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 us a photo at contact@nerdfitness.com so we can feature you!

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87 thoughts on “7 “Healthy” Foods that Actually Suck.

  1. Bolthouse Farm drinks. Ugh…I love those things, but can’t believe how long I thought, “Hm, protein!” instead of “Huh…more sugar than a Pepsi…”

  2. My wife has had stomach issues for a while now and we almost thought she was becoming lactose intolerant. Then we found out about a little ingredient called “carrageenan”. It is nasty stuff and we have noticed that it is in a LOT of products, including ice cream/swiss mix/etc/etc. Anyways, certain ice-creams leave this out and we tested one of those on her and it didn’t have any effect. I would steer clear of it as much as possible.

  3. You covered just about everything here, Steve!

    I’d add “organic food” into the mix. Although I love me some organic fruit and veggies, I’m surprised at how many people think they are eating healthy by making the switch from conventional to organic mac and cheese, for instance.

    For everyone who liked the “Why You Got Fat” video here, check out Hulu for the full length version of the movie (Fat Head) where it’s streaming for free! It’ll definitely change your mind about how “bad” the fast food businesses are.

  4. Information that everyone should know.

    It amazes me how people think that if they read the marketing material on the front of the package that they find all they need to know about the nutritional value of an item. Guess what folks, that information is on the back. The marketing people are just smarter than you.

    People laugh that dont want to count calories or be concerned about what they eat, and that might work for some people, but for those of us on a diet or just wanting to eat healthy, getting familiar with what is on the back of the label is so damn important its not even funny.

    Great post Steve. Would love to see a follow up post on recommendations for what to eat in replacement of the above items.

  5. The best foods are those that don’t have labels. The next best are those that have a label which lists a single ingredient. The more ingredients, the lower the pure nutritional value of the food, almost without exception. Don’t be conned by added vitamins/minerals or by protein supplement salesmen. No “protein drink” is better for you than a hard boiled egg.

  6. First of all, you just broke my heart with the jab toward General Mills cereals. I will forever be a loyal customer to the makers of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. And Trix…you silly rabbit.

    Second of all, LOL to “Hippies eat granola bars, and hippies are skinny (usually); therefore, they have to be good for you, right?”

    Third of all, this may be my favorite post you’ve ever written. Very clever little lines in here! Jessie’s Stamp of Approval goes to you.

    Fourth of all, I gave up bread and alcohol for just one month and lost 10 pounds. Not that this has much to do with this post, I’m just super excited and proud of myself for this little feat…and I wanted to share.

  7. Just recently my family and I have noticed that now popcorn is going “whole grain”. What the heck is this country going to?

  8. I have a problem keeping electrolytes in my system, so regularly drink G2, Powerade Zero and Smart Water. Or water with an Emergen-C packet in it. I’ve also discovered coconut water; it does have carbs, but I don’t eat all that many carbs. I gave up sugared cereals and sodas long ago.

    Protein bars are very deceptive with their “net” carbs. Plus they’re made with engineered soy. That stuff is so dang fartogenic. I eat one of those and I have to spend the afternoon away from society.

  9. I’m interested to know how unhealthy the sugar in fruit (and fruit juice) is. I was always under the impression that the sugar in, say, a twinkie was “refined” sugar, and thus particularly unhealthy, while the sugar in fruit is “good” sugar. Is all sugar created equal? I’m having a hard time getting my mind around the idea that fruit is not good for you.

    Also, what is the difference between calories that come from sugar vs. grain vs. protein?

    Thanks.

  10. I use himalayan salt on my food. It has all the trace minerals your body requires and they’re easily bioavailable. Table salt is isolated sodium chloride with added iodine.
    The himalayan salt tastes wonderful and at first you’ll want to use lots of it. I believe this is because of a body craving for the minerals. After awhile, you’ll use less. After using himalayan for awhile table salt will taste bad.

  11. I loved this post! But how about a list of things that we could replace those favorite granola bars and juices with? How should we change it? That’s my biggest difficulty.

  12. Steve–Great information! Thanks for your Rebellion leadership. I hear you on the salad front. It reminds me of a lunch I had not too long ago. I met someone at the Olive Garden…why? I don’t know. Wanting to choose healthy, I ordered the Chicken Caesar, rather than a pasta dish (wish I knew then, what I know now). It turns out that the 850 calories and 64 grams of fat I consumed…that’s right 64 grams of fat!…was far worse than many of the pasta dishes. Surprisingly, it would have been “less worse” to have Cheese Ravioli w/Marinara sacue: 660 calories and 22 g fat or Lasagna: 850 calories and 47g fat. Keep up the great work, and enjoy your travels!

  13. Informative! We’re being duped into thinking we’re eating healthy things (or drinking good stuff) even when we’re not…

  14. Informative! We’re being duped into thinking we’re eating healthy things (or drinking good stuff) even when we’re not…

  15. It killed me in high school to find out Kix was unhealthy, even though I had long since stopped eating it. Lucky Charms were my favorite but I certainly never suffered under the delusion that they were anything but junk.
    It’s worth pointing out that some of these foods are fine if you make them yourself. Granola bars are an amazing snack that you can engineer in your kitchen to provide lots of bang for the caloric buck.
    In the end, knowledge is far more important than being able to follow lists of “do” and “don’t”. The choices we face in life when it comes to food are seldom so black and white.

  16. Great post, Steve. I think sandwiches are another so-called healthy food that can make you gain weight. Most of us prefer to grab a sandwich when we are in hurry or busy because they are ‘low-calorie’, ‘nutritious’ and are satisfying. Unfortunately, not all varieties of sandwiches can be termed as healthy. A tuna sandwich filled with mayonnaise can contain nearly 975 calories. Coffee is considered a healthy beverage. However, a 16-ounce Starbucks Caffè Mocha can be loaded with 400 calories. Beware of falling prey to the so-called ‘healthy’ foods. For more information, you can visit http://fitnessweighttraining.blogspot.com/

  17. Great post, Steve. I think sandwiches are another so-called healthy food that can make you gain weight. Most of us prefer to grab a sandwich when we are in hurry or busy because they are ‘low-calorie’, ‘nutritious’ and are satisfying. Unfortunately, not all varieties of sandwiches can be termed as healthy. A tuna sandwich filled with mayonnaise can contain nearly 975 calories. Coffee is considered a healthy beverage. However, a 16-ounce Starbucks Caffè Mocha can be loaded with 400 calories. Beware of falling prey to the so-called ‘healthy’ foods. For more information, you can visit http://fitnessweighttraining.blogspot.com/

  18. I once had a friend who told me he was trying to be healthier, and one way of doing this was swapping out his Mountain Dew and Vitamin Water, which are basically the same thing calorie and sugar wise…d’oh!

  19. i plainly hate these things off the shelf. i drink no soft drinks, just coffee and water and rarely some milk. i like plain old pressed oats or oatmeal. hate no sugar stuff. i prefer not eating candies etc (tough i love sugar). hate these fast food salads. i eat greens with my meat (pork is best). i feel healthy and am even muscular, have little fat to show in my body.

  20. If you’re hooked on carbonated (fizzy) stuff and can’t give it up, try acquiring a taste for plain seltzer water. It’s bitter, but then so is beer, and if you aren’t overdosing on sugar you can get to like it. With a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and maybe a mint leaf, it’s not bad at all. Buy the store brand, it’s right next to the 2-liter sodas.

  21. p.s. Don’t buy “tonic water” (the stuff with quinine in it) unless you’re trying to stave off malaria! THAT stuff really does taste bad. You just want club soda.

  22. Good fat is not bad for you. I would much rather consume large amounts of healthy fat than pasta regardless of how many calories it contains. Calories by themselves mean almost NOTHING when you want to talk about body composition and weight loss. Start eating real, whole, foods (vegies, lean meats, and healthy fats) and cut out all of the refined crap (cereal, oat meal, bagels, pasta, bread, etc etc) that is so prevalent in our grocery stores these days and you will lose weight.

    You don’t even need to count calories… ever… unless you really want to. Eat ONLY real food and you WILL lose weight.

  23. Steve, please clarify why the calories from those sources are bad for you. There is a HUGE difference between a calorie from pasta than a calorie from whole foods like avocado, coconut, tuna, eggs, etc. The difference is in nutritional density. It seems like a lot of people have this idea that reducing calories alone will help them lose weight, and in reality what they really need to do is make sure that they are satiating themselves with proper edibles so that they don’t NEED to count calories.

  24. I think its made of a very tiny red beetle….thats the red coloring in some foods. WOW red beetles……what would they think of next to keep poisoning their own people?!!

  25. just eat food, not food products. shop around the peremiter of the store, and don’t buy the stuff in the middle. i was at my local health food store the other day and they had vegan sour cream, the second ingredient was hydrogenated oil, so you really need to pay attn. to the ingredients list.

  26. No it’s not, carageenan comes from seaweed. The red beetles you’re thinking of are used for carmine/cochineal, a red dye that is used in food colorings and lipstick. And fyi, many species of insects are edible and nutritious.

  27. Hi Steve,
    What do you think about Soy product? Soy milk, tofu…
    And what your view on dairy?
    (and Why?)
    Thanks,

    Catherine

  28. This is in regards to your comment about smoothies and a good substitute…
    I work at Starbucks and we offer those Vivanno Smoothies.. now just known as the Strawberry Smoothie, Chocolate Smoothie and Orange Mango Smoothie..
    Everyone thinks they are all super healthy– and I guess to an extent if you compare them to some of our other drinks they are– but as I also try to cut back on my sugar intake they are LOADED with sugar.

    SO my suggestion for a liquid substitution is to use tea.
    When we make them 2/3 of the liquid is a fruit liquid, then it gets a little dairy and then a banana.
    Instead I use our Passion Tea in substitute for the liquid fruit and then take the little bit of dairy its supposed to get and cut that in half… half getting dairy and the other half being the liquid fruit.

    So bottom line– if you brew tea and don’t add sugar to it add it to your smoothie, its delicious and good substitute if you are looking for flavor but don’t want the added sugar.

  29. Refined sugar is definitely worse for you than unrefined sugar (such as sugar in fruit), largely because refined sugars have been stripped of any mitigating beneficial value.  Unrefined cane sugar, for example, contains trace minerals that white sugar does not. Sugar in fruit also comes with the vitamins and fiber in the fruit.  Consuming large quantities of any kind of sugar isn’t so good for you.  HFCS is really the worst because it’s chemically very different from naturally occurring sugars (while HFCS is derived from corn, it’s done through a laboratory process, not a simple refining process).  Princeton recently released a study where HFCS was linked to metabolic syndrome and increased abdominal fat in rats compared to regular table sugar.  As far as the difference in calories between sugars, grains, and protein, it’s more to do with composition and how your body digests and uses it.  Protein and fat are absolutely essential, while grains and sugars are not so much.  They provide quick energy, which can be beneficial, but protein and fat provide energy stability as well as building blocks for the body.  Different people need different amounts of carbs in order to feel satisfied and healthy (and not gain excessive weight).  The recommended amounts vary depending on who you’re talking to, even amongst low-carb advocates.  If you severely limit your carbohydrate intake and it makes you feel awful, reintroduce some healthier carbs (fruits or starchy vegetables) and find the balance of what your body needs.  Don’t skimp on healthy animal fats and proteins.

  30.  I drink tea all the time and never thought of that.  Thanks!  (and i only have smoothies at home, so i control the ingredients-usually tons of spinach)

  31. Wishing there was some way to print this out and pass it around to the family without offending people I love!  Might wreck the next potluck/holiday meal…

  32. Woo! Im pretty healthy! I dont eat any of those things except for the bagel:(. I serioulsy dont like any of hose things. Ewwww granola bars store boUght snoothies, salad etc. except for 3 things. I like bagels. I also like kix trix and lucky charms, but i dont get those very often

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