
18. Instant Oatmeal Packages
Regular oatmeal, boiled on the stove, can be boring and tasteless – but it has long gained popularity as a healthy breakfast option.
Unfortunately, companies will always try to make a buck off current trends and find ways to make it more convenient and tasty.
They put a bit of oatmeal in a packet, add mounds of sugar, and toss in chemicals to replicate flavors such as maple.
Instead, use all-natural sweeteners (real maple syrup, raw honey, fruit) to flavor up your oatmeal.
19. Microwave Popcorn
While a bag of microwave popcorn can be cheap and low-cal, it’s also filled with a synthetic butter flavor. In fact, people who work in popcorn factories sometimes develop lung problems from inhaling the dangerous chemicals. They affectionately call this “popcorn lung.”
For a healthier snack, buy organic popcorn and flavor with real butter. You’ll find it tastier, too.
While tomatoes are clearly a healthy addition to any diet, it’s what food companies add with the tomatoes that raises concerns.
We make our own ketchup and it’s pretty tasty!
21. Veggie Burgers
Maybe you’re unaware of this, but a bunch of veggies pressed into a circle doesn’t taste very good. I’m a health food blogger, and I don’t even want to empty my produce drawer to try it out.
Companies know this too, and have to add chemicals to flavor these things. They’re often held together with vegetable oils, and many veggie burgers are even soy-based (see #16 for the story on soy).
One study even showed that many veggie burgers were found to contain hexane, a by-product of gasoline.
So… can that really be worse than eating a 100% beef burger? Well, I consider grass-fed meat a health food, so in my opinion it’s not even close.
22. Tuna Fish
Yay fish! The superfood we all need, right? Gotta get those Omega-3’s!
It’s like the salad example from above.
You take something healthy – fish – and mix it with stuff that causes heart attacks, diabetes, impaired metabolism, cancer, and hundreds of other chronic illnesses – bread and mayo.
The little fish you’re getting can’t possibly reverse the harmful effects on your body the rest of that sandwich is causing you.
Plus, tuna fish contains mercury, which can cause adverse effects if eaten too often.
If you can find a good source of tuna (wild caught) and make your own mayo and healthy bread, then you’re good to go. Even wild caught can contain mercury, so tuna should be a once-a-week thing at most. Sigh … starting to feel like nothing is safe to eat? I know the feeling!
23. Corn Chips
We know potato chips are grease-bombs capable of making us fat and sick. No debate there, right?
Many people turn to the supposedly-better-for-you corn chip.
And this is better because… why again?
They’re usually fried in veggie oils (the same reason potato chips are considered evil) and corn is almost always genetically modified.
Finding a baked alternative can be a little better, but it should be organic to avoid the genetic modification.
And no, corn is NOT a vegetable.
24. Fruit Cups/Canned Fruit
Hey, it’s fruit right? Most people realize these things usually come drenched in a sugary syrup, but figure it’s ok because they’re getting in some fruit.
It’s not ok when you figure that sugar doesn’t just make you fat, it feeds cancer, destroys healthy gut bacteria, throws your hormones out of whack, suppresses your immune system, and causes innumerable diseases. That’s not worth the nutrients you get from ½ cup of fruit.
Luckily, more companies now offer sugar-free versions, especially Dole. Also, always check if they’re adding something else to replace that sugar!
25. Fruit snacks
Since when is high fructose corn syrup mixed with artificial flavors and dyes, and poured in fruit molds considered a healthy children’s snack?
I know of one person who likes liver – my grandma. Other than crazy people like her, the only reason to eat liver is because it’s widely considered one of the healthiest foods on the planet.
However, running over to Walmart for a pound of liver can cause you more harm than good.
You see, liver found at most grocery stores comes from extremely unhealthy cows. They’ve been injected with hormones, given insane amounts of antibiotics, and left to live in conditions conducive only to disease. They’re fed genetically modified corn that keeps them alive just long enough to be slaughtered.
And do you know what the liver does? It’s your body’s filter. The liver on these cows spends its life overworked, filtering out unnatural toxins a normal cow would never be subjected to. Some of that stuff makes it onto your plate and into your body. That cow’s liver works overtime and who knows if it’s getting everything out?
This is the moment when you realize all that horrible liver you’ve eaten actually caused you more harm than good. Bummer.
Go grab yourself some grass-fed liver that belonged to a healthy cow and reap the healthy benefits you’ve been looking for. Fair warning, it still tastes terrible. We mix it into our grass fed beef in a 5:1 ratio to help out the taste.
27. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate covered pretzels, pomegranate seeds, almonds, and many others are relied on as healthy snacks.
Here’s the problem: true dark chocolate has a cocoa level of at least 60%, preferably higher. The chocolate you buy at the store usually hovers around 10% – even with the so-called healthy snacks mentioned above.
Even store-bought chocolate above the 60% cocoa threshold often contains undesirable ingredients (like soy lecithin) and requires a sweetener (usually sugar). You can make dark chocolate at home using pure cocoa and a healthy sweetener, but the vast majority of store-bought can’t be considered healthy.
28. Olive Oil
For the most part, olive oil beats out its hydrogenated vegetable oil counterparts every day of the week.
But, the cheap stuff you pick up at your local grocery store will oxidize easily and break down when used for cooking or stored improperly, causing cancer-causing free radicals.
Find yourself some very high quality extra-virgin olive oil that’s much less likely to oxidize. Researchers still debate whether high quality olive oil can stand up to heat, so you can stick to drizzling this health food on your salad just to be sure.
While often considered a healthier version of white sugar, it’s not a whole lot better. Commercial honey has been processed (you know, because being able to last longer on the shelf is more important than our life expectancy) to the point that it’s really no better than sugar.
Find a source of raw, local honey to truly find a health food. The unfiltered stuff helps your allergies, too. Who knew?
The yogurt you grab at the store is supposedly a probiotic dream come true that helps heal your digestive system while providing essential nutrients to maintaining your health.
Probiotics are bacteria that help maintain a healthy gut – the key to your overall health. This bacteria is found in fermented foods.
However, most yogurt companies ferment their yogurts for a very short amount of time. They add thickening agents to give the appearance of yogurt that has naturally thickened due to fermentation.
Also, strangely enough,
Most people think yogurt is a convenient, on-the-go health food.
Eh, not so much.
31. Baby Formula
Next time you’re at the store, pick up a bottle of baby formula and ask yourself how many of the ingredients you recognize as a real food you should actually eat.
You’ll probably recognize soy, which only masquerades as a health food, and the rest are things proven to be terrible for you (like veggie oils, corn syrup) or chemicals you won’t recognize (usually synthetic vitamins that cause more harm than good).
For example, cyanocobalamin is a common formula ingredient that the body breaks down into vitamin B and cyanide. Ever seen Skyfall? The bad guy’s face comes to mind when I think of what cyanide does to your insides.
We feed our babies this stuff?
32. Skim Milk
How can whole milk be that terrible for us when Americans mostly gave it up years ago, yet our rates of obesity and disease are skyrocketing?
Whole milk (preferably raw milk) contains many essential vitamins, including saturated fat and cholesterol, which are both important building blocks.
Whenever a company removes something delicious like fat, they have to put something back in to make up for it. In the case of skim milk, it’s powdered milk that contains oxidized cholesterol – which, unlike natural cholesterol, clogs your arteries.
In fact, it’s common practice for farmers to feed their pigs skim milk… to fatten them up.
Copy the Following Code to Share this Infographic on YOUR Site!
Please leave the credit 🙂
If there’s any pattern to be found in this list, it’s that companies will mess with our health foods. It’s a habit now that I read the ingredient list of any food I pull off the shelf no matter what healthy claims it has on the label.
Yes, yogurt, fish, grains, ketchup, and most other things on this list can be extremely healthy when prepared properly. Unfortunately, greedy people will find something healthy (like oatmeal) and find a way to make it quicker to prepare and easier to take with you (like instant oatmeal packets).
It’s this mindset of “let’s make everything quicker and convenient” that is destroying our health. To take back our lives and our freedom from sickness, we must learn how to shop healthy and make homemade alternatives when necessary.
It could be the difference between looking old and decrepit at 45 or being full of vitality and energy at 85. Food makes the difference.
Need to know the first steps in switching to an all-natural, real food lifestyle? Check out our newsletter!
Got a problem with anything on this list, or have any to add? Scroll down and leave a comment!
Shared At: Real Food Wednesday