We live in a society where we calorie-count—we’re obsessed with it. Somewhere on our journey to a healthier diet, we’ve been tricked into thinking the fewer calories we eat or sticking to a certain calorie minimum daily, the better we’ll start to look and feel. “We made a mistake by telling people that we could ‘burn’ calories, giving them the freedom to overeat as long as we cut back somewhere else (or exercise),” says Brooke Scheller, a certified nutrition specialist. “Five hundred calories of broccoli is not equal to 500 calories of a brownie. They’re processed completely differently by the body and have completely different micronutrient (fats, sugar, protein, carbs) and micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) profiles.” Calories are tricky territory. To help us keep our diet in check and on real healthy track, we asked Scheller what so-called healthy foods to avoid.
Read below to find out which so-called healthy foods you should think twice about.
The whole “less is more” mentality will do you wrong in this case. The protein bars that claim they can replace an entire meal actually may be doing more harm than good. “They contain a very high level of sugar, processed soy, and other toxic ingredients like MSG (often labeled as natural flavoring),” says Scheller. She suggests having a meal that’s full of fresh foods and lean proteins is a better way to go; it’ll provide you more nutrition.
It’s a hard fact we all need to accept: Just because something is in a salad doesn’t automatically make it healthy. We need to be more selective in choosing a dressing if we want to add some flavor. Some dressings are “typically use different processed vegetable oils like canola, soybean, and others. These oils are high in an inflammatory type of fat called omega-6,” says Scheller. She suggests looking for an oil-based dressing. While the calories may be the same as the other dressings out there, she says the olive oil boasts more health benefits because of its antioxidants, vitamin E, and monounsaturated fats.
Protein is a very important part of a healthy diet, and if What the Health hasn’t convinced you to go vegetarian yet, you still want to pick your meats carefully. “Conventionally produced meat like beef or chicken may contain hormones and antibiotics that can be absorbed into our bodies when we eat them,” says Scheller. She suggests looking for a high-quality grass-fed meat or organic chicken; they provide a lot of protein and can sometimes contain anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats.