health

Most people think these foods are healthy. Most people are wrong.

“By now, we all have a pretty good idea of which foods aren’t particularly healthy.”

By now, we all have a pretty good idea of which foods aren’t particularly healthy.

Cheeseburgers, cronuts, hot chips, Nutella Oreos (a DIY creation, try it, you can thank me later) and all similar food options are all DELICIOUS, but quite clearly offer zero nutritional value and maximum calories. We all know that.

It’s on the healthy side of things where it all starts to get a bit confusing. After all, there are plenty of foods out there that are seemingly healthy – but on closer inspection, are actually really not all that good for you.

Here are some healthy-but-not-healthy foods to be aware of, so you can be truly informed the next time you’re pushing your trolley through the supermarket.

Your bread should be made up of at least 51% wholegrains.

1. Multi-grain bread

I get all smug when I opt for anything but white bread with my sandwich. To me, anything with any reference to “grains” sounds pretty good, so I just assumed that all those brown breads were bound to be healthy.

Oh, how silly I have been. It turns out that you really want wholegrain bread – not multi-grain or wholemeal – as it contains the entire grain, which is a good source of everything from protein and iron to Vitamin E and magnesium.

Other breads, such as wholemeal bread, can still contain refined flour, which means that they’re not as high in fibre and nutrients. So when you’re shopping for bread at the supermarket, always look for packaging that says “wholegrain” on the pack and take a look at the ingredients. Your bread should be made up of at least 51% wholegrains and not contain any hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners or preservatives.

The Heart Foundation also suggests choosing breads based on their nutritional panels; look for those with sodium 400mg or less per 100g and fibre 4g or more per 100g.

2. Nuts

Nuts are excellent, in that they provide a great mix of omega-3 acids and protein. That is until they start being salted or roasted – sadly, high temperatures, excess salt and unhealthy roasting oils can quickly kill the nutritional benefits of your nutty snack.

I know it’s not as tasty, but go for the unsalted, dry-roasted versions of your almonds, cashews and peanuts. And keep an eye on portion sizes so you’re not gorging yourself on crazy amounts of nuts (according to the Healthy Food Guide, 15 brazil nuts contain more kilojoules than your standard Mars Bar). The Heart Foundation suggests that a serving of nuts is 30 grams, about a handful.

If you do go for Japanese, stick to the sashimi and the traditional healthier rolls.

3. Sushi

Sushi is a great lunch or dinner option… unless you’re always going for the sushi rolls with plenty of mayonnaise or deep-fried tempura options. (Which I do.)

Unfortunately, it’s a fast way to turn your meal around into unhealthy territory.

If you do go for Japanese, stick to the sashimi and the traditional healthier rolls, and grab some edamame to accompany it all as well.

4. Gluten-free food

These days, gluten-free food is kept in the ‘healthy’ aisles of supermarkets, so it’s easy to think that you’re automatically being healthier if you’re going for a gluten-free cake mix rather than a regular one. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

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As dietitan Nicole Senior told me, unless you have a diagnosed problem with gluten, you’re actually worse off following a gluten-free diet. “The problem with gluten-free is that it’s now seen as a health term or a health claim, and that’s not the case,” she said. “Gluten-free products are highly processed, lower in fibre and lower in nutrients and high GI.”

Just look at the nutritional info panel of a gluten-free product next time you’re in the aisle if you need proof. Plenty of sugar all up in there.

5. Salads

Salads are great – all those greens! – until you start adding the things that make those greens taste not like greens. Dressings and cheeses and croutons can all contribute to raising the unhealthy fat and cholesterol levels in your meal. Instead, try using olive oil as a dressing and amp up the healthy fats by adding things like avocado and pine nuts.

Sadly for juice lovers, fruit juice is missing most of the things that makes fruit so good for you.

6. Fruit juice

Earlier this year, a primary school in London banned fruit juice for its students, claiming that it’s just as bad as fizzy drinks. And in February this year, our very own ACT government went hard on sugary drinks, banning soft drinks and juice in the vending machines of Catholic private schools.

The issue is, of course, sugar. Sadly for juice lovers, fruit juice is missing most of the things that makes fruit so good for you, even if it claims to be the highest-quality juice you can buy – and it can contain just as much sugar as a Coke.

Your better option is to just eat your fruit, or if you absolutely must drink it, blend it into a smoothie. That way, you’re getting everything – the fibre, the vitamins, the minerals – and not losing out on any goodness. The Australian Dietitian’s Association also suggests diluting juice with water or ice, and limiting juice to just a half glass per day.

Just don’t drown the tomato in dressing, K?

7. Dried fruit

Same deal for dried fruit – often, it can have a significant amount of added sugar in order to keep it preserved. Go for the organic and natural stuff if you can, or if you’re particularly fond of a dried fruit, why not try drying it yourself?

8. Anything low fat.

Check those ingredients labels. There can be some very scary trans fats and artificial sweeteners added to those products. Low fat does not automatically mean good for you.

9. Organic snack items

The other day, I picked up a packet of organic chocolate-coated rice cakes as a healthy snack. And then I realised that they were COATED IN CHOCOLATE and therefore not really a healthy snack at all.

This is just one example of me buying into the whole food label thing and automatically assuming that something is good for you when it’s not. Organic does not automatically equal healthy. Which is sad for everyone who’s gone to buy an organic cake or biscuit, thinking they’re off the hook because it’s made without artificial chemicals.

Can you think of any other foods that really aren’t too healthy at all?

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