Let me just prepare you out the gate. After reading this, you're probably gonna have a couple of moments of "Daaaaang. So exactly what can I eat?!"
The thing is, if you're being even remotely intentional about the kinds of foods that you put into your mouth (and ultimately your system), you're already winning in a lot of ways. And, as far as "unhealthy" goes, if you try your best to avoid things that have a long list of ingredients on the packaging, you're already winning a lot of the battle.
As for the 10 items that I'm about to break down, the main thing to keep in mind is moderation is key. A lot of times, the mistake that we make is if we think something is healthy, we'll eat a ton of it, all day, every day. It's that lack of balance is what can throw things, well, off.
Bottom line, nobody is out here saying that you can't have these types of foods every once in a while (well, at least I'm not). But before you stock up your fridge and pantry with nothing but these items, check out why you should probably rethink that.
1. Fruit Juice
Yes, fruit juice contains Vitamin C and that's a vitamin that is loaded with antioxidants. That's the good news. On the other hand, there is plenty of research to support the fact that, for the most part, there's not much difference between fruit juice and your favorite kind of soda.
All you have to do is read the label of a soda can and then juice container and you'll notice that there may be a 10-15 grams difference of sugar between them (most have around 30 grams of sugar; your body only needs 10 grams per day). Plus, what goes into the process of making juice isn't the best for the environment either. 12 oranges alone make up one cup of OJ. That's a lot of pesticides, irrigation and fuel used to truck juice into your local grocery store. Just something to think about.
If you're wondering what some of the worst so-called healthy commercial juices are, Welch's 100% Grape Juice with Fiber, Simply Orange High Pulp, R.W. Knudsen Just Pomegranate, Ocean Spray 100% Juice No Sugar Added Cranberry and probiotic juices (unfortunately) top the list.
The moral to the story is you'd be better off juicing yourself, making some infused water or at least slicing your juice intake in half by mixing it with half a glass of mineral, sparkling or seltzer water.
2. Soy Products
As a doula, I'm constantly telling new moms that if they do decide to use formula, they need to avoid the kind that contains soy at all costs (especially if they have a son). Why? Soy contains phytoestrogen, which is basically a plant-derived form of the female hormone estrogen.
While soy does contain a decent amount of vitamins C and K, folate, iron, magnesium and potassium, it also tops the list of foods that create "man boobs". Plus, it's one of the most genetically-modified foods around. Another "ugh" thing about soy is studies reveal that it has the tendency to produce more bodily inflammation than cow's milk. Inflammation is never good.
3. Granola Bars
Last year, General Mills removed "100 percent natural" from the popular granola bars. Why, do you ask? Apparently their bars contained glyphosate. What the heck is that? It's a weed killer that has been linked to cancer. As if that's not enough of a reason to rethink eating granola bars (or to at least research the ingredients that are on the label before buying them), they also contain quite a bit of oil and sugar.
Does that mean you can never snack on granola again? No. Just go with making some instead of buying it. That way, you can control how much "extra" goes into it. (A pretty healthy granola bar recipe is found here.)
4. Flavored Yogurt
What could possibly be wrong with yogurt? When it's plain and Greek, not much. Problem is, most of us reach for the kind that is full of sugar and artificial coloring. In fact, many doctors say that not only is flavored yogurt pretty fattening, it also doesn't contain enough protein or fiber to be beneficial.
Before you pick up some Greek yogurt, what are some of the worst brands on the market? Activia Greek Vanilla, Yoplait Greek 100 and Dannon Light & Fit Greek Nonfat Vanilla. Some of the best? Fage Total 2% Greek Yogurt, Stonyfield Organic Greek Whole Milk Plain and Dannon Oikos Greek Nonfat Yogurt Plain. You can click here to read why.
Oh, and if you hate the taste of plain yogurt, remember that you can always add some fresh fruit and/or organic honey to make it more palatable. It's a lot healthier to do it this way than to trust what's on your grocery store's shelves.
5. Whole Wheat Bread
If after you eat pasta or cereal, you notice that you feel nauseated or have a headache, it could be because you've got a wheat allergy that you didn't know about. You can find out for sure by making an appointment with a local allergist. However, that's not the reason why wheat bread makes this list.
The biggest problem with this kind of bread is one, that it's bread. Bread is a high-carb kind of food that is able to raise your blood sugar levels. Bread also contains lectins and phytates; those are toxins that are found in grains. Another problem with a lot of grocery store brands of bread is they're loaded with high fructose corn syrup (which is basically the devil). And, as far as the wheat part goes, most whole wheat bread actually isn't made from whole wheat. Since the grain is ground so finely that, by the time it's ready to eat, it's not much better than (gasp!) white bread. Hmph.
6. Agave Nectar
Some people are hyped about agave nectar because it's a natural sweetener. Problem is, although it registers low on the glycemic index due to its amount of fructose (a hexose sugar that's found in honey and fruit), believe it or not, it contains a greater amount of fructose than high fructose corn syrup. Consuming too much fructose can ultimately lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and fatty liver disease too.
Organic honey or even blackstrap molasses is a way better bet. Leave the white sugar and agave nectar alone.
7. Veggie Chips
If lately, you've been snacking on veggie chips because you thought they were a better alternative to standard potato chips, I hate to rain on your parade but that's not really the truth. Sure, veggie chips contain vegetables but most of them are so highly-processed with sugar, salt, oil, artificial colors and preservatives that you might as well have a few Lay's if that's what you really desire.
What's the true healthy alternative? Baking your own veggies at home. DIY kale, sweet potatoes and zucchini chips are all really easy to make and pretty delicious too. Plus, you know how healthy they are (or not) because you made them yourself. (Click here for some great recipes.)
8. Meat Substitutes
Aside from the fact that a lot of meat substitutes contain a lot of soy (and we've already covered what's wrong with that), most of them also contain quite a bit of gluten. The problem with gluten is that it's a gooey kind of protein that can put you at risk of being diagnosed with celiac disease. It's a condition where your small intestine is damaged due to the consumption of gluten. Some other challenges with gluten is it can cause bloating, constipation, fatigue, psoriasis and iron-deficiency anemia too.
So, before you reach out for some vegan bacon or a Morning Star griller, check out the labels to see how much soy and/or gluten they contain. The answer just may surprise you.
9. Store-Bought Smoothies
Smoothies are a quick and convenient way to "drink your fruits and veggies". The challenge that comes with a lot of them is one, we tend to consume 20-24 ounces per sitting (that's a lot) and two, if we buy them at a store, the amount of sugar and carbs can be literally off the charts!
Something else that a lot of people don't know is although a lot of the fruit in smoothies contains fiber, because it's close to liquified, having one smoothie typically makes you hungrier in a shorter period of time than if you ate a whole piece of fruit.
Long story short, if you're looking to lose weight, a smoothie a day will not automatically or necessarily keep the sugar content or fat cells at bay. (Yeah, this is another kind of food that you'd be better off making at home.)
10. Gluten-Free Foods
OK, so we already touched on where too much gluten will get you. Now check out what having none has the potential to do. Aside from going vegan, probably the most popular health trend is eating gluten-free. However, CNN recently published an article that this trend isn't the best idea for everybody. And with good reason.
While one study revealed that going gluten-free can actually be bad for your heart over time, other data supports that a lot of foods that don't contain gluten are loaded with fillers that are no more than junk. Also, your diet needs to be comprised of about 50 percent carbohydrates, which is what gluten contains. So, when it comes to this final unhealthy healthy food, it's much smarter to eat healthy than to decide to kick carbs altogether. Feel me?
Yeah, this was a lot. But now that you have the knowledge that you do, hopefully you'll rethink buying something just because it's packaged—which means marketed—as being healthy. Eat wisely, y'all.
Want more stories like this? Check out these xoNecole related reads:
Featured image by Getty Images