These foods might not be as good for you as they seem. Image by: Getty Images
It's easy to be fooled by seemingly healthy foods. We shed some light on the foods you should probably leave on the shelf.
1. Yogurt with fruit
When most people see the words yogurt and fruit together they assume it means the product is good for you. Unfortunately this is not the case. Langer says yogurt that comes with fruit in it is packed with extra sugar. "The natural milk sugars are one thing but then all the added sugars that they put in with the fruit… It's a disaster," she says.
Alternative: Langer suggests buying a 2% yogurt and then adding your own sweetener, such as honey or maple syrup. This way you're in control of how much you put in and you will usually add less than the store-bought versions.
2. Breakfast cereal
Breakfast cereals market themselves as being healthy but the fact is that cereal is a highly processed food. "It's a good alternative if you want something really fast but I generally don't recommend it because it's so refined and you're going to be hungry five minutes later," says Langer.
Alternative: Hot cereal such as oatmeal. One of the problems with many cereals, including oatmeal, is that they don't have a lot of protein. It's the protein that fills you up so Langer suggests making oatmeal with milk or even adding Greek yogurt to ensure you get your protein fix.
3. Instant oatmeal
Didn't we just decide oatmeal was good for you? It is — as long as it doesn't come in a packet. "The messaging is so confusing," says Langer. "People hear ‘oatmeal is healthy,' but they don't understand that it's really the large flake oats, steel cut oats or even the five minute oats that are so much healthier," explains Langer. She says packet oatmeal is very processed and usually has a high salt content.
Alternative: Make a large flake or steel cut oatmeal for breakfast. These are less refined and have more fibre than instant oatmeal. Langer recommends making your oatmeal in a slow cooker overnight if you don't have time in the morning.
4. Organic food
Organic food can be healthy but the words organic and healthy are not synonymous. When it comes to something like organic tortilla chips, don't be fooled. She warns that they are still filled with unhealthy ingredients even though they are organic. "An organic product and a conventional product can be nutritional equals—in a bad way," she says.
Alternative: You can still eat organic food, just be sure to read the label. Check for things like sugar content. "Just because sugar is organic doesn't mean it's not still sugar," says Langer. Watch out for organic cane sugar, organic coconut sugar or even organic honey if you're monitoring your intake.
"Just because something has a health halo, like a salad, doesn't necessarily mean that it's healthy," she says. When people go for dinner and order a salad they usually consume more calories than they intended. Things like taco salads, crispy chicken salads and Caesar salads drenched in dressing can be very calorie-rich. Langer says these things are fine every once in a while but you shouldn't deceive yourself into thinking you're being healthy just because you're eating a salad.â€¨
Alternative: Make your own salad. Langer suggests starting with dark leafy greens then adding two fatty foods such as avocado, cheese, seeds or nuts, in small amounts to help keep you feeling full. Next, she says it's very important to add a protein like shrimp, chicken, tuna, chickpeas, eggs or tofu to your salad. Lastly, mix in a homemade dressing; these are generally much healthier than bottled dressings, which have added sugar and preservatives. Or if you're out at a restaurant, ask for the toppings and dressing on the side so you can control the portions.
6. Granola bars
Granola bars are another food that have a health halo around them—but some granola bars can be just as bad as eating a chocolate bar. People are often misled because granola bars say they have fruit and whole grains in them. "You have to beware of those claims because they mean very little when the product is so refined and so full of other things that overshadow all of the supposed goodness," Langer says.
Alternative: Make your own granola. Look for healthy fats like nuts, pumpkin seeds and coconut.
7. Multigrain bread
Multigrain bread can be misleading because the word multigrain is usually interpreted as meaning that it's good for you. Langer says it simply means that the bread has multiple grains. She says most conventional breads, even multigrain, have dough conditioner and a lot of preservatives.
Alternative: Langer says to try a sprouted grain bread, which has ingredients that you would typically use at home. She also recommends going to a bakery and purchasing a fresh loaf of German rye.
Learn more about healthy snacking at work and school.