There’s an often-used quote in the world of nutrition that goes something like this “If there is an aisle dedicated to health food, what does that say about everything else in the supermarket”. It’s supposed to hint that the vast majority of food being sold to us is not good for us. However, the quote doesn’t really make sense when you consider that the healthiest of all foods (veggies!) are not in the health food aisle, and that actually, some of the unhealthiest foods you could find are lurking among the so-called “health food”.
So, here are 5 things you should beware of when shopping in the health food aisle or health food store:
1 – Gluten-Free Anything!
There is a massive movement towards going gluten-free and the majority of people are doing it because they believe it to be healthier for them. I did a video in which I discussed this phenomenon (click here to watch it). I come across people all the time who are self-diagnosing a gluten intolerance, but in my experience, their digestive issues are very often resolved by improving their overall diet, eating a little less bread, and choosing better quality versions when they do. As well as this, many gluten-free products such as breads, cakes, etc are some of THE unhealthiest foods you could find, with a laundry list of unpronounceable ingredients! The key message is this: “Gluten free” does not automatically mean “healthy”. As always, you need to dig a bit deeper to tell whether the food is going to be good for you or not!
2 – Flavoured Nuts
I did another video in which I discussed plain versus salted/flavoured nuts (click here to watch it). Yes, nuts are a really nutritious food and they are an important part of a healthy diet, but I’m talking about regular, plain old nuts! Most health food aisles and stores are filled with things like ‘salted’ or ‘honey roasted’ nuts which can end up turning your bag of nutritious nuts into something more along the lines of a packet of crisps or sweets! So, when it comes to nuts, always choose plain varieties!
3 – Snack Bars
Guess what?! I did ANOTHER video about snack bars (click here to watch it)! Gosh I’ve been busy! But on a serious note, it really annoys me that any bar with oats, nuts or seeds seems to end up in the health food section, because there are MASSIVE differences between all the different types available. There are actually some good ones that use minimal, natural ingredients (e.g. Nakd or The Happy Pear), but there are also some that are unnecessarily filled with sugar or artificial sweeteners. As always, my tip is to read the ingredients and become a detective for yourself!
4 – Chocolate/Yoghurt Rice Cakes
Rice cakes have always been in the health food aisle, I assume to target the gluten-free shoppers. They’re a great wee cracker for putting other nutritious foods on top of! However, more recently, lots of pimped-up versions with chocolate and yoghurt have arrived in the health food section. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t eat these varieties. As with the rest of this blog post, I’m just ensuring you don’t assume or be misled into thinking they are “healthy” or “good for you”. Most of them have the same amount of sugar as a chocolate biscuit, so why not just have a chocolate biscuit!
5 – Organic Stuff
Organic food means that the food has been produced using methods that comply with organic farming practices, for example without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilisers. I do of course believe that too many chemicals in our food is not good, but just because a food is organic does not mean that it is healthy. Yes, there may be less chemical pesticides, etc in it, but your body reacts to the sugar in an organic cake in exactly the same way as it reacts to the sugar in a non-organic cake. Whatever your reasons are for choosing organic, just don’t assume that “organic” automatically means “healthy”. The chemical substances are not the only things in food that have an impact on our health!
So, there you go, a few things to beware of in the health food section! Like I always say, I believe in a balanced diet. There is nothing wrong with eating foods that are considered “unhealthy” (in moderation)! I just hate to see people being misled into eating something they think is really good for them, when it’s not necessarily the case.