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Junk Food In Disguise

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Junk food is easy to spot, right? Chips, pizzas, anything deep fried. And we all know it’s terribly bad for us, so we try to eat it in moderation. But even when you think you’ve got the whole ‘I’m in control of my diet’ thing cracked the pounds still seem to creep on. The scales don’t lie, so what’s the problem? Junk foods in disguise, that’s what. Grub that appears to be a reasonably healthy choice, but which is laden with fat, sugar and salt. Hidden nasties that make the food taste great, but have a detrimental effect on our waistlines. Here are some common foods from your shopping basket that may not be as healthy as you think.

Low-Fat and Fat-Free Foods

I think it’s pretty much common knowledge these days that foods purporting to be low in fat generally contain other things that cancel out the benefits – in order to retain flavour and texture following the removal of the fatty stuff manufacturers ladle in sugar by the spoonful. Not so healthy after all.

Salad Dressings

A plateful of salad makes you feel virtuous, so surely it’s okay to drizzle over a little dressing to perk up the flavour a bit? Well that depends. Many commercial salad dressings are packed with the wrong kinds of fat, oils and sugar. Even just a tablespoon or two can add 100+ calories to your healthy plate, not to mention the presence of distinctly UNhealthy trans fats (processed oil). If you must add dressing then choose healthy options made at home. Balsamic vinegar and olive oil, for example.

Margarine

junk food in disguiseWhen I was growing up Butter was viewed as the Black-Sheep of spreads. Packed with saturated fat, the health gurus of the time rejected butter in favour of the supposedly more healthy margarine products. Then the scientists pointed out that the trans fats used to create margarines were, in fact, more harmful to the body than natural saturated fat. Manufacturers responded by reducing the amount of trans fats in margarines, but they are still laden with processed oils that are proven to be bad for the body. Butter is now considered best.

My personal switch to butter followed a summer camping trip where my tub of marg melted on a hot day, before re-solidifying later. When it was hard again it had separated into two distinct parts – the ‘oils’ (fine), and a block of white stuff that looked a lot like plastic (eeeww!). Plastic on toast anyone? Not for me, thanks! And just like that I was converted.

Low Carb ‘Super Foods’

With every diet fad comes a raft of new food products to keep you on track. The success of the protein-led Atkins diet prompted a mass of low-carb foods and snacks to hit the supermarket shelves. But it’s worth checking the ingredients. Many of the ‘health’ bars in particular substitute chemical components for carbs – the result is a questionable blend of highly-refined non-carb ingredients and chemical substitutes that often have little nutritional value at all.

Agave Nectar

The demonization of sugar has prompted consumers to seek sweet alternatives. Agave Nectar seems to fit the bill – a natural form of the white stuff that even sounds healthy. And yet, many health experts claim it is even worse for you than sugar. Why? Because fructose is the form of sugar generally considered to be the worst for the body. Normal sugar contains 50% fructose. Agave Nectar can contain anything from 70-90% fructose. Eeek!

Processed Organic Foods

It never ceases to amaze me how a little smart marketing can transform consumer habits, while simultaneously mis-informing them about the supposed benefits. Ask your average consumer if Organic foods are good for you, most would answer with a resounding ‘Yes!’. And in part they would be right. But while the raw ingredients of organic foods may be chemical free and pure, if the manufacturers then refine them to create processed foods they are really not much healthier than other products on the market. Organic raw cane sugar is still sugar, whichever way you look at it.

In short, don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you are TOLD something is healthy it must be true. Read the labels and do your homework. It’s the only way to really know what you’re putting into your body.

 

 

 

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About Cally Worden

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About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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