We’re obsessed with food – scroll through Instagram and you’ll see streams of clean eating Buddha Bowls alongside droolworthy BBQ oozing with hot fat.
The diet industry was worth £180,000,000,000 in Western European countries in 2018. That’s a lot of zeros.
It’s hard to navigate without picking up a few myths and bad habits along the way, even if you have every intention of eating well.
Break free from diet gimmicks and quick fixes – the only diet that really works is eating fewer calories than you burn off. These are some of the foods that have been wrongly given the ‘healthy’ propaganda treatment.
Bad for sugar
Don’t let the wholesome packaging and promise of fruit and vegetables lure you into drinking packaged fruit juices and smoothies. An innocent ‘seriously strawberry’ has 11g of sugar per 100ml, more than a can of Coca Cola.
Be wary of energy drinks, cold sweet teas and frappes and shakes that wouldn’t look out of place on a dessert menu.
Instead, blend your own fruit or bottle up water infused with exciting berries, herbs or even spices.
Breakfast is a dangerous time for unhealthy foods masquerading as healthy. Sugary cereals, particularly those targeted at kids, are stuffed with sugar, chocolate and artificial additives.
Granolas for adults can be just as bad and packed with sugar. Fruit that’s dried, canned in syrup or embalmed in delicious jelly is great as a treat, but not necessarily a healthy snack.
Try baking your own cereal bars, flapjacks and muffins with healthy ingredients and less sugar. Pop a big batch in the freezer and take one out the night before to grab and go.
Be cautious around substitutes as well. For example, fat free food is often loaded with sugar to compensate.
There’s also some evidence that the sweetener you drop into your morning coffee can overstimulate your taste buds, making regular fruits and vegetables unpleasant to eat compared to artificial foods.
They might also lull you into a false sense of security where you earn an extra chocolate biscuit because you’ve had sugar free soda.
Bad for fat
Just because it’s vegetarian or free from gluten and other ingredients, doesn’t make it healthy. Check the diet of any recent vegetarian and you’ll probably find they eat a lot of cheese.
Lots of vegetarian processed foods and meat replacements can definitely be considered junk food. The big diet brands also sell desserts, pastries and ready meals that are just tiny portions of unhealthy foods, leaving you deceived and unfulfilled.
With all these foods, its important not to demonise them. They all have a place in a healthy, balanced diet, as long as they are eaten in moderation and in a way that fits in with your lifestyle and calorie goals.
There are plenty of examples of delicious snacks that you need to double check to make sure their calorie and fat content doesn’t catch you by surprise.
Vegetable crisps have almost just as high a fat and calorie content as regular crisps.
Rice cakes fool you into thinking they are healthy because they are so miserable to eat, but when they start adding caramel, cheese or chocolate, they should no longer be an everyday hunger fix.
There are plenty of healthy foods out there that have been stigmatised as unhealthy over the years. Eggs and nuts are good examples – they’ve got fats – but they are also stuffed with macro and micro nutrients.
Avoid gimmicks, superfoods and fads, eat a rainbow of natural colours and treat yourself plenty to make it all worthwhile.