During COVID-19, many of us having been snacking more throughout our days as we spend more time at home. A mid-day energy bar washed down with fruit juice sounds like a healthy choice. But, these items — and some others we might enjoy — aren’t as good for us as we think.
Take a look through these secretly unhealthy foods, and learn some tasty alternatives to try instead.
1. Energy bars
Energy bars are portable and convenient, and that’s a big reason why people love them. But the bars’ benefits often stop there. Many of these snacks have as much sugar and as many calories as candy bars do. Grab a serving of almonds to get fiber and protein instead.
2. Dried fruit
It’s fruit, so it can’t be that unhealthy, right? Dried pineapple, mango, papaya and other fruits are so delicious because they often have added sugar to make them taste even better. If you’re looking for a healthier oatmeal topping or snack, try plain, dried apricot. It’s packed with fiber and vitamin C. It’s also easy to digest thanks to its low amount of natural sugars.
3. Bran muffins
Foods with bran have long been hailed as wholesome, and bran itself is really good for you. It can even lower your cholesterol. However, the ready-made bran muffins from the grocery store might be packed with extra sugar and salt so they taste better. It’s also common for premade bran muffins to have much more wheat flour than actual oat bran. This sugar makes them a secretly unhealthy food — similar to doughnuts and cakes than healthy snacks. Bake bran muffins at home to add enough fiber and keep portion sizes smaller.
4. Agave nectar
This low-glycemic sweetener is a favorite ingredient for people who want to keep their blood sugar levels from spiking. Unfortunately, some agave nectar is 90% or more fructose — a natural sugar that can change the way your body produces hormones and also lead to obesity and diabetes. To keep your blood sugar even and still enjoy sweetness, try plant-derived stevia instead.
5. Fruit juice
Don’t let the word “fruit” fool you again. Just like dried fruit, premade fruit juices are often packed with hidden added sugars that make them taste great — and lack the health benefits of fresh apples, cherries, grapes and other fruits. Try unsweetened juices instead. Or, make your own smoothies using fresh fruit, veggies and your blender.
6. Pita chips
Pita chips seem like a great grab-and-go snack when you want something crunchy. Nutrition-wise, however, they’re not great for you. Pita chips are usually made of enriched wheat or white flours, and they don’t have enough fiber to keep your blood sugar stable. If you’re craving crunchiness, go for carrots and cucumber slices.
7. Vitamin-enriched water
While vitamin-enriched water can give you some extra nutrients, it’s much better to get those vitamins from whole foods. That way, your body absorbs more of the vitamins. Plus, you won’t have to drink all the added sugar in these beverages. Why not have a fresh, vitamin-packed salad instead?
8. Frozen veggie burgers
We often hear how heart-healthy vegetarian foods can be, but veggie burgers from the freezer aisle aren’t a ticket to healthy living. Many aren’t even made with real vegetables. Skip the wheat- and soy-based patties and try veggie burgers with whole, unprocessed ingredients.
Learn more about the clinical nutrition services we offer at Mercy Health.