You're probably familiar with the health halo effect: that's when you think a food is healthy simply because it has a reputation for being so. It's the reason why (like most of us) it may have taken you years to realise that cornflakes and diet coke aren't healthy options.
But you're older and wiser now, and there's no way you'll fall for fake health foods again right?
Don't be so sure, because there's a new wave of pseudo-healthy foods you're unwittingly wasting money and time on.
Potato crisps have a bad reputation where healthy snacking is concerned. They're high in fat, high in calories and flavoured with recognised nasties like sugar, salt and chemical flavourings. But if you think you're being healthy by swapping your bag of cheese and onion for beetroot, carrot or any other vegetable crisp, you're not. Yes, vegetable crisps sound saintly in theory, but most actually aren't. Many are laden with oil and flavoured with sugar, salt and artificial additives. And if they've been baked or fried, just say no: cooking vegetables at high temperatures destroys the bulk of their health-boosting nutrients. If you want to enjoy the health benefits of carrots and kale, it's best to eat these vegetables straight from the ground instead of out of a foil packet.
Nut milks are easily the most misleading health drinks around at the moment. The assumption is that because almonds, cashews and other nuts are good sources of protein and minerals, so are their 'milks'. The problem with that belief is that nut milks aren't made by extracting the liquid out of nuts, they're made by blending nuts with water, straining the mix and throwing away the nut pulp. Unfortunately, the bulk of the nuts' nutrients lie in the pulp that's thrown away.
The stuff that's packaged up and sold? That's mainly water.
Next time you pick up a carton of almond milk, read the ingredient list and you'll find that almonds make up just 1-2% of the drink. The rest is water, salt, sugar and artificial thickeners and stabilisers - all added to make it look and taste somewhat like real milk. Oh and the nutrients found in these milks (calcium, B vitamins and vitamin D)? They're all artificially added too. If you're looking for a pure nut milk, coconut milk (canned) is the best of the bunch because it's extracted directly from coconut flesh.
Protein is the on-trend food group of the moment and it's unsurprising. It keeps you full, stops you snacking, stabilises blood sugar and helps build lean muscle, which in turn can boost fat loss. And with literally hundreds of protein drinks and bars on the market, it's easy to grab one as a healthy on-the-go or post-workout snack. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but many of these bars and drinks have more sugar, calories and artificial ingredients than the junky snacks you're trying to avoid. If you think about it, there's no way a double chocolate caramel fudge protein bar can taste of chocolatey goodness if it's made with nothing but whey protein.
Not all protein snacks are baddies though, many are made with natural wholefoods like nuts and plant protein, and have no added refined sugar. The only way to know if you're dealing with a junky or healthy protein snack is to read the ingredient list before you buy.
There's no denying that cold pressed-juices look and sound extremely healthy. Some can be a convenient source of vitamins and minerals, but many are all style and no substance. The biggest problem with fresh juice is that a small bottle is often made from more fruit than you'd ever eat in one sitting. And although that may sound like a great shortcut to your five-a-day, it can actually be a quicker route to poor health. That's because when you drink a bottle of juice you get a large dose of fruit sugars and no fibre (as the fruit pulp has been discarded), which can wreak havoc on your blood sugar, appetite and waistline. Eating your fruit is hands down a better option, but if you love your juices, opt for one that's made mainly from vegetables as these are naturally lower in sugar.
Another thing to bear in mind is where you get your juice from. The bottle may carry a 'freshly squeezed' label, but if it's been sitting on a supermarket or café shelf for days, that claim is pretty much worthless as many of the vitamins in the juice (like vitamins A, C, and E) are destroyed by prolonged light and oxygen exposure.
It's not all bad news though... chocolate, pizza and wine are all still as healthy as they've always been.
You can find more health and diet myths uncovered at www.healthtrenddoctor.com.