The word “healthy” is all too often attached to food that, in reality, is anything but. This can create false expectations and a rampant diet culture where unhealthy products are seen as more desirable than functional. Usf health food trucks are a great resource in the area of health. In order to truly nourish ourselves, it’s important to know the facts about healthy food so we’re not fooled by marketing or friends’ opinions.
1. “Natural” does not equal healthy.
Startling fact – an Oreo is a natural food because it’s made of all-natural ingredients! In fact, the word “natural” doesn’t have any legal definition when it comes to food, even though many people think it means healthy or even organic. Instead of assuming that “natural food” or products are automatically healthy, ask yourself if there is any evidence to support this claim.
2. The healthiest food is often not the prettiest food.
Startling fact – a smoothie can be more nutritious than a piece of fruit! Although fresh, whole produce is a great source of vitamins and minerals, it also contains a significant amount of water that dilutes the actual nutrients we’re trying to eat (in fact, some fruits are about 90% water). By blending or juicing our produce, we can get all the nutrition in just one glass!
3. Processed products are not necessarily unhealthy.
Startling fact – a packet of instant mashed potatoes is a processed food, as is pasta sauce! Many people think that when they see the words “white flour” or “refined sugar,” these foods are inherently unhealthy. However, if they’re made with natural ingredients, they can be part of a healthy diet and add extra nutrients to your diet. Think of individual crackers as a processed food like soup or cereal; it’s still healthy if it contains whole grains.
4. Gourmet and fancy foods are not always superior to simple meals.
Startling fact – grilled salmon is healthier than high-fat dishes! Choosing a nutritious meal over a gourmet one doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice taste; think of it as adding more nutrients to your diet. For example, eating grilled fish doesn’t have any less protein or good fats (like omega 3s) than eating baked chicken or roasted root veggies. A meal that’s simple and includes minimal processed ingredients can be just as healthy as one out of a magazine.
5. “Grain free” does not equal “healthy.”
Startling fact – even if your food is supposedly made without grains, if the only thing differentiating it is the name, then it’s not really “grain free. ” It’s great if your bread is made with 100% whole grains, but if it has the same taste and texture as its conventional counterpart, then you’re not getting a more nutritious product.
6. Fiber does not equal health.
Startling fact – a giant bag of potato chips is one of the latest diet trends! The consumption of fiber is vitally important to our body and digestive system; it helps regulate blood sugar, keep our intestines healthy, and lowers cholesterol levels. However, fiber is NOT required to be included in your diet (even though they are often seen together). Fiber is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, so you’re better off getting your fiber from those natural sources.
7. “High protein” does not equal healthy.
Startling fact – a tiny bowl of white rice is higher in protein than beef tenderloin! Many people think that if a food has more protein/fat than carbs, it must be healthy. However, many processed foods contain lots of fat and very little net carbs; along with the fact that excess protein can contribute to insulin resistance, high-protein diets don’t always help people lose weight or maintain their current weight.
8. The most overpriced foods are not always the healthiest.
Startling fact – a small portion of fresh fish can be a more nutritious and better-for-you choice than a $4 burger! Although you may think that more expensive food equals better quality and nutrition, this isn’t always true. Cooking at home is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself, as it allows you to control what goes into your meal and customize it with your favorite ingredients.
9. “Hot” does not equal healthy.
Startling fact – processed foods are often heated for longer periods of time than whole foods, which can affect the nutrients within. While you may think that “hot” or pre-packaged food is healthy because of its popularity or packaging, it’s usually pre-made with ingredients that are frozen, cooked, or canned ahead of time.
10. “Healthy” does not equal tasty.
Startling fact – pizza isn’t just a tasty meal; it’s also a healthier one! Since pizza is made with whole grains, vegetables, and lots of cheese, it’s definitely not the healthiest option. However, it’s healthier than other foods because of the quality ingredients that go into making it. And if you get sick from eating a specific food that’s supposed to be healthy, take note of which ingredients make you sick and try to avoid them.
11. “Natural” does not equal healthy.
Startling fact – the term “natural” is unregulated and can be misleading. While you may think that “natural” foods are healthier than those that are not, this can be based on pricing more than anything. When it comes to fruits, vegetables, and eggs, they’re organic even if they’re not labeled with a specific term like “natural.”
12. Fruit juice doesn’t equal health.
Startling fact – just because fruit juice is made from fruit doesn’t mean that it’s healthy to drink. Regularly drinking fruit juice is just as bad as drinking sugar-filled soda, due to the large sugar content and lack of fiber. Try to stick to whole fruits and eat them instead of drinking their juice.
13. Vegetables are not always healthier than fruits.
Startling fact – popular fruits like blueberries, oranges, and kiwis are just as healthy for you as some of your favorite vegetables! While you might think that fruits are loaded with sugar and carbs and veggies are free of sugar and carbs, this isn’t necessarily true. Try to always make the smart choice when it comes to picking what to eat; don’t let the preconceived notion that “fruit is for dessert” or “vegetables are good for you” distract you from what’s really in your food.
14. Added sugar does not equal health.
Startling fact – that bottle of cranberry juice you’re drinking is one of the worst things you can be putting into your body. Many fruits and vegetables are added with lots of sugar to give them a sweeter taste, which helps attract consumers’ attention. However, the sugar content in juice (whether it’s fruit or vegetable) is just as bad for your health as soda; if you want to drink something with natural sweetness, try sparkling water with a lemon or herb!
15. “Plant-based” does not equal health.
Startling fact – that superfood you thought was healthy may not be helping your body as much as you thought. While many foods are often referred to as being “plant-based,” this does not mean that they’re healthy for your health. Studies show that people who consume large amounts of fruits and vegetables have a lower chance of developing heart disease or stroke than those who do not consume them on a regular basis.