Having a healthy, balanced meal isn’t always easy if you’re always short on time and juggling multiple to-do’s. And even then, a healthy meal could have a lot of hidden sugars and other things that could quickly render it high on calories and low on nutrition.
Here's how you might be self-sabotaging your seemingly healthy meals without even realising it:
Salads are definitely the popular choice when it comes to dieting or eating healthy…but they aren’t always as healthy and low-cal as they may seem.
Toppings such as croutons, cheese, bacon bits and cold cuts pack in a lot of calories, as do high-fat dressings, thus essentially rendering your salad less about healthy greens and low-calorie vegetables, and more about everything else in the bowl! Go simple with greens, a lean protein and whole-grain carbs, dressed lightly with a basic vinaigrette instead.
2. Sandwiches & Wraps
Everyone loves a good sandwich but not many realise that they can get very carb-heavy very quickly. Did you know that you could actually be consuming more calories by swapping the sandwich to a flour tortilla wrap instead?
One wrap could give you as many calories as four slices of bread, so you’re better off going with a two-piece bread sandwich sometimes, depending on your choice of filling.
Soup can make a healthy meal and seem like a light dining option, but the devil is in the details! Cream-based soups can be quite high in fat, while can soups are full of sodium, thickeners, colouring agents and other nasty chemicals.
Too much salt doesn’t just raise blood pressure, it also increases your risk of stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and kidney disease. Make your own soups at home, or opt for a low-sodium readymade broth and add steamed vegetables and chicken to it for a more nutritious meal.
4. Protein Bars & Protein Powder
Just because something has the word ‘protein’ on the label doesn’t necessarily make it a healthier option. Many popular protein bars, for instance, are nothing but candy bars spiked with protein powder so read food labels carefully. And speaking of protein powders…most of them are just extra calories without anything of substance. Instead of these expensive powders, opt for less fancy options like Greek yoghurt or nuts and peanut butter to boost the protein in your drinks.
5. Low-Calorie Yogurts & Smoothies
Low calorie doesn’t always mean healthy. Yoghurt is often touted as being extremely healthy, but sometimes it can really just be junk food in disguise unfortunately. Low-calorie yoghurts usually claim to cut back on sugar and fat, but quietly replace them with artificial sweeteners and thickeners instead. Always check your ingredient list to be sure of what’s going on!
And when it comes to smoothies, many (frozen yoghurt) blends come with sugary toppings such as granola, bottled fruit juices, flavoured syrups, chocolate chips, and so on, that just stack up the calories and not much else. Make your own smoothie at home or opt for one with simpler ingredients when buying.
6. Enhanced Waters and Bottled Juice Blends
Liquid calories are very easy to discount when counting calories (pun intended), but they can add up really fast, even when you’re just drinking ‘flavoured water’. Check ingredient labels carefully as many of these beverages are more processed than they seem to be at first glance, and often come spiked with supplemental vitamins, artificial sweeteners and additives.
Likewise, when going for juice, always go for freshly squeezed rather than store-bought (even though you know that it's going to be without all that valuable fibre, at least it will be just fruit juice). Unfortunately, while most juice blends may promise to deliver multiple servings of the daily required quota of fruits and vegetables, they often come with a hefty dose of added sugar and no fibre! When in doubt, always ditch the juice, and reach for fibre-filled whole fruits and veggies instead.
7. Diet Drinks and Reduced-Fat Treats
Reduced-fat, diet, calorie-free may sound great, but don’t really mean that they’re completely safe to slurp away. Calorie-free drinks such as sodas, iced drinks, fruit juices, smoothies; and reduced-fat peanut butter, baked goods and snack food treats may come in at a lower calorie count but can still be highly processed and packed full of sugar replacements.
Not only are these sugar substitutes completely synthetic, but research shows that these artificial sweeteners often lead to increased cravings for other high-sugar (and thus, high-calorie) foods. Likewise, reduced-fat treats are often much more highly processed than their regular counterparts, they can be higher in calories and sugar than the original version.
This article was first published in Wonderwall.sg.