“Health” Food That Isn’t

Whole Health Husband requested that I go on a rant about something. I think he requested this because he knows how passionate I can become when certain topics come up. The thing is, just because I feel passionately about something doesn’t mean it’s the only way. I try to keep an open mind and know that everyone has different opinions and that there are two sides to everything.

Plus, I’m not perfect, so I’m not about to point the finger at anyone; I would be a hypocrite and I can’t stand hypocrites. That’s why I’ve steered clear of going on a rant so far and try to maintain a fairly neutral, though still passionate voice. But I think WHH would like me to share more of the real Stephanie, and I have come to the realization that every time I’ve done that, those posts have ended up being my favorites.

So, one thing I can go on a rant about for days on end? “Health” food that isn’t actually healthy. I can’t stand how giant food companies sucker people into thinking they’re doing something good for themselves when they’re just pumping food full of chemicals and artificial things that are quite far from food! If something seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Please know that this is just my opinion and I’m not passing judgement on anyone who thinks otherwise. Without further ado, here are a few examples of products that just chap my hide as well as a healthier alternatives to use instead.

Low Fat/Fat-Free, Low Sugar/Sugar-Free, Low Whatever/Whatever-Free

If they’re taking something out, they’re often replacing it with something else. The question is what are they replacing it with? Often when something is lower fat, they replace it with sugar and salt so that there’s still a lot of flavor. When they’re taking out sugar, they’re replacing it with chemical sweeteners which are kind of okay in (slight) moderation, but no good if eaten often. It’s not real food, so your body doesn’t know what the heck to do with it.

(Note that I’m only talking about food that naturally have fat, sugar, etc., in them. Spinach is naturally fat-free, so no need to worry if the packaging proclaims that, though I’d wonder why a company felt the need to point that out.)

Case in point? Fat free half and half.

Land O Lakes Fat-Free Half and Half

Talk about an oxymoron! The second item on the ingredient list? Corn syrup. AKA sugar. The main three ingredients are skim milk, corn syrup, and cream. Need I say more?

Alternatives: Any nut milk, soy milk, hemp milk, organic regular (cow’s) milk, or cream in moderation.

Another case in point? I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray and equivalents (such as Pam).

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Olive Oil Spray

Yes, I actually can believe it’s not butter. Though the company’s website conveniently doesn’t show the ingredients (things that make you go hmmm…), I was able to find them on Walmart’s website.  Let’s take a look:

Water, Soybean Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt, Sweet Cream Buttermilk, Xanthan Gum, Soy Lecithin, Polysorbate 60, Lactic Acid, (Potassium Sorbate, Calcium Disodium Edta), Used to Protect Quality, Natural Flavor, Vitamin A Palmitate, Beta Carotene (For Color).

My favorite part? There are magically no calories! How is that possible when the second and third ingredients are oil, and the fourth ingredient is buttermilk? Because (1) the serving size is unrealistic and (2) the FDA allows companies to round down, even from 0.9! So there could be 0.9 grams of fat per serving and they’re still allowed to say 0. I kid you not. So think about putting 10 sprays on: all of a sudden, 9g of fat!

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 0.20 G
Servings Per Container 1700
Amount
Per Serving
1 Spray 5 Sprays
Calories 0 0
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0 G 0 0
Sodium 0 Mg 1 1
Total Carbohydrate 0 G 0 0
Protein 0 G

Do your body a favor and skip all of the fake junk this thing is filled with and use real fats, such as olive oil, coconut oil, or even real butter from grass-fed cows. Or see below for something I’ve had in my kitchen for awhile if you want a spray.

Alternative: Misto spray filled with olive oil

Weight Loss Shakes

Whenever I open the fridge at my work and see one of these in there, I cry a little inside. These things are terrible! Look at what you’re potentially drinking in a Slimfast Shake:

Slim Fast Pina Colada

INGREDIENTS: FAT FREE MILK, WATER, SUGAR, GUM ARABIC, CANOLA OIL, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, CELLULOSE GEL, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, POTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL, MALTODEXTRIN, SOY LECITHIN, CELLULOSE GUM, CARRAGEENAN, SODIUM BICARBONATE, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SUCRALOSE AND ACESULFAME POTASSIUM (NONNUTRITIVE SWEETENERS), SODIUM CITRATE, NATURAL FLAVOR (COCONUT), YELLOW 5, CITRIC ACID. VITAMINS AND MINERALS: MAGNESIUM PHOSPHATE, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE, SODIUM ASCORBATE, VITAMIN E ACETATE, ZINC GLUCONATE, FERRIC ORTHOPHOSPHATE, NIACINAMIDE, CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE, MANGANESE SULFATE, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE, RIBOFLAVIN, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, FOLIC ACID, CHROMIUM CHLORIDE, BIOTIN, SODIUM MOLYBDATE, POTASSIUM IODIDE, PHYTONADIONE (VITAMIN K1), SODIUM SELENITE, CYANOCOBALAMIN (VITAMIN B12), CHOLECALCIFEROL (VITAMIN D3). SWEETENED WITH NUTRITIVE SWEETENERS AND NONNUTRITIVE SWEETENERS. CONTAINS MILK, SOY AND COCONUT.

Yum! Sounds delicious! No? I don’t know about you, but I lost count with how many ingredients there are.

Alternative: Make your own smoothie or protein drink! I promise you, they don’t take that long! Find a quality protein powder (I’m a fan of Garden of Life RAW Protein, which is raw, organic, gluten-, soy-, dairy-, and GMO-free). Twenty-eight servings costs $25.48 on Amazon, so that’s less than a dollar per serving if you mix it with water only. Slim Fast runs you $7.19 for only four servings. That’s nearly $2 per serving! Granted, I usually add some peanut butter, spinach, oats, and almond milk to mine, but it’s a small amount and I bet it’s still less than the Slim Fast. Less expensive and better for you!

(Most) Frozen Entrees

Aside from the fact that you’re microwaving your food in flimsy plastic containers (yes, I understand they’re “food grade” plastic, but just think about it…), most of these are loaded with sodium and an abundance of sketchy ingredients not resembling the original recipes. Both of the big daddies, Healthy Choice and Weight Watchers Smart Ones, don’t include the ingredients of their products online, but are plenty happy to tell you how low-calorie and low-fat they are. That’s a big red flag if you ask me.

Red flag clip art

Trust me, I realize these are convenient and they’re fine for every once in a while, but try to stick to real foods that you prepare yourself. Evidence they can be quite easy: I made the salad below in less than 5 minutes last week. I do believe that the microwave meals take 3-5 minutes, so the time is about the same, but the health reward is much larger with the salad.

Quick and easy salad

Plus, meals made from real foods are often less expensive! A quick meal prep at the beginning of every week can do wonders for convenient meal making throughout the week! Check out this link on easy meal planning in a flash.

Alternative: For those times you need the convenience of a frozen meal, try to stick with something more natural whose ingredients you can pronounce, such as Kashi’s or Amy’s frozen items.

(Some) Yogurt

Just because it’s yogurt, doesn’t mean it’s automatically healthy! We put a ton of sugar in our yogurt here in the United States because our palates are so messed up with all of the extra flavorings in most of our food. Yogurt in Europe has much less sugar. People actually like the way plain yogurt tastes, as I learned when I was there. It was delicious!

Plus, the sugar used in yogurt is often the worst kind: high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). And if it’s the “light” variety, lots of yummy chemicals! I’m sorry, but yogurt is not supposed to taste like Boston Cream Pie. Only Boston Cream Pie should taste like that!

Yoplait Boston Cream Pie Yogurt Nutrition

Alternative: Buy plain, organic (if possible–I’m still working on this one myself!) yogurt and add your own fruit, nuts, a little bit of maple syrup or honey, flax, chia seeds, and/or oatmeal. The toppings are endless! You know how much I love my yogurt parfaits! And a quick tip: the full-fat variety tastes much less sour than the fat-free variety! Plus, the added fat keeps you full for longer. Just watch your serving size!

Low Calorie Favored Drinks (Such as Crystal Light)

Listen, I know that water is not the most exciting beverage and you may feel the need to kick it up, but this isn’t the way! Just a quick look at the ingredients is a bit scary:

Crystal Light ingredients

Alternative: Water with pieces of fruit, such as orange, watermelon, cucumber, lemon, or lime. I’m a big fan of cucumber water in the summer! So refreshing! You could also try some herbs, such as mint or basil.

Okay, are you still with me? I haven’t scared you away, have I? Again, I’m not trying to condemn anyone for eating or drinking these; I’m simply trying to show that there are healthier alternatives that can be just as quick and inexpensive. This is the only body we are given for our entire lives, so we need to make sure it’s a place we want to live for the long haul! In other words…

Running shoes with Jim Rohn body quote

 

Questions: Please, honestly, what did you think of me going on a rant? Too much? Right on? Not enough? How do you feel about foods masking as being healthy when they’re really not? Do you try to avoid these foods are or you fine with eating them?

 

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10 thoughts on ““Health” Food That Isn’t

  1. I am right there with you… this all drives me totally insane. I also hate the whole ‘all natural’ labeling on everything that’s in a package these days… ‘all natural’ is a marketing ploy! This is why it’s smart AND safe to walk the perimeter of the grocery store (although you have to watch out for some of the dairy.. and meat… ugh nothing is safe anymore)

    • Yes, “all natural” doesn’t mean anything! I agree–it’s so nice to make a shopping trip shorter by not having to navigate a majority of the aisles!

  2. I love this post and I agree with it 100%. Don’t feel bad for going on a rant and don’t feel you have to put a disclaimer on the post… it’s your blog, your opinion, and I’d hope everyone would be OK with you having one even if they didn’t agree with it. :)
    My view of what healthy means has changed so much in the last few years, to me sweeteners were healthy just a while ago because they didn’t have calories. Processed foods were healthy as long as they were low fat. Etc.
    We all have to educate ourselves and make our own decisions on what we want and don’t want to eat, however food companies are doing a “great” job with their marketing, showing us only part of the picture.

    • Thank you. I’ve had the same feedback from my husband and brother. I just really didn’t want to insult anyone, you know? Thanks for saying that, though. I feel like now that I’ve said it, if I go on a rant in the future, I won’t be so apologetic. :-)

  3. Hi Stephanie,
    Love This post too! WHH’s right you get so aggressive “Cool”
    What the public needs is a, Food Ingredient Monitor , Oh yeah, (FDA). Food Demoralizing Administration

    Question, To Steph, and Everyone, Are their any concerns with the acidic level in doityourself, Fruit-Water?
    In addition to an elevated (summer) consumption of fruit on our teeth? Just curious Great Idea

    Tune-up Stay Strong,
    U Steve,

    • Thanks, Steve!
      I know that the acid in citrus can wear away the enamel on your teeth, but I wouldn’t think there would be much to worry about if it’s only a slice or two of a fruit in your water every once in a while. I wouldn’t suggest doing it every day, all day. Everything in moderation. ;-)

  4. Hi Stephanie…Fully agree with this post and your viewpoint. Last summer I came to the US with some French family and they couldn’t understand the Its not butter spray. They kept saying “how do you put butter in a spray format” ??? !!! They couldn’t get over it. In France, only real butter ! However, we have the rest… low fat, artificial sweeteners, but they do not do as well sales wise as they have in the past. I think people are waking up to the fact that your body loves you more with whole foods fueling it.

  5. Totally agree. I used to use butter spray but stopped when I realized I had no idea what I was eating. Now I use real butter and feel much better about it. That’s the easiest way for me to decide to eat–eat mostly stuff that still looks like the way it was grown/created and not stuff in a plastic container or a box. And when I do eat stuff that’s packaged I make sure to pay attention to the sugar content. I’m not against low fat products but I am if the trade off is sugar.

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