Avoid Granola Bars & More

Avoid Granola Bars & More

In the quest for a healthier lifestyle, many individuals turn to seemingly virtuous foods as staples of their diet. These items often boast of health claims, flaunting labels like “natural,” “organic,” or “low-fat,” enticing consumers with promises of well-being and vitality. However, some seemingly healthy foods can harbor a slew of refined carbohydrates, sugars, and other additives, stealthily sabotaging our health goals. Despite their outward appearance, these foods may contribute to weight gain, spike blood sugar levels, and even pose long-term health risks when consumed in excess.

We spoke with Catherine Gervacio, registered dietitian and nutrition writer for Living.Fit, to learn about five seemingly healthy foods that can actually be packed with hidden sugars, additives, and refined carbs. She revealed that granola bars, vegetable chips, sports drinks, plant-based burgers, and low-fat dressings as the ones to watch out for.

Avoid Granola Bars & MoreAvoid Granola Bars & More

Granola Bars

Despite being marketed as healthful choices, many granola bars are laden with refined carbohydrates, sugars, and an assortment of additives. These seemingly innocuous snacks often harbor high levels of refined sugars, syrups, and artificial sweeteners to enhance flavor and prolong shelf life.

“They are popularly known as a healthy food option, but many granola bars contain high amounts of refined sugars, syrups, and additives to enhance flavor and shelf life. These can contribute to spikes in blood sugar levels and promote weight gain if consumed regularly. Be careful and always check the nutrient label and the ingredients list for hidden sugars,” Gervacio says.

She notes that it’s “best to make your own granola bars using whole grains, nuts, seeds, and natural sweeteners like maple syrup. You can also use Stevia or Monk fruit if you want to eliminate added sugar completely from your diet.”

Vegetable Chips

While their vegetable origins may suggest a virtuous snacking option, many vegetable chips are riddled with processed ingredients and additives. Despite the inclusion of vegetables in their name, these chips commonly rely on starchy fillers and processed oils to achieve their crispy texture, sacrificing nutritional integrity in the process.

Gervacio says “these chips may seem like a healthier alternative to regular potato chips since they are made from vegetables. However, many of these products are fried in unhealthy oils and coated with refined sugars, additives, and excessive salt to enhance flavor. This can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and other health issues associated with excessive sodium and sugar intake.”

But just like homemade granolas, you can make healthier chips at home, she says. “It’s better to make your healthy chips! Use sweet potatoes, beets, or kale, and bake them with a small amount of olive oil and herbs for flavor.”

Sports drinks

These beverages typically contain high levels of refined sugars or artificial sweeteners to enhance taste, providing a quick energy boost but also contributing to sugar spikes and crashes. Additionally, the inclusion of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives further diminishes their nutritional value.

Gervacio highlights that sports drinks “are known as essential for hydration and electrolyte replenishment, especially after exercise. However, they typically contain high amounts of added sugars, artificial colors, and flavors, which can contribute to tooth decay, weight gain, and insulin resistance if consumed excessively. Always check the nutrient label and the ingredients list to make sure.

For a healthier alternative that can still hydrate you, she suggests “drinking coconut water or electrolyte-enhanced water for hydration and replenishment after exercise, instead of sugary sports drinks.”

Plant-based burger

Despite their plant-derived ingredients, many plant-based burgers are loaded with refined carbohydrates, sugars, and an array of additives. While marketed as healthful options, these burgers often rely on processed plant proteins, fillers, and binders to mimic the taste and texture of meat. Consequently, they may contain high levels of refined grains, starches, and added sugars to improve palatability. Furthermore, the inclusion of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives can compromise their nutritional integrity.

“These burgers can be a healthier alternative to traditional meat burgers, but some commercially available veggie burgers may contain refined grains, added sugars, and preservatives to mimic the taste and texture of meat. These additives can diminish their nutritional value and contribute to inflammation and digestive issues if consumed regularly,” she highlights.

Homemade alternatives win again, as Gervacio says to “make your own veggie burgers using whole grains, legumes, vegetables, herbs, and spices for flavor and texture, avoiding refined additives and sugars.”

Low-fat Salad Dressings

Low-fat salad dressings, often perceived as a guilt-free way to enjoy salads while cutting calories, may conceal a less-than-healthy reality beneath their “light” image. Despite their reduced fat content, many low-fat salad dressings compensate for flavor by incorporating refined carbohydrates, sugars, and an array of additives.

Gervacio elaborates further and notes that “many low-fat salad dressings contain added sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial flavors to compensate for the reduced fat content. These additives can negate the health benefits of consuming salads and contribute to weight gain and inflammation.”

Making your own dressing is actually very simple and doesn’t need extravagant ingredients. “It’s always ideal to make your own meals to ensure natural flavors with no added sugars. Make an easy salad dressing using olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, herbs, and spices for flavor,” Gervacio recommends.

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