Healthy eating certainly doesn’t come easily these days. Not only is there the constant temptation of junk food and drive-thru windows, but the market is saturated with unhealthy food options wearing the disguise of good health. Sometimes, you just don’t have the time to scour the labels looking for the fine print—or the hidden sugar, calories and fat.
Well, you’re not alone in your quest for good, healthy convenient food that you don’t have to make from scratch. But here are a few of the unhealthy culprits you’ll want to think twice about.
Fruit Juice: More Like Fruit-Flavored Sugar Water
If it tastes super sweet, there’s a reason for that. The amount of sugar in fruit juice is deceiving. As a rule, juice in a can or from concentrate is loaded with sugar and calories. In fact, in a small cup of full-calorie fruit juice (a far cry from 100% juice) there is up to seven teaspoons of processed sugar. Read the label carefully so you know whether the flavoring is natural or artificial (hint: check the fine print).
American obesity expert Robert Lustig, author of Fat Chance: The Bitter Truth about Sugar has gone so far as to call sugary juices “poison” and a key player in the obesity crisis. Sugar is found in deceptive places like juices, marketed to children and adults as “health food.” Calorie for calorie, he claims that 100% orange juice is just as bad for you as soda, marketed in an even more deceitful way.
Banana And Plantain Chips
So you take a look in the cupboard and see a bag of salty potato chips, but are well aware of the sodium and hydrogenated fat content (not a well-planned purchase!). So you reach for a bag of dried banana or plantain chips instead. They are just dried fruit, right? Wrong! The chips are often deep-fried and preserved in a similar way to the salty potato version you were trying to avoid.
Chips are chips, fried is fried and there is a great deal of salt and fat lurking within that bag of seemingly harmless banana chips.
Muffin: C’mon, They’re Just Cake in a Skirt!
This one might seem obvious, but some muffins wear a convincing disguise. And with more than one billion dollars in retail sales for the muffin industry in 2013, the disguise sure seems to be convincing! Here’s a stealth example: It isn’t super sweet, it has a bit of fiber, but the bran muffin is just as high in calories and fat as the rest of them.
Even more surprising, a fat-free cranberry muffin has more calories than a piece of buttery French toast. And a medium-sized blueberry muffin has more calories than a McDonald’s Sausage McMuffin that’s the same size—and almost half of those calories are from fat. That is a whopping third of the fat you are allowed to consume in an entire day! So that innocent-looking muffin might be fancied up wearing a few carrot shavings or bran flakes to fool you into thinking it’s healthy. But it’s not.
Most of us consider a slice of delicious turkey a good source of lean protein, and a way to satisfy a similar craving to some of the more fattening meats. But whether you get it at the deli counter shaved up or in a package ready to put on a sandwich, turkey is loaded with sodium. It is clearly a time-saving measure not to have to make a whole turkey or even a turkey breast every time the mood strikes, but roasting is the only way you are guaranteed not to have a huge helping of sodium.
So roast that bird and resist the urge to chow down on any of the quick and pre-packaged varieties.
Smoothies start out with good intentions; they usually have lots of fresh fruit and fat-free dairy or almond milk as a base. However, once you start adding in the filler to bulk it up, you run into problems. Smoothies that don’t have sugar, ice cream or sorbet added in for extra flavor and texture are hard to come by at your regular smoothie and juice bars. Not only that, but the sizing tends to start at 12 fl oz and can get up as large as a pint. More quantity means more calories. The average large smoothie has as many as 450 calories from all the filler ingredients alone.
So whether you are the type to pore over the nutrition labels, or just want to know when the wool is being pulled over your eyes at the grocery store or in the food court, beware these high-calorie offenders.