Just because a food isn’t blatantly bad for us doesn’t mean it’s good for us either. Many foods fall into the gray area between out-and-out unhealthy – such a fast food – and healthy foods – such as fresh fruits and vegetables. In our convenience-conscious society we tend to rationalize feeding our families foods that that are not good for you when they fall into this gray area. But, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know on some level that the gray area may be doing just as much, if not more, damage to our eating habits and our health than we care to admit.
Rather than beat yourself up, empower yourself with information. Below is the list of five of ten foods – in no particular order – you may think are healthy, but are actually foods that are not good for you. Also listed are healthy alternatives to each of these foods.
The First 5 Foods that are Not Good for You
But You Think Are Healthy
Please note that many of these foods make this list, in whole or in part, because they are processed. Meaning, the food was produced by adding preservatives, fillers and other ingredients (collectively known as additives) with the sole purpose of changing the color, consistency and/or shelf-life of the product. In so doing, the nutritional value is severely diminished and, in many cases, these additives cause health problems.
1. Packaged Big Brand Cereals
Most of these types of cereals are made from genetically modified corn and wheat, neither of which is good for us. They usually contain numerous other “chemicals disguised as food” such as fillers, preservatives, dyes and flavoring, and are generally high in processed sugars and sodium.
Pre-packaged organic cereals that are low in sugar, sodium and preservatives, or make your own using healthy ingredients.
2. Corn Nuts
If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you know that I am a big proponent of not eating corn. Most corn in the U.S. is genetically modified and processed, making it very bad for us in a number of ways. Corn Nuts have the additional misfortune of being deep-fried and heavily laced with sodium and other chemicals.
Raw nuts like pistachios are a tasty and much healthier alternative. For those who can’t eat nuts, try dried vegetables instead.
I swear I don’t have it out for corn. In fact, I love the taste of it. But between the genetic modifications, as well as its inherently high sugar content, corn just isn’t healthy. Add to that the fact that most popcorn is processed, and we add a ridiculous amount of butter and salt to it, and it becomes downright unhealthy. Consider this: a medium-sized theater popcorn is a staggering 1,200 calories!
Kale chips, raw nuts or GMO-free, baked corn chips are delicious alternatives to popcorn (I sneak them into the movie theater, along with a bottle of filtered water).
4. Canned or Dried Soups
Not all canned and dried soups are bad for you – but many are. Soups are notorious for being high in sodium and preservatives. Wheat or corn starch is often added to soups as a thickener, which is not a healthy way to add heft to any food. Campbell’s Soup and dried soups such as Top Ramen are among the worst offenders, with so many “chemicals disguised as food” that it makes me want to cry.
There are some wonderful canned and dried soups on the market; you just have to look for them. Many are sold at stores like Whole Foods, but more of the major chains are carrying them as well. Read the label thoroughly before purchasing soups, and don’t be afraid to spend a bit more per can – you’re worth it.
I’m not a big fan of pre-made soups, so I make big batches of soup and freeze them.
5. Shredded, Bagged Cheeses
Have you ever seen the word cellulose on a list of ingredients? Chances are, you’ve seen this word a lot, but mostly on the packages of shredded, bagged cheese. Cellulose is actually very small pieces of wood pulp (yes, you read that correctly: wood pulp) that the FDA feels is acceptable for human consumption. Wood pulp, people. Cellulose is added to a wide variety of processed foods from bread and ice cream, to shredded, bagged cheese. In the latter, it’s used to keep the cheese from clumping by blocking moisture.
I don’t know when our society got to the point that our need for pre-shredded cheese was more important than our health, but it’s a sad statement about our current food system, if you ask me.
Buy a brick of cheese (or, better yet, a healthy alternative such as rice or almond cheese) and grate just what you need, when you need it. If you like to have a larger quantity of shredded cheese on-hand, shred it ahead of time and place the cheese in an air-tight container lined with a paper towel.
Catherine Mason is a writer, former educator, and someone who has multiple food allergies. As Tribe Leader & Chief Wellness Coach at www.mydietribe.com, she helps people identify, assimilate and maintain sustainable health and wellness practices in their everyday lives, with a focus on physical, emotional, spiritual, mental and financial wellness. Catherine may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@mydietribe).
Were you surprised by some of the foods that made this list?
What alternative foods will you add to your diet instead?