7 “Healthy” Foods that Actually Suck.

If you’ve been reading Nerd Fitness for a while, you’ll know that us rebels here at the Nerd Fitness Rebellion aren’t a big fan of the Empire.  They try to keep us down, trick us, sell us crap we don’t need, and convince us that the “healthy” foods and products they’re marketing are actually healthy.

I say no more.

Today, I’m exposing the Empire’s plan for world domination. They might not be rebuilding the Death Star (yet…), but that doesn’t mean they’re not still causing mayhem.  In case you haven’t noticed, despite all of these “scientific breakthroughs” and healthy products readily available for sale, we’re certainly not getting any skinnier as a country.  Something needs to change, and it starts with where we spend our hard earned money.

Here are seven foods that have been created by the Empire to prey upon the ignorant masses trying to get healthy.  Have you fallen victim to any of these marketing Sarclacc pits? (see what I did there?)

VitaminWater and Gatorade

The official beverages of Storm Troopers galaxy-wide!

From the VitaminWater website: “For more responsible hydration, vitaminwater is a nutrient-packed great tasting water with added electrolytes. it can provide a step towards better health…”  After reading that, how could anyone be led to believe that VitaminWater is anything less than a healthy alternative to water?

As it turns out, VitaminWater is nothing more than sugar-water with a bunch of synthetic chemical vitamins added. At 32 grams of sugar per bottle (which they disguise by putting 2.5 servings in each bottle), it’s not much better than a can of soda.

Earlier this year, the makers of VitaminWater (Coca-Cola…ruh roh) were sued for making false claims that vitmainwater was healthy.  Want to know how Coke’s lawyers decided to defend themselves?

“…no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.”

Epic fail.

Unfortunately, our pal sporty Gatorade doesn’t fair much better. They’ve positioned themselves as the beverage to consume while exercising thanks to the fantastic combination of Electrolytes!  Welp, unless you are running marathons and at risk of severe dehydration, you’re probably consuming more calories than you just burned in that one-hour cardio session (thanks to Gatorade’s disgustingly high sugar content).

Not cool.

“Whole grain” bagels, muffins, and cereal

Everything is “made with whole grain!!!” these days.

Thanks to the Empire telling us that we need to be eating 6-11 servings of whole grains per day, we’re all loading up on things like whole grain bagels, bread, muffins, and cereal!  They’ve been pushing this on us since the 80s, and look where that has lead us.

Want to know how bad it’s become? These are the cereals that are being marketed to our nation’s youth (and the ignorant parents who buy them) as a healthy way to start the day:

General Mills, you’re trying to tell me that Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Lucky Charms are GOOD FOR YOU?

What planet do you come from!? (a valid question in this Star Wars-themed post).  These cereals are so freaking loaded down with sugar and carbohydrates that it’s no surprise that our children are getting bigger and bigger.  For more information, read this article from Businessweek on the fallacies of the food industry when it comes to whole grains.

Let’s look at another “healthy” breakfast food – bran muffins! Bran is allegedly good, these muffins are made with whole grains, what’s not to like?  Unfortunately, muffins are pretty much cake that’s consumed before noon.  They’re so calorically dense that they can be used as a flotation device (don’t quote me on that).

And for those of you that decide to go with a bagel instead of a donut to be “healthy,” it’s possible for bagels to contain twice the number of calories as a donut.  They’re both created with processed, bleached flour and loaded with a comical amount of carbohydrates.  They’re like brothers from another mother.

So what’s wrong with all of these carbs and sugars? Unfortunately, once they get into your system, they’re converted to glucose to be either immediately burned as energy or stored as fat.

Rather than explain why this can make you fat, here’s a fantastic video that I’ll reference until the day I join Obi-Wan:


“Why You Got fat” video

Granola bars

Hippies eat granola bars, and hippies are skinny (usually); therefore, they have to be good for you, right?

Take a look at any granola bar’s packaging and you’ll see a beautiful environment that looks like it came from the forests of Endor.  Check out at Nature Valley’s website if you don’t know what I’m talking about.  Nature, goodness, whole grains, healthy, earth – that’s the vibe I get.

Unfortunately it’s way off.

I practically grew up on Oats n’ Honey bars. Years later I looked at the ingredients label and learned how terrible they really are.  These are the top seven ingredients in this healthy bar:

  1. Whole grain oats (there’s that “whole grain” again)
  2. Sugar
  3. Canola Oil
  4. Yellow Corn Flour
  5. Honey
  6. Soy Flour
  7. Brown Sugar Syrup

Uggggghhhhh. Other granola bars can be better, containing more raw nuts, less processed ingredients, and some dried fruit (which can be very sugary too, so watch out),  but for the most part, store-bought granola bars (especially ones from Quaker Oats, yikes) are a poor substitute for real foods.

They’re also incredibly tiny but very heavy on calories, so you’ll quickly be ready to eat again after finishing one (or two, or three…)

“Low Fat” and “No Sugar Added” Labels

Mind tricks from the dark side, my dear rebel.

Everything is “low fat” these days. After all, fat makes you fat, right?!   Wrong; few people (outside of the smarty pants here on NF) realize that there’s a far stronger correlation between carbs/sugar and body fat than dietary fat and body fat.

If you’re curious as to why fat is wrongfully vilified in today’s society, read these two articles and your mind will be blown:

Despite all of the evidence that exonerates poor fat, change is extremely slow to come.  For a laugh (okay it probably won’t make you laugh), next time you’re in the super market take a look at the back of a regular Oreos package and the back of a LOW FAT Oreos package.  The low fat package contains more calories and sugar than the regular package.  This isn’t an isolated incident either; it happens in low fat foods all over the place.  In order to make the low fat foods taste good, they remove the fat and replace it with more sugar and sodium!

You have failed me for the last time.

I think the one that makes me laugh even harder is the “no sugar added” labels. Want to know why there’s no sugar added to your new favorite juices, ice cream, and other foods?  It’s because they’re already LOADED with the stuff!  Be smart and look at the back of the label, not the front of the package.

Fruit Juice

Do you start your day off with a huge glass of apple juice or orange juice? I understand why you do, but here’s why you shouldn’t.

Apple juice, orange juice, cranberry juice, grapejuice, etc. might as well be labeled “sugar water.”  Why is that?  When the fruit is squeezed to make juice, you get all of the sugar and none of the fiber.  Throw in some preservatives, extra sugar for flavor, and a few other ingredients and you have yourself a “healthy juice drink made with real fruit!”

Here is a typical amount of sugar for four popular beverages (stats from DailyBurn):

  • Orange juice - 21g of sugar
  • Apple juice - 28g of sugar
  • Cranberry juice – 37g of sugar
  • Grapejuice - 38g of sugar

For reference, a can of teeth-rotting, insulin-spiking, fat-inducing Coca-Cola has 40g of sugar.  Here’s a similar statement coming from the LA Times.  Still want that fruit juice, young padowan?

Learn to love water, you will.

Here’s a little known fact that you won’t learn anywhere else:

Darth Vader was a huge fan of cranberry juice cocktail.

Real Fruit Smoothies

Juices might not be healthy because they’re squeezed, but smoothies have the ENTIRE fruit blended in there, so it has to be better, right?

It’s a trap!

When you swing through a smoothie shop and ask for a real fruit smoothie made with real fruit juices, you’ll get some funky concoction with a few pieces of frozen real fruit, eight ounces of “fruit juice,” along with possibly a few other things, resulting in a beverage that has enough calories for an entire meal and enough sugar to make a tauntaun go berserk.

Let’s look at the nutrition content from the 32 oz. smoothies from Smoothie KingPay particular attention to the sugar column:

GOOD LORD. I look at the sugar column, and weep for the fate of the galaxy.

I generally advise people to try and keep their sugar content at or below 30g per DAY if they’re trying to lose weight quickly.  Order an 32oz Orange Ka-Bam and you’ll be consuming the equivalent of four cans of coke in one 32 oz. beverage.  Drink enough of these smoothies with regularity and you’ll book yourself a one-way ticket onboard the nearest Imperial Star Destroyer to the lesser-known planet Type-2 Diabetes (weird name for a planet, I know).

If you want a smoothie, make it at home with your own ingredients. Go with either water, reduced sugar juice, or almond milk for your mixing beverage, and your body will thank you.

Salads

Hopefully you know this already, but there is a WIDE range of various foods that can be considered a salad. When thinking about unhealthy salads, I’m always reminded of this Real Men of Genius commercial:


Taco Salad Inventor Commercial

Sure there are green things in salads (yay vegetables!), but the salads are also usually loaded up with croutons, high-calorie, high-sugar, high-sodium salad dressings, and even sometimes fried chicken or other extremely unhealthy.

May the Force Be With You

Hopefully at this point you already know why all of these grains, carbs, and grams of sugar are bad for you.  If not, brush up on your knowledge by reading my Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet, which explains why our bodies aren’t biologically equipped to deal with those types of food.

May the knowledge learned from today aid you in the fight against the tyrannical Empire for years and years to come.  If you’re curious about a particular type of food and whether it’s good or bad for the Rebellion, read the back label carefully – explored the serving sizes, total number of calories per servings, and amount of carbs, sodium, and sugar.  Keep those numbers down, and the battle will turn in your favor.

What other “healthy” foods have I left out?  I would love to add to this list so that people know.

Until Monday from Massachusetts, may the force be with you.

-Steve

Today’s NF Rebel Hero of the day – Shawn D., or Dawsy as he’s known around the Nerd Fitness message boards, is officially the first person in Australia to own a Nerd Fitness shirt.  When he sent this picture to me the other day of him wearing it, I couldn’t help but smile.  With today’s article being Star Wars-themed, I couldn’t think of a better time to share it.

Have you ordered your Nerd Fitness shirt yet? Pick one up and send me a photo – you could be the next Rebel Hero.

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  • phallacy

    Eating healthy has more to do with common sense than anything else. It is very simple.

  • wal11

    That smothie thing is kinda scary also what has America come to when a 12000. Cal. Salad is celebrated with a beer

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Elisabeth-Fies/666503217 Elisabeth Fies

    Anyone know if Odwalla Superfood or Naked Green Machine are healthy and good for a Paleo diet?

  • http://twitter.com/SproutLifestyle Skylor Powell

    This is a great article – i love how in depth you go. We are so quick to take the easy way out when it comes to nutrition – and food companies know that! if it has a healthy label – people will jump on that and assume that they are making a great choice. Thanks for bringing this to light!

  • http://www.facebook.com/loveapplemint Aimee Kaija
  • http://www.facebook.com/kimberly.gneiting Kimberly Gneiting

    Being Type one Diabetic, I always watch the sugar in all my foods and have for years. I used to just shake my head at the “healthy” smoothies as opposed to ice cream shakes. I’ve been making my own smoothies for a while now, and it’s pretty simple,

    4 oz of milk or soy or almond milk,
    4 oz of unsweetened greek yogurt,
    a scoop of your choice of vanilla or chocolate whey protein powder.
    and one cup of the fruit of your choice,
    Optional add ons one teaspoon of vanilla extract. if you want it thicker you can used frozen fruit or add ice, I also like to add a tablespoon of ground flax seed for my omega three’s but that is about it.

    this will give you a 16 oz shake and only 30 g of carbs and half of that is from the fresh fruit. I did a strawberry and vanilla for my 10 yr nephew and he loved it, said it was better than a strawberry shake, granted you have to be careful which protein powder you use, some have more sugar and carbs, but I find one of those is a good breakfast substitue and the protein keeps me full. and you can always make more or less by tweaking the portions.

    but you can do almost anything with this, you could reduce the yogurt and add peanut butter, banana and chocolate protein powder

    I’ve yet to experiment with veggies in them but I am sure I will as I continue to explore a more paleo lifestyle.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kimberly.gneiting Kimberly Gneiting

    They way I understand it is that the sugars in fruit, is healthier because it’s still part of the fruit. Plant fiber in fruit will slow down how quickly the sugar is absorbed into your blood stream preventing sugar highs, the fiber will also keep you satiated. For example 4 oz of an apple ( a little smaller than a fist) has 15 grams of sugar, the same as 4 oz of apple juice but the apple will keep you full, the juice will give you energy but you’ll still be hungry. if you want something sweet, fruit is certainly the way to go but you have to watch your portions. not all fruit is created equal. 4 oz of apple has the same sugar as a cup of berries or 3 oz of cherries or grapes, or a cup of various melons. but all of these portions will probably have half the sugar of a candy bar. I have not had a twinkie in to long to know how much sugar is in them.

    Juice, like white sugar and white flour is a refined sugar, it breaks down fast in the body causing a surge of insulin to be released to counter it but because it breaks down quickly you don’t feel satiated and there is no nutrition in it, (well there is some nutrition in juice but it’s best not to go above 4 ozs and have it with a meal) leaving you craving more calories. One tablespoon of sugar will spike you just as fast as1/4 cup of white refined flower. If you are really interested to see how fast sugar can spike you up, you can do search on the glycemic index.

    Protien and most leafy green veggies have almost no sugar, the protein fibers and plant fibers, aside from having other nutrients, also make your body work to digest your food, making you feel fuller longer, also healthy fats like alvocados and such, are also good for you as a source of omega threes, you just have to watch the portions. you still get calories from them, just not from sugar and again these take more effort for your body to digest. If you still choose to eat grains the whole grains, the ones that are unprocessed and still have fiber are the best, and will slow the absorbtion of sugars but the sugar is still there. Any and all grain consumption should be tightly watched. that also goes for starchy veggies like corn or potatoes. a half a cup of potatoes or corn has the same sugars as a slice of white bread.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kimberly.gneiting Kimberly Gneiting

    I’ve been type one diabetic for three years. and before that my elder sister had the same condition since she was ten. In other words our own imune systems attacked out pancreas for some unknown reason and our bodies no longer make any insulin. Suffice it to say I had a crash course three years ago about how much sugar and is in foods and how much insulin I needed to take to counter it in my blood to prevent dangerous sugar highs without taking to much to have dangerous blood sugar lows. I became a consummate label reader once I was diagnosed so I knew about the smoothies and salads and drinks and such as well as the low fat foods.

    For anyone who wants to look up guidelines to proper fruit portions a diabetes website may be a good idea to visit as well as sites that talk about the glycemic index to see how refined sugars vs sugars found in fruits compare.

  • jogi

    im wondering about the drink called clight / crystal light.
    its a powder you mix with water.it has almost no calories and no sugar but it tastes incredibly sweet.there must be something wrong with this like with diet coke right ?

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  • Helen

    I like your website, excellent review for Paleo, many thanks for sharing your experience x

  • Stephanie Russell-Potter

    Jogi – The issue with these is the artificial sugars. Some flavors of Crystal Light contain aspartame, one of the most
    dangerous artificial sweeteners. Side effects of aspartame include
    headaches, anxiety, abdominal pain, nausea, heart palpitations and
    irritable bowel syndrome. Acesulfame potassium is another artificial
    sweetener used in some Crystal Light varieties. This sweetener contains
    methylene chloride, which is a known carcinogen. Therefore, long-term
    use of this carcinogen may cause cancer. Other side effects include
    nausea, headaches and impaired liver…..=/

  • Stephanie Russell-Potter

    Please talk about artificial sugar! SO BAD!!

  • Lara Jones

    small aside carrageenan is used as an experimental irritant. My in second year of university I was my lecturer, an expert on inflammation particularly MS, to avoid ice cream as it contains carrageenan.

  • Leeran7742

    MY WHOLE LIFE IS A LIE!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ilona Tarnavsky

    Yogurt! Yoplait commercials literally cause me to weep, because everybody turns to yogurt as a “healthy” snack, not knowing any better.

  • Observer_70

    FYI, I recently found this reference on how to avoid foods with carrageenan. It lists substitutes.
    http://www.cornucopia.org/shopping-guide-to-avoiding-organic-foods-with-carrageenan/

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  • nobody

    Sad to see that granola bars are bad, but not surprised. The salads I have sometimes have grilled chicken in them, but are loaded with leafy greens, cucumbers, carrots, snap peas (my fave) and broccoli (my 2nd fave). I only put a small amount of salad dressing on it.

  • Kirsten

    I know this article is old but what are your thoughts on the more natural granola bars? More specifically the Kind brand? They are delicious and only have a few ingredients. My only concern is they have brown rice syrup in place of corn syrup and I’m not sure how horrible that stuff is

  • Zach Freeman

    I’m always immediately leary of anything that uses “vegan” as a prefix to something that is naturally an animal product.