Remember when your parents finally told you that your budgie didn’t really go to live on the big budgie farm? That Uncle Harvey was less of your uncle and more of a special friend? That Santa was more about commerce and exploitation than you could ever have imagined? Well, I can’t help you with those betrayals. But, there are certain lies that continue to be told about “healthy” foods. And I plan to do my bit in unravelling them, watching them fall apart at the seams and die lonely and cold in a gutter. Or, if you’d rather…on the big lie farm where they graze with unicorns.
Some of the most annoying of these lies are those about the food we eat. I recently saw a massive marketing campaign about why the best breakfast for growing bodies was margarine on bread. Margarine. On bread. That gives me the proverbial Forest Whitaker eye.
So, here is a list of unhealthy foods that are masquerading (under very thin veils) as healthy:
Margarine – one polymer away from being a plastic. Ugh. Also, margarine increases ‘bad’ cholesterol, contains bleach and has a detrimental effect on thyroid function and digestive systems. REPLACE WITH: butter, olive oil, or coconut oil.
Muesli – delicious, yes. But only really because most commercial mueslis are packed with sugars. REPLACE WITH: a healthy muesli has no sugar and is made up only of raw oats, a limited number of nuts, no sugary fruit, and plenty of oily seeds. And you shouldn’t have much.
Bran muffins – these are jam-packed with wheat and sugar. You may as well just eat the darn cookie.
Multigrain breads – these actually just contain refined grains and flours, which don’t have the fibre we need (or that they pretend to have. It’s the lying that hurts).
Fat-free / low-fat products – 1) we need good fats, and 2) when they take the fat out of things like milk, it tastes the opposite of great, so they usually add sugar to remedy that. Great. No fat, added sugar. Exactly what we should be avoiding. REPLACE WITH: full-fat, even double-cream options.
Couscous – this is made of semolina, which is just a refined grain. Like pasta. REPLACE WITH: more delicious vegetables.
Rice cakes – hoorah! I”m so excited that these tacky little chunks of cardboard-flavoured nothingess can be scratched off my grocery list. They have no fibre and are actually considered to be carb-dense (not good). In fact, a small potato will likely have fewer carbs. REPLACE WITH: a few almonds or a piece of cheese. Or, if you must, a small potato.
Snack foods – you know those trail mixes and nuts and dried fruits that are at the till? Basically, almost all of those. They’re full of sugar and preservatives and they don’t keep us full for long at all. REPLACE WITH: biltong, cheese, or a piece of grilled chicken from the supermarket deli.
Soya or soy bean anything – unless this has been fermented (like a soya sauce), soy is actually an anti-nutrient. It actually sucks the nutrients out of your body. Well, not quite so savagely. But, they can inhibit your body’s ability to absorb necessary nutrients from other food.
Flavoured waters – water shmater, these are nothing more than fizzy coolies. Look at this article about how flavoured waters actually have more sugar than a Coke. And they taste terrible with a brandy.
Fruit and vegetable juices – unless you’re making yours yourself and using green, leafy vegetables, these are likely just loaded with sugary apples, carrots, and beetroot. While these are delicious and nutritious, they should only be consumed in very small quantities. In fact, one small apple per day provides all of the sugar you need for that day.
You don’t have to follow a strict diet to cut sugars and increase good fats and that, really, is the secret to wonderfully healthy bodies and minds.