April Fueled – Healthy Alternatives to Junk Food in Disguise
Don’t play the fool with your diet this April.
Every day is April Fools’ Day for many food companies clamoring for your business. With clever marketing, they can trick you into thinking you’re eating something far more healthy than you really are. Don’t allow this to become a detriment to your health. If something seems too good to be true, do some research before making it a part of your daily routine, and watch out for these four common fooling foods.
If it’s gluten-free, it has to be healthy, right? Wrong, and gluten-free bread isn’t the only culprit. Over the past few years, the variety of gluten-free products has increased, including bagels, donuts, and pizza. The gluten-free label sure does make it sound healthy, but commercially produced gluten-free breads and cookies are not made by magically mashing up brown rice and baking it with olive oil and cinnamon. Overly processed, nutrient-deficient, high-glycemic index flours and additives such as white rice flour and white potato starch are typically frontrunners in the mix. A steady diet of items like this can lead you down an unwanted path of blood sugar issues, weight gain, and inflammation.
Naturally gluten-free foods such as sweet potatoes, quinoa, beans, and brown rice have always been clean food choices and should continue to be your primary carbohydrate sources, along with fresh fruits and veggies. However, if you need that piece of toast sitting beside your organic eggs, choose 100-percent sprouted-grain breads. Food For Life’s Ezekiel breads are never processed into flour. True whole grains, with all their fiber and nutrients, are soaked and sprouted in water, and then slowly mashed and mixed into dough to be baked in small batches. If you are truly gluten sensitive or avoiding gluten for other reasons, the Ezekiel breads won’t be safe for you as they do contain wheat (albeit sprouted). Your best bet is consuming gluten-free foods in their whole form or making your own gluten-free breads from nutrient-dense, lower-glycemic index coconut and almond flours.
Almond and Coconut Milk Yogurts
If almond and coconut milks are low-sugar alternatives to dairy milk, then the almond and coconut milk yogurts must be healthy and low in sugar too, right? Nope. Most yogurts do seem like a smart choice with all those friendly probiotics (healthy bacteria needed for GI health and immune function), and unsweetened/original almond and coconut milks are top alternatives to cow’s milk, but their yogurts aren’t quite up to snuff. Fruit flavored coconut milk yogurts can have more than 21 grams of sugar per 6 ounces (25 grams of carbs total). The plain yogurt may be better with 7-12 grams of sugar (18 grams of carbs total), but protein ranges from 0-2 grams. Almond milk yogurt’s numbers are quite similar, with a slight bump in protein at about 6 grams, as some are infused with a few grams of vegan pea protein.
If cow’s milk is agreeable with your stomach, choose plain organic Greek yogurt with its 4-6 grams of sugar and a whopping 17 grams of protein per 6 ounces. Goat and sheep’s milk may be easier to digest if cow’s milk is questionable. Goat milk can taste a little strong in flavor to some people, but sheep’s milk yogurt is mild and closer to cow’s milk in taste. With only 3 grams of sugar and 10 grams of protein per 6 ounces, plain sheep’s yogurt from Old Chatham Sheepherding Company is a great alternative if cow’s milk yogurt is making you bloated and gassy, but you don’t want to go for the sugary alternatives. If all animal dairy is off limits, get your probiotics via supplement form or go for the live cultures found in the plain coconut milk by So Delicious.
Veggie chips…they’re pretty much dried vegetables in a bag, right? Definitely wrong. White potato is a vegetable, so should we start considering a tube of Pringles multiple vegetable servings? Not a chance. Even though veggie chips may contain some spinach or tomato (most likely in a processed powder form), they’re predominantly still white potato based. Worse yet, 90 percent of “chips” in most grocery stores—even in health food stores—contain that all too common dangerous mix of soy, corn, safflower, and/or sunflower oils. Even those nutritionally angelic sounding sweet potato chips are culprits of sporting these bad oils. Soy and corn will most likely be genetically modified—if not organic—and all are considered very unstable (turning rancid) at higher cooking temperatures.
If you want veggies in a bag, you should really just buy some carrots, celery, bell peppers, and broccoli, give them a wash and chop, and pack them in a baggie along with hummus for dipping. Other optimal options include using a dehydrator and making your own true veggie chips. No dehydrator? Kale chips can be made in the oven with coconut oil, salt, and pepper. Store bought kale chips are okay, too, just be careful of those with lots of additives. For an occasional splurge of actual potato chips, look into companies using only healthy, heat-stable oils like Honest Potato Chips (coconut oil) and Good Health Natural Foods (avocado oil).
As natural as it sounds, fruit juice is not something that should be part of your regular diet. With approximately 27 grams of carbs per 8 ounces (24 grams coming from sugar), it’s got pretty much the same sugar and carbohydrate content as 8 ounces of soda. Don’t be fooled by anything in that long grocery aisle filled with endless flavors of brightly colored sugar bombs. The “100 percent fruit juice” label won’t even help you here. Both the 100 percent juice and “cocktail” version with added sugars and sweeteners give you few nutrients.
If you want 100 percent fruit, eat a piece of fruit. You can also throw fruit in a juicer along with organic greens. If you want a quick-grab beverage without all the sugar, hit the health food store and stock up on coconut water. Coconuts are technically classified as a fruit, so you’ll still be reaching for a “fruit juice,” but one with far more health benefits. Coconut water comes from the low-calorie, naturally fat- and cholesterol-free clear liquid of young, green coconuts (not to be confused with the high fat/calorie thick textured canned coconut milk). Boasting the potassium of more than four bananas, coconut water contains all five essential electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium). It will not only leave you refreshed with its light, sweet flavor, but it will also replace electrolytes lost during workouts and help keep muscle cramps at bay. Its sodium content is a little lower than your typical sports drinks, but it’s nothing a sprinkle of sea salt can’t fix on particularly heavy training days when sodium losses may be higher.