Anyone who has ever tried sticking to a healthy diet knows how confusing it can be to understand what will work best. We’re constantly inundated with sometimes conflicting reports in the news and confusing food labels in the grocery aisle. It can be hard to know what (and who) to trust!
For that reason, it is easy to fall for food that is disguised as ‘healthy’ and end up feeling lousy.
Here are the 5 most commons mistakes people make when they’re trying to make healthy decisions – and how to fix it with an easy swap.
Stocking up on fat-free sweets
A ‘fat-free’ label may look like a win-win but appearances can be deceiving. Sugar is often used to replace the fat content in these products, so it is likely that you’re still getting a high number of calories. Plus, when things are marked as ‘fat free’ we often feel like we’re able to eat more of it, which means you’re getting way more calories and such than you need.
WHAT TO TRY INSTEAD: There are plenty of ways to satisfy your sweet tooth without overdoing it. Try using organic honey instead of syrup and sprinkle some cinnamon instead of sugar to add flavour without the calories or big blood glucose spike.
Drinking diet soft drinks
Everyone knows that a regular can of cola is packed with sugar. Health experts say there is more sugar in one can of regular cola than most people are supposed to have in an entire day! That’s why so many people think diet or ‘zero’ soft drinks are a healthier alternative. But these drinks often contain artificial sweeteners that may actually be more harmful than the real deal. Sugar substitutes such as aspartame and sucralose are known to cause a number of other health problems including hyperactivity, insomnia and glucose intolerance and can lead to the progression of diabetes.
WHAT TO TRY INSTEAD: Stick to drinks with natural ingredients and cut out the artificial sweeteners and preservatives. If it has more than two or three ingredients you don’t recognise, consider something else! Nexba’s new line of Australian-made bubbly soft drinks is one naturally sugar free alternative.
Trusting premade salads and sandwiches
Just because something is called a ‘salad’ does not mean that it is healthy. The main problem with pre-made salads, wraps and sandwiches is that you can’t control what’s in them. They might look like healthy alternatives but can often be loaded up with hidden calories such as mayonnaise and heavy dressings. Plus, large portion sizes mean you can end up with many more calories than you need.
WHAT TO TRY INSTEAD: Opt for dishes with low-fat dressings such as olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette over honey mustard, mayonnaise and ranch. And keep the portion to about the size of a deck of cards to be safe. The best solution, however, is to make your own!
Snacking on energy bars and trail mix
Although their packaging often suggests otherwise, many energy bars are closer to candy bars than health bars! We are lured by the promise of protein and fibre, but many bars also come with high fructose corn syrup, added sugar and unhealthy saturated fat. Meal replacement bars also contain a large amount of calories, which means they shouldn’t be considered a ‘snack.’
WHAT TO TRY INSTEAD: Look closely at the amount of sugar, calories, and ingredients in your next bar. If you need a fix of fibre and protein, try some string cheese or an apple instead.
Smoothies often start with a good dose of fruit and low-fat dairy, which is great, but it’s rarely smooth sailing from there. With large serving sizes and often, added sugars and syrups, smoothies can quickly become a high-calorie drink, especially if they’re used as a snack in between meals.
WHAT TO TRY INSTEAD: For the most economical and healthy smoothies, consider making your own. Look for smoothies that use almond or coconut milk as a base, use fresh fruit and vegetables instead of fruit juice and contain superfoods and nutrient rich ingredients.