Replace Those Unhealthy “Health” Foods

While I’m not real comfortable about targeted marketing, it does send a great deal of food and health info across my wire, and that’s okay by me. Today Buzzfeed wanted to alert me to a whole bunch of unhealthy “health” food.  I think this is a great thing to talk about, especially for folks who want to eat healthier but don’t necessarily have a great deal of practice or success in that department.

I want to take a minute here to bang the drum about “Big Food” again.  (For an extended banging of this drum, see my post about Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.) This is when I remind you that companies that make food are not necessarily making food with your health in mind.  They are making food with your wallet in mind – they want it to taste good and to be full of things that your body is going to ask for again and again and again.  And if they want to call it healthy, or use other words that make it seem like it should be healthy, or put a picture of a tree on the box or a woman running through a field so you think it’s healthy, they are welcome to do so.

It is incumbent upon you as the consumer to find out whether or not those beautifully marketed packages actually contain any nutrition whatsoever.  Buzzfeed’s Dave Stopera wants to help you out. Dave’s made a list of 18 “health foods” you shouldn’t eat.  I’m gonna tell you what the Sis sisters would eat instead. Today I’ll cover the first 9.

a little quinoa in the morning

1. Granola. Why? Sugar, sugar, sugar. Unless, or course, you make Bigg Sis’ version of homemade granola. OR you could just skip the granola thing altogether and make up some quinoa to keep in the fridge and use to make super yum porridge with date cream and fruit.

2. Low-fat or lite yogurt. Why? Artificial sweeteners. Instead? Plain yogurt with fresh fruit – or wean yourself by mixing jam with plain yogurt and moving towards fresh fruit as your taste buds adjust to less sweet flavors.

3. Vitamin Water. Why? Sugar, sugar, sugar. Instead? A vitamin and water. OR better still, eat really healthy and drink water. If you’re a Vitamin Water addict, start by watering it down and gradually wean yourself off the stuff. Or try Bigg Sis’ homemade sports drink. Save yourself a few bucks and feel better.

4. Turkey bacon. Why? Even more salt than the regular variety according to Buzzfeed. Hard to tell you what to sub out for this. If you’re committed to bacon, I would recommend a very occasional treat of uncured bacon that is, admittedly, more expensive, but has way less of the nitrites that give you fun diseases like cancer.

5. Trail mix. Why? Most pre-packaged trail mixes contain candy to keep you munching.  You’ll have a whole lot more sugar than you think with those roasted over-salted nuts.  Instead? A snack mix with low sugar cereal, nuts and dried fruit.

6. Reduced Fat Peanut Butter. Buzzfeed’s objection is more sugar, carbs, etc than regular peanut butter.  I’d like to register an umbrella concern about “reduced fat” on food items that are naturally high in fat.  I always wonder what the heck they did to those peanuts to make them low fat?  How many machines or chemical processes were required to make high fat peanuts into reduced fat peanut butter?  Our recommendation? All natural nut butter – if you’re feeling feisty you could even try Bigg Sis’ chocolate almond butter.  Reduced fat Jif? Nutella, shmutella. I’ve got chocolate almond butter and I know exactly what’s in it, thank you very much.

7. Veggie Burgers. These can contain lots of weird ingredients and most have MSG or a lot of salt. Why not try some homemade veggie burgers instead? How about these Walnut Mushroom Burgers or these Lentil Bulgur Burgers. You can make a lot, freeze them and have your own actually healthy convenience food.

8. Light salad dressing.  Want to know how they get dressing that has less fat to get and stay mixed up so it will be appealing? They put lots of crap in it. Skip it, save your money and make some homemade dressing – takes about 30 seconds once you’ve done it a couple of times.  We’ve never gone back.  Bigg Sis describes how to make your own salad dressings here. Trying to skip the fat? Try my favorite instant fat-free salad dressing.

9. Diet Frozen Dinners. Why? I’m gonna go with Buzzfeed’s words on this one: “Low in fiber, high in sodium, and barely any nutritional value. Why not just eat the box?” There are LOTS of answers for eating a quick meal that don’t involve these tasteless sodium sticky traps. Click on our super fast recipe category on the side bar for some suggestions for quick meals and every time you cook, make a little extra so you can have leftovers rather than a diet frozen dinner.

So there are the first nine, knocked down for your healthy eating pleasure. I’ll be back with more for the rest. Don’t let them be in charge of your health. They don’t take good care of you; but YOU can. Be well friends. We’re rooting for you.

36 responses

  1. Pingback: Replace Those Unhealthy “Health” Foods Part 2 | my sister's pantry

  2. Amen, thank you! I wish more people realized that eating healthy means eating real. My grandsons are on gluten dairy and sugar free diets and all they eat is cardboard fake crap and they are always starving! Makes me crazy!!

    • I think facing a food sensitivity or limitation makes folks even more susceptible to “health” food marketing. If you can’t eat many of the things you are used to, it can be very overwhelming and seems much easier to make the adjustment by buying all the pre-made stuff. So much more flavorful and affordable to simply learn to cook with the abundant foods that don’t cause problems.

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  7. You have to make it yourself. I wish everyone had time to cook from scratch all the time. Hello from Mostly Homemade Mondays.

    • So do I. Since I decided to stay home, I’ve been startled at how much of the day cooking CAN consume if you do everything from scratch. Really makes me marvel at those who came before and did all that – plus everything I typically neglect. 😉

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  14. I’ve been sucked into the low fat, fat free marketing myself until I started really paying attention to labels. It’s scary that people think they are eating healthier/better because of the kind of spin marketing teams create.

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