This is something I’ve been putting off writing for a while, but it’s time to talk about it.
I am not a doctor or a nutrition specialist of any kind. But there is one thing I can tell you: we need to educate ourselves more when it comes to healthy food.
I can’t tell you the number of comments I get (on and off this website) praising me for posting a healthy recipe.
Unless otherwise stated, my recipes really aren’t healthy. I know, I’m a huge bummer.
It’s not just my recipes people talk about, though. I see this on pins constantly and it drives me up the wall.
Understanding nutrition is extremely important, especially considering the obesity-related health problems this country is facing. I know, I know. “Just because I’m overweight, that doesn’t mean I’m unhealthy.” I completely agree. I also agree that just because my father’s a smoker, that doesn’t mean he’s unhealthy. Yet.
This isn’t about body policing. I’m not telling you what to eat, I’m not shaming you for liking unhealthy foods or loving your body (you should). But I really hate sitting back and watching perfectly well-meaning people sabotage themselves and each other because they don’t understand what constitutes as healthy food. I hate seeing people who desperately want to eat healthy wind up doing the exact opposite just because they don’t know.
Look, I’m overweight. Even after a 30 pound loss (albeit, a while ago), I am still overweight. I understand the struggle.
But a lot of people don’t. I’m seeing the same people–the people struggling to get their weight under control–making the same mistakes with “healthy” food labels. So let’s talk about what isn’t healthy.
1. Adding fruit does not make it healthy.
I posted my blueberry coconut cornbread a couple weeks ago. It’s basically the same as any other sweetened cornbread, except I added blueberries and used coffee creamer (which is loaded with refined sugar, by the way) to replace some of the milk content. People all over the Internet seem to think that the addition of blueberries makes this cornbread healthy.
No. It absolutely does not.
If adding fruit to food automatically made it healthy, I would eat pie all day every day no questions asked.
But pie isn’t good for you (and I really hope you knew that without me having to tell you). I would develop diabetes within the year, most likely. Which sucks, because I love pie. Probably more than any human really should.
2. If it has sugar, it’s not healthy.
I don’t care if it’s raw, organic sugar. I don’t care if they substituted the butter and flour with healthier alternatives. Foods containing too much sugar are not healthy. Period. Even fruit needs to be eaten in moderation–it’s loaded with lots of good stuff, yes, but it’s also loaded with tons and tons and sugar. (Also why juicing isn’t good for you–you’re getting rid of the pulp, which contains a good portion of the healthy stuff. Really, juice is just sugar water. But that’s a rant for another time.)
Yes, there was a time when sugar was actually thought to be a health food. It’s possible some of my readers grew up during that time.
Times change. Now we know that sugar isn’t that great for you.
That doesn’t mean you have to completely give it up (unless your doctor says so). It just means you need to moderate. You don’t need more than that one piece of cake. Really.
On a similar note, the pumpkin brownies (box of brownie mix + can of pumpkin) that were so popular last year? NOT HEALTHY. (I saw a lot of comments about that, too.) Just because you didn’t personally add the sugar and flour, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
3. Low calorie does not equal “healthy.”
I’m so sick of hearing about calories.
Yes, they play a factor. If you’re eating a lot of high calorie foods, they’re probably not coming from healthy sources. And if you’re going to have a snack or a dessert, it’s better to go for the low calorie alternative. But just because something is a “better” option does not mean it’s the “best” option (which is how commercials get you–we’ll get to that in a moment).
“Low calorie” does not automatically mean “healthy.”
Lean Cuisines are low calorie, but have you seen the sodium content? You can’t live on those things, you’ll have a heart attack.
There are plenty of high-calorie foods that are good for you, though. A medium avocado has approximately 276 calories. An ounce of nuts has anywhere from 160-190 calories. One tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil contains about 120 calories. A large banana contains about 120 calories (almost double that of other fruits). Speaking of fruits, one mango has about 130 calories. And one cup of granola contains about 597 calories (about as much as you’d want in a whole meal). [Source.]
If I wanted to, I could turn that into an entire blog post, but I’ll spare you.
Basically, you can’t judge a food’s health-factor on its calories. Next.
4. If it has its own commercial, it’s not good for you.
Did you know Yoplait is actually really unhealthy (though they cut out the high fructose corn syrup last year)? You wouldn’t think so, though, since the commercials are all fit women who don’t actually need to be dieting. There’s a reason they do that and mostly it’s to screw with your mind. (We call that a “subliminal message.”)
Commercials are written very specifically to make you think they’re saying something they’re not (rather, something they want to say but legally can’t). Diet pills can’t actually say they’re good for you and that they directly cause weight loss (though they can say they cause weight loss when mixed with a healthy diet and exercise plan)–but they can say that many of the people taking their diet pills lost weight. What they’re not telling you is that their pill had nothing to do with it. They’re taking facts that have nothing to do with each other (Woman took our pills. Woman lost 100 pounds! And in small print, “Woman also exercised 1 hour every day and restricted herself to a 1200 calorie per day diet consisting of whole foods, vegetables, and meats”) and letting your brain come to its own (incorrect) conclusions. And voila! You’ve just made that company huge amounts of money.
How do you avoid buying unhealthy “health” food? Read the nutritional facts. I know the ingredients list is filled with things that are difficult to pronounce…but that’s the magic of Google. You can only help yourself by figuring out what you should and shouldn’t be eating, instead of letting corporate packaging do the thinking for you.
That said, if you like Yoplait and don’t care if it’s healthy–keep eating it! I really don’t care what you put into your system, to be honest. All I want is for you to do it knowing the truth, instead of thinking it’s doing your body good.
There’s actually more I can go into, but I’ll leave it at these four today. Did you learn anything? Or is there a nutrition pet peeve of your own you’d like to share? Leave it in the comments!