By Molly Patrick
Sep 23, 2014,
Today we’re looking at foods that most people think are healthy but aren’s so healthy after all. The foods that are obviously better for you than soda and lunch meats but aren’t as stellar as they’re made out to be.
Before I go further, you should know that I am no food saint.
Here are a few examples from this past week:
- On Wednesday night my dinner was a bowl of cereal. For some reason I had one single raspberry in my fridge so I threw it on top in a halfhearted attempt to add some nutrients to my “dinner”. Sometimes you just need a bowl of cereal.
- I ate lunch at a Thai restaurant on Tuesday and chowed down the most delicious fried tofu ever.
- All I wanted to do this past week in the evening was eat Coconut Milk Mocha Almond Fudge ice cream and watch Grey’s Anatomy. So I did.
If you’re not perfect, you’re in good company. All of the stuff I’m about to tell you is good to know, but I fully understand and appreciate the fact that it’s not always practical or realistic.
And that’s okay.
As always, take it in and decide what works for you right now.
Here are some items that may be touted as being healthy, but actually have much healthier alternatives.
1. Breakfast Cereal
Most brands are loaded with sugar and all brands are processed. Even the “healthier” ones.
Sometimes a bowl of cereal is comforting and necessary (as in my case last Wednesday).
But if you eat boxed breakfast cereal every morning (or night as it were), then trying something like this is a great way to branch out and try something less processed.
2. Salad Dressing
Most salad dressings seem innocent but if you take a closer look, the majority of them are packed full of oil, sugar and have a plethora of ingredients that don’t even sound like food.
Here’s a general rule of thumb. If it can sit on the shelf for years and not go bad, it should probably be skipped. Especially when healthy yummy salad dressing is so easy and yummy to make.
3. “Multi-grain”, “whole grain” or “whole wheat” bread and tortillas.
“Whole grain” sounds healthy, right? Food manufacturers know this.
Most “whole grain” and “whole wheat” breads and tortillas are made with refined flour so you don’t actually get any of the nutrients from the grains. The nutrients have been processed out from the grain long before that yummy sandwich of yours was even a thought.
Next time you buy bread and tortillas, read the ingredient label. If you can spot “refined”, “bleached”, or “unbleached enriched wheat flour” you know it’s super processed.
Instead, opt for sprouted grain bread or sprouted tortillas.
Popcorn is a fine snack, as long as the kernels are organic and you air pop it yourself.
Sprinkle a little nutritional yeast over it and and it’s the perfect movie night companion.
Avoid the pre-popped and pre-seasoned popcorn though because it’s often high in sodium and artificial ingredients.
5. Non-dairy Milk
I’m nearing the realm of over dramatic with this one, but hear me out.
Most packaged non-dairy milks have lots of ingredients in them and are high in sugar.
If you don’t have time to make your own nut or soy milk, I feel you. WestSoy and Trader Joe’s makes an unsweetened soy milk that only has two ingredients: organic soybeans and filtered water. Choose one of those if you buy packaged non-dairy milk.
Remember, the fewer ingredients the better.
If you follow a Whole Food Plant Based diet you will want to avoid consuming oil.
Oil is a highly processed food and has 120 calories per tablespoon. Take olive oil. There are lots of health benefits in whole olives but by the time those olives are processed into oil it is not nearly as healthy. Eat the whole food instead of the extracted oil.
7. Other Vegan Convenience Foods
We live in a time when it’s easier than ever to follow a vegan diet and for that, I am stoked.
When I was 10 years old, asking McDonalds to please add a veggie burger to their menu was like announcing that I was an actual alien.
But I kept asking because I refused to eat meat and all my friends liked to eat there.
Today there are vegan options everywhere. Not only at restaurants but also at most grocery stores.
Frozen vegan meals, vegan nuggets, vegan burgers, vegan wings, vegan hot dogs, vegan ice cream, vegan cheese, etc.
For people who are just starting out with eating plant based, these foods are a great option. Especially if you eat these foods along side copious amounts of fresh veggies.
After the initial transition of eating less meat and dairy, you can try to eat more whole plant foods. Our Meal Plans make that super easy.
Vegan convenience foods don’t have all the crap that’s in meat and dairy, so it’s not a total wash, but vegan ice cream, vegan cheese, vegan nuggets and vegan hot dogs have never been nutrient dense or healthy.
If you get overwhelmed, keep these four rules of thumb in mind…
1) If the ingredient label lists ingredients that you can’t pronounce or that sound more like science components than food, skip it.
2) If there is absolutely zero kitchen prep involved, it should be avoided. Part of eating healthy is getting to know your kitchen.
3) If you’re questioning whether or not a product is too processed to be healthy, think about the ingredients that make up that food in their natural state. Are they even recognizable in that product? If not, consider a different choice.
4) If you eat something that you know is crappy but you do it anyway, don’t beat yourself up. Just make another choice next time.
- 2 fresh red Fresno chilis take out seeds if you don’t like it spicy., take off stem and chop in quarters
- 3 garlic cloves peeled and left whole
- 1/4 cup shallot 30g, chopped
- 1 stalk of lemongrass use bottom third, peel off outer layers and then chop.
- 1 tablespoon peeled galangal 10g, chopped
- 1 thumb size piece of ginger peeled and chopped
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder 2g
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder 2g
- 1/2 teaspoon salt 4g
- 3 tablespoons water 45ml
- 1/4 cup water for cooking the veggies
- 2 green onions chopped
- 3 tablespoons chili paste see paste recipe above
- 2 cups broccoli 165g, chopped
- 2 cups mushrooms 150g, sliced
- 1 red pepper chopped
- 2 cups green cabbage 175g, chopped
- 3 cups veggie broth
- 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
- 1/4 cup Thai basil leaves leave whole
- Soy sauce or sea salt to taste
- Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
- If your blender isn’t very powerful you may want to put the ingredients into a food processor first and then transfer to a blender to make it smooth.
- Store in the refrigerator.
- Place the 1/4 cup water in a large pot and when the water just starts to steam, add the onions and chili paste and cook for 2-3 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Add the broccoli, mushrooms, red pepper and cabbage, and stir until all the ingredients are combined.
- Add the veggie broth, coconut milk and basil leaves and simmer for 15 minutes, or longer if you like your veggies really soft.
- Allow to cool off a bit and then add soy sauce or sea salt to taste.
- Serve with brown rice or eat as is.
I hope that you have a magical day filled with sweet smiles, gentle understanding, stubborn patience and a whole lot of grace.