Happy, uh, Tuesday? Anyone else feeling the holiday hangover still? I feel like I’m walking around in a daze. Or maybe that was because the little Trader Joe’s near me had 500 people crammed into it and I couldn’t think of anything, much less what I was going to buy. That Trader Joe’s is always crazy and now that they built a Sprouts next to it, the crowds are worse than disneyland, but with a less fun result.
Or maybe it’s because I haven’t been able to workout. Super weird time of the year not to be able to workout. I feel like I should be kicking my own but in the gym but instead, I’m waiting on my back muscle to cooperate and stop referring pain to my rib every night. Thankfully I didn’t do anything to the disks like my ongoing low back injury, this was just a strained muscle, in Mr. Hungry’s words “I tweaked it,” but SOOOOO annoying. I’m not even going on walks so I can just let it heal as quickly as possible, which has kind of made me into a crazy person.
Like anytime I get injured, I tried to make the best of the time. Updating old posts and getting a lot of stuff done. I know, it’s a kick but way to start the New Year. One thing I can get under control, though, is my eating. I’m trying to take my advice and participate in a little detox, aka get off the sugar train. More water, vegetables, and real food. Less sugar and alcohol for a little while. If you are looking to stock up on clean eating pantry essentials, you can check out my list here.
And don’t forget to
Today, though, let’s talk for a quick second about what not to stock up on. These are things that you may think are healthy but actually may be doing you more harm than good.
1) Instant Oatmeal Packets
This one drives me NUTS because I know the people purchasing them are trying to make a healthy decision and they are getting duped. There are two things wrong with instant oatmeal packets. First, they use the most processed form of oats possible. The least processed form of oats is steel cut oats, then quick cooking steel cut oats, then rolled or old fashion oats, and lastly instant oats. Although across the board, 1/2 cup of each will have the same nutrition profile, they will have VERY different effects on your blood sugar. Think of it like this: the extra processing that goes into making instant oats is processing your mouth and stomach would have had to do mechanically. Since you don’t have to break them down as much, they will quickly be digested, and because they are predominantly carbohydrate, the glycemic response will be quicker (read spikes your blood sugar faster.) The more rapid the glycemic response, the faster you will likely experience an energy low and increased hunger. Secondly, they add a TON of extra sugar to these packets. So, now they have stacked a processed carbohydrate with sugar, at this point, it’s about as healthy as a donut. At least a donut would have some fat to help keep you satiated longer. Yes I said “as healthy as a donut” and I’m not retracting that statement.
What to do get instead:
I recommend buying oats in bulk and making your own combinations. Stay tuned I’ll be showing how to make your balanced oatmeal mixes tomorrow. You can also make overnight oats (see four ways to make protein packed overnight oats), which is just about the easiest way to make oats. Add milk, chia seeds, oats, and protein powder to a mason jar and in the morning you have oats ready to eat hot or cold. Using your crockpot is another super simple way to make oats ahead of time as well (cinnamon apple crockpot steel cut oats). Or if you must have an oatmeal packet, you can get plain quick cooking steel cutoats and sweeten them yourself. Just make sure you grab some healthy fat and protein to go with it, eating only carbohydrate in the morning is a sure way to set your energy (and hunger) levels up for a roller coaster the rest of the day.
Another pretender. Yogurt can be super nutritious for you, it is full of probiotics and protein. The problem is many brands add a ton of sweetener to cover up the natural tartness of it. Yogurt has a naturally occurring sugar called lactose in it already, usually around 8-9grams per cup. When they sweeten it, yogurt can easily get up to 25 grams of sugar or more in one little cup.
What to get instead:
I recommend buying plain and sweetening it yourself with fruit, stevia, or added sweeteners to taste. If you want to purchase a flavor already sweetened, try to find the lowest sugar ones possible. Siggi’s and Chobani Naturals are my current top recommendations.
3) Whole Grain Cereal
I laugh at this one because I was so close to grabbing a box of my favorite puffins at Trader Joe’s, but given all the holiday treats I figured I should wait. The thing is, I don’t care what type of cereal you buy, bran flakes or chocolate cocoa puffs. It’s still sugar stacked with sugar. Think of cereal like the instant oats, even if it came from whole grains initially (like puffins are made with brown rice) it’s so heavily processed it doesn’t make a huge difference anymore. Sure, puffins come from better for you ingredients than cocoa puffs, but they are still highly processed and offer little nutritional value. Or, Mr. Hungry’s favorite: TJ’s whole wheat cinnamon toast crunch cereal. Is that a healthier version than the original? Yes. Does that mean it’s a healthy food you should eat on a regular basis? No. Cereals, even the “healthier ones” should be treated as a treat, not breakfast. Please don’t waste your time buying fiber twigs and other grossness, it’s not worth it, I promise. There are so many, better, less cardboard tasting, ways to get your fiber.
What to get instead:
Go ahead and get your favorite brands. I like to stick to the healthier ones like puffins because they have no chemical additives, dyes or preservatives. Whatever you do, treat it as a treat, not food with nutritional value.
4) Foods With Added Protein
Foods that have added protein where it doesn’t naturally tend to be, include one or more of the following ingredients: soy protein, whey protein, or vital wheat gluten. These ingredients are highly processed and offer a very little nutritional benefit beyond just protein. Also, soy isn’t something I recommend for most of my clients due to the controversial effects on hormone health. I also get weary of wheat gluten because so many people have developed sensitivities to it. Concentrating it and adding it to foods creates an overload in the food supply that in my opinion, increases the likely hood of the development of food sensitivities. Examples of these foods are pancakes, cereals, bars, bread, pasta and tortillas (I still love myLTF tortillas, but I’ve moved away from them for the reasons listed above.) These foods can have a place in your healthy cabinet, but don’t purchase a box of processed mac and cheese with added protein and think it’s healthy. If you must have boxed mac and cheese, add some grilled chicken breast. The real food will add bulk to the meal which will help keep you full in addition to protein, vitamins, and minerals.
What to get instead:
Eggs, edamame (if you eat soy this is the leat processed way to eat it), meat, chicken, fish, nuts/seeds and dairy are all excellent sources of whole foods with tons of protein.
5) Wheat or Multi Grain Bread
This one isn’t that complicated; it’s about trick labeling. Just because something says wheat bread or multi-grain doesn’t mean it’s made with “whole wheat” or “whole grains.” This is often a smart marketing ploy to make you think it’s healthy but when you read the ingredients list, you will notice it still has refined flour in it. These products are also more likely to contain artificial preservatives, chemicals, etc.
What to get instead:
Look for the world 100% whole grain or 100% whole wheat, or read the ingredient list to be sure. (Here is a list of what whole grains are to be sure. ) My current favorite is Dave’s Killer Bread.)
6) Reduced Fat Dairy
Okay, so this one is a bit controversial. So here is what I will say. First of all, when you take the fat out of food, you take the satiating part out of food. You will get hungrier quicker because of the lack of fat in low-fat dairy products. Also, some low fat products will have added preservatives, sugar, and sodium to make up for the richness the cream adds. Lastly, if you struggle with acne, there is some research to show that skim milk may trigger flares or make it worse for some people.
What to get instead:
This one is controversial, but don’t just buy skim milk because it’s lower calories. Experiment with what makes you feel the best and remember you need fat to burn fat. If you notice, in the picture above I show 0% yogurt, but I’ve added nuts and seeds on top to replace the fat. It’s up to you, find out what works for you and experiment with what keeps you fullest the longest.