Flavored yogurt products: Although these “healthy favorites” provide some of the calcium, B vitamins, and essential amino acids, they are loaded with added sugar – in many cases more than is typically found in a standard dessert. “Yogurt” products, through slick packaging and clever marketing have very successfully garnered what is referred to as the “health halo effect” – meaning consumers naturally assume any product with “yogurt” on its label is wholesome and good for you. The only truly healthy yogurt is low-fat plain. If you prefer it sweetened, combine with some berries or cut up fruit or add a teaspoon or two of maple syrup or honey.
Pretzels: Standard pretzel packages scream “fat-free and natural,” but don’t be duped. This popular snack food is nothing more than 100% refined white flour (the exact same thing as sugar in your body) combined with a whopping dose of sodium. Instead, choose from the growing selection of whole grain or multigrain, crunchy snacks like Stacy’s multigrain pita chips or my personal favorite, Food Should Taste Good whole grain tortilla chips. Even regular potato chips (trans-fat-free of course) would be a better choice, as they provide significantly more fiber and nutrients, and will not spike your blood glucose level like the infamous white flour (naked starch) that pretzels are made from.
Bran muffins: Unless you make your own, forget these no-icing cupcakes. The standard store-bought (or Starbucks) bran muffin is loaded with white flour, sugar, vegetable oil, additives difficult to pronounce with a touch of added bran. Don’t let that wholesome, rich, brown color fool you. Like colas, it typically comes from added caramel coloring.
Meal replacement bars: Although some are a bit more wholesome than others (15 vs. 40 or so ingredients), these popular, modern-day favorites are the ultimate in 100% pure factory-made, processed foods. In my book, they are not food, but food-like artifacts that are generally high in sugar and/or unhealthy fats. Have a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit as a real, healthy alternative. (If you must – look for bars with very few ingredients (that you can pronounce!) on the label.)
Infused waters: Like yogurt, “water” has the health-halo effect, and the beverage industry is currently exploiting it to the max. Water infused with all sorts of supposedly healthy extras, like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and herbs are the fastest growing beverage products. Most of them are nothing more than sugar-fortified drinks like their first cousins, soda with a smidge of a few added vitamins. There is zero evidence that extracting nutrients from their native context (foods) and adding them to water has any health benefit. If you use these products, you are paying 100x more than you would for tap water (which is more rigorously monitored than bottled water). By the way, pure water is the only beverage that provides 100% of what we need and why we have to drink to stay alive – namely H20.