We’re all guilty of it. We hear chatter about the healthy benefits of a food or a specific way to prepare a meal to maximize the benefits for our bodies, and we get excited about these new solutions without doing our homework. We want energy, protein, vitamins and nutrients and a way to speed up our metabolism, but we don’t want a lot of sugar, salt, fats or calories.
But it’s surprising how many of these “healthy” foods actually achieve the opposite of what we want. Let’s take a look at some of the culprits and stop sabotaging our diets:
What we want: A great dose of protein, healthy fats and a filling meal that is low in calories. After all, how many calories can fit into one six-piece spicy tuna roll?
The reality: … Um, a lot. Some of your favorite rolls have some serious downsides. Bluefin tuna has a surprisingly high mercury content and contains a high amount of chemical PCBs — not to mention it’s overfished. And that shrimp tempura roll might be tasty, but the fact that it’s fried raises your meal’s total calories and fat. Then there’s the soy sauce and the sodium that comes with it.
Stick with assorted sashimi and veggie rolls, and get some seaweed salad or edamame to start. Avoid mayo-based rolls, like lobster salad rolls and some spicy tuna rolls. Those Philly rolls can also pack a fair amount of fat depending on how much cream cheese is used.
What we want: Peanuts are wonderful for us because of the protein and good fats, so reducing the fat should just make peanut butter that much better, right?
The reality: Wrong. Peanut butter manufacturers have taken away the good fats and added sweeteners, thickeners and hydrogenated oil. And the calorie count isn’t significantly reduced compared with the regular full-fat peanut butter.
What we want: Energy, vitamins and minerals and low in calories
The reality: Some store-bought smoothies are so high in calories that it’s like drinking a cheeseburger. What makes these drinks contain as many as 1,000 calories are the added sugars and syrups. A 20-ounce Hulk-Strawberry blizzard from Smoothie King clocks in at 964 calories, and a 20-ounce Orange Julius Cocoa Latte Swirl contains 960 calories. Yikes!
What we want: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so we want to fill up on good carbohydrates to keep us full and energized.
The reality: Many of those granola bars that tout their health benefits are actually high in calories, loaded with sugar and even contain trans fats. Check out our list of the top five healthiest granola bar brands (plus a recipe to make your own) here.
What we want: A snack that we can take with us on the go that doesn’t make a mess and will keep us energized and full
The reality: Sugar. So much sugar. Fruit consists mostly of water, so eliminating it leaves you with sugar. Plus, more is added to make it tastier. And because dried fruit seems so small, we often incorrectly assume we can eat more of it than we should. So what is the result? Lots of sugar and fewer vitamins and minerals than you would find in regular fruit. For a healthier alternative than the packaged brands you find in the store, try making your own dried fruit with this recipe.
What we want: Protein, but not the cholesterol in the yolk
The reality: Yolks have vitamins and minerals that do wonderful things, such as improve brain development. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, they even contain nutrients — such as protein, vitamins B12 and D, riboflavin and folate — that may help lower the risk for heart disease.
While diabetics and people who have trouble regulating their cholesterol levels should be cautious about eating egg yolks, research has shown that, for other healthy men and women, eating up to one egg a day does not increase heart disease risk.