It was one of our Healthier & Fitter in 4 Weeks Challenge participants that inspired me to write this article. We are all proud of Kelly as she refused a cake yesterday, although it was “vegan and low sugar”. Many would even go as far as to say it is a “healthy cake”. Truth is – result to your blood sugar levels and impact on hormones would be just the same. Of course it is better when we use less sugar, but, it is not a great difference you might think it is.
I have recently visited Vegan festival here in Bath. What a fabulous movement, veganism that is. It is needed to bring our awareness of the suffering of animals. I believe in it and believe that is where, as a society, we must venture not only to save our souls from animals being mistreated in our name, but to save the environment too. Although, as we get the honey from the bees, I see nothing wrong from getting milk & cheese from the cows or eggs from our feathery friends. As long as we demand our food suppliers treat our animals with respect, as the nature intended. We must not stay ignorant of the way animals are torchered in life and death, in the name of our ever-growing food demand.
That is it on that subject for now as it is a different subject entirely. What was apparent from the probably good 90% of the food choices offered at the Bath Vegan Festival – we have a long way to go to understand what healthy and balanced means.
So, let’s start there when we talk about foods that are not entirely healthy although name would suggest they are. Some are even food frauds. But both are just the same – sneaky little diet wreckers.
Just because it is vegan, with no animal ingredients, it does not make it healthy. Look at the label. 1 gr of protein content per 100 gr? Do not bother with it! Look for 8-10 gr of protein per 100 gr of product. It can still be loaded with sugar, so, again, go back to your label. 1 apple has 10 grams of sugar, so, if a vegan snack has anything over 8-10 grams per bar, it is way too much and it is nothing more than a carb snack that will raise your blood sugar levels and make you hungry very often and even craving more. Vegan is not a guarantee of “balanced” or “healthy”. It is just a guarantee to someone who chooses to be vegan that it is safe to eat and does not contain animal ingredients.
2. Fresh Smoothies
That “healthy” berry blend at a smoothie bar or café can pack up a whopping 60-80 grams of sugar, almost your daily limit for sugar, up to 350 calories per glass, no protein and often no fresh fruit either. What they do is use vitamin-poor fruit “concentrates” instead of more expensive fresh fruit. Imagine what that does to your blood sugar levels. Instead, get the smallest cup and ask for fresh fruit, low-fat yoghurt, milk or protein powder to blend in good nutrition.
3. Energy or fruit bars
Many of these are simply enhanced sweets with more calories (some might have even up to 500) and a higher price tag. Their compact size also leaves many people unsatisfied – three bites and it’s gone… Instead, choose bars that have 150-200 calories the most, at least 8-10 grams of protein and, ideally some fibre too. This will keep the blood sugar level stable and not cause any sugar rush.
4. Low-fat yoghurt
Too often this nutritional superstar that is rich in protein and calcium – contains shocking amounts of added sugar. Some brands add 30 or more grams of fructose, sucrose or other sweeteners. 100 gr of yoghurt should have up to 60 calories and no more than 5-7 gr of sugar. Avoid the sugary “fruit on the bottom”, but just have a plain yoghurt – low fat or full fat – and just add handful of berries to it yourself, as an example.
Most low-fat foods such as biscuits, yoghurt, even things like low-fat peanut butter have got the same amount of calories as the full fat versions because all that happened is reduced fat was replaced by sugar.
5. Enhanced or Vitamin Water
Vitamins are commonly added to bottled water and advertised on the front label. Some brands also add sugar, taking water from zero calories to as much as 125. Often the vitamins don’t contribute much, but the calories can contribute a lot. Keeping tap water in the fridge may make it more appealing to the family. As an alternative, try adding some lemon (with a bit of honey, or not), fresh herbs, infuse water with chopped fruit. My favourite is adding soothing Herbalife’s Aloe Concentrate as a healthy and refreshing alternative to plain water or drinking tea, my favourite being our energy boosting, antioxidant Thermo tea based on green tea and other ingredients.
6. Fruit Juices
This is a big one, actually. Fruit juice is often perceived as healthy, which is understandable, given that it is natural and has the word “fruit” in it. However, what many people fail to realize is that fruit juice is also loaded with sugar. In fact, fruit juice contains just as much sugar and calories as a sugary soft drink like coca cola… and sometimes even more. The small amounts of vitamins and antioxidants in the juice do not make up for the large amount of sugar and that is even if it’s labelled as “100% pure” and “not from concentrate.” After being squeezed from the fruit, the juice is usually stored in massive oxygen-depleted holding tanks for up to a year before it is packaged. The main problem with this method is that it tends to remove most of the flavour, so the manufacturers need to add so-called “flavor packs” to the juice in order to bring back the flavour that was lost during processing.
So even if you’re buying the highest quality juices at the supermarket, they are still far from their original state and will be full of sugar.
Make your own freshly squeezed juice, but, be careful here too… It is easy to juice two apples and three oranges before you get a decent cup of juice. This still spells sugar and this particular combination can easily have around 25-30 grams of sugar. So, the way to do juicing is to have a ratio of 80% vegetables and 20% fruit only.
7. Salads, especially Caesar salad
A small bowl of Caesar salad can serve up 300-400 calories and 30 grams of fat, thanks to loads of dressing, cheese and croutons. At some restaurants, this salad can pack up 800-1000 calories. Ask for the ingredients on the side so you can leave out the croutons; limit dressing to one tablespoon; and enjoy a tablespoons of tangy Parmesan cheese. When it comes to other salads, limit dressings, use lemon juice instead and focus on vegetables and lean protein.
When you see “multi-grain” on bread, pasta or waffles, turn the package over and check the nutrition label. Even with more than one type of grain, the product could be made largely from refined grains – such as white flour – which, we know, have been stripped of fibre and most nutrients. Look for “100% whole grain” as the first ingredient, or choose the brand with more fibre.
Cabbage can be great for weight loss, but coleslaw can be a diet disaster. A restaurant serving can soon scoop 200 to 300 calories and over 20 grams of fat, which is third of most people’s daily limit, because of mayonnaise. Some places offer a healthier coleslaw, so ask for nutrition information. At home, try making it with fat-free yoghurt instead of mayonnaise, it tastes even nicer.
10. Dried Fruit
While dried fruit has a positive aspect of containing fibre and providing vitamins, they are also high in sugar and calories, and can cause problems when eaten in excess and it is very easy to eat them in excess. Small 100 gram packed has over 350 calories and staggering 60 grams of sugar. Remember 90 grams is our daily limit of sugar intake. Instead, choose fresh version, although dried fruit is clearly better than processed fruit products, so, if having dried fruit, half a small handful can go a long way.
11. Flavoured Coffees and Teas
Yes, it was supposed to be 10 food frauds, however, just as I was finishing, I remembered my recent experience. I recently ordered Chai Latte from one of the coffee shop giants as I absolutely love the taste of chai tea. I thought it was a chai tea bag in a glass of hot milk. It was delicious and I had it several times over the course of under two weeks. What bothered me was the sweet taste that just could not come from milk itself. Once I checked the website, I realised that they use syrup for flavour, not chai tea and that each serving is under 300 calories and each packs 4o+ grams of sugar. What a shock it was! Well, no more…
I hope you found this to be of a value. If so, please do share so we can, together, help educate more people about making right food choices that are healthy, balanced and will not wrack your diet efforts.
I believe that health is our greatest wealth, health is happiness, so wishing you to be healthy and happy, always