Imposter roster

Last week, I took a little time to reveal the sugar content of a few popular sports and energy drinks (Enemy at the Gatorade). Because it bugs me to no end that so many companies are getting away with calling their products healthy–when they’re really anything but.

Obviously, the booming beverage industry isn’t the only offender here. Not by a long shot. In fact, yesterday’s discussion about Dreamfields pasta got me thinking about all the other deceptive “health” foods on the market.

More often than not, these are the last choices you want to reach for if you’re trying to lose weight and get healthy. And yet, for some reason, people are still eating them.

I’ve already exposed the multigrain myth on more than one occasion here. And by now you know that just because a food says “whole grain” on the label, that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. (In fact, if a food has a label at all, that’s strike one against it right there.)

But there are quite a few other choices that people always assume are healthy… while the reality is very different.

Take margarine, for example. I’m always telling you to eat more healthy fats. But this stuff should be banned. Period.

Let’s look at a typical margarine ingredient list, shall we? Canola oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, plant stanol esters, salt, emulsifiers, potassium sorbate, citric acid, calcium sodium EDTA, and artificial colors and flavors.

Now, guess what’s in butter? That’s right: cream and salt. Two ingredients. Done and done.

The notion that some chemical-packed “buttery spread” is somehow better for you is absurd. Almost as absurd as saying that frozen yogurt is a healthy alternative to ice cream.

Because guess what? It’s not.

For one thing, there are no good bacteria in any of these “live cultures” that have been manufactured, frozen, and stocked on the shelf. There may have been probiotics in there at some point, but I can pretty much guarantee they’re gone by the time you eat it.

Not that yogurt’s ever the best source of good bacteria anyway. Most yogurts–especially the low fat varieties–are loaded with sugar. And you know how I feel about sugar.

While we’re at it, let’s talk about turkey bacon, too. A lot of people buy it as a healthy alternative to traditional pork bacon. But if you think this is the way to go, think again. Most turkey bacon is heavily processed and contains a host of unpronounceable ingredients.

My suggestion? Go for regular old cured bacon from a responsibly raised, pastured source. (This is especially important, since toxins are stored in an animal’s fat. Pardon the pun, but factory-farmed pork is bad for you any way you slice it.)

Buying roasted nuts is another common mistake. I often suggest carrying some almonds or macadamia nuts around in case you need a healthy snack in a pinch. But their antioxidant potential is all but destroyed by the high heat of the roasting process.

Keep it raw for the full health benefits of these tasty snacks. And whatever you do, stay away from trail mix. The addition of dried fruit (sugar) and chocolate bits (more sugar) doesn’t make for a healthy combo. Not to mention that many mixes contain artificial colors and preservatives.

This little list wouldn’t be complete without a warning about the new crop of “gluten-free” processed foods out there.

Don’t be fooled. Junk food is junk food, with or without gluten. And these choices contain as much (if not more) sugar than their gluten-filled brethren.

If you want to reap the health benefits of a gluten-free diet, eat foods that are truly gluten-free–vegetables, fruit, lean meats, and healthy fats. It couldn’t be simpler.

The bottom line: think twice before snacking on any of the items I mentioned above. There are better, truly healthy (fresh, local, and organic) alternatives out there.