Everyday, we’re bombarded with advertisements and environmental cues that shape our food choices. At times, we can identify the boobie traps (potato chips—duck!). Other times, we believe we’re eating smart when in fact we aren’t. Here, we rip the disguise off five pseudo healthy foods that should never set foot in your fridge.
1. Reduced-fat peanut butter
All fat is not the enemy. Actually, the fat found in peanut butter is healthy, unsaturated fat. Manufacturers usually replace the missing fat with sugar or sugar alternatives.
Your pick: Natural peanut butter made with as few ingredients as possible (think: peanuts only!).
2. Energy drinks
Many energy drinks contain “uppers” or stimulants that can affect your heart. Even worse, those ingredients may react with prescription medications.
Your pick: One cup of Joe or green tea daily.
3. Processed lunch meat
Lunch meats, such as ham and bologna, are brimming with sodium. One serving may contain up to 1,000 milligrams of sodium — that’s close to 50 percent of the recommended daily amount. Processed lunch meat also contains saturated fat and nitrites, a preservative that studies have linked to cancer. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that those who ate a 1.8-ounce serving of processed meat daily had a 42 percent higher risk of developing heart disease and a 19 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
Your pick: Lower sodium lunch meats that are free of nitrites.
4. Stick margarine
The long-time debate about whether butter is healthier than margarine doesn’t come down to calories (both contain roughly 100 calories per tablespoon). The argument boils down to trans-fat — relative poison for your arteries. Margarine contains about 1.5-2.5 grams of it, while butter has none.
Your pick: A pat of whipped, unsalted butter, the lightest variation on the shelf.
5. Artificially sweetened bevvies
Although they’re low in calories, artificially sweetened beverages are brimming with man-made chemicals. Typically, these fake sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. Recent research suggests that such high levels of sweetness may interfere with your body’s natural ability to regulate calorie intake, which may lead to weight gain.
Your pick: Sweeten your plain water or seltzer with 100 percent, fresh fruit juice.
Toby Amidor is a registered dietician and the owner of Toby Amidor Nutrition. She holds a master’s degree in clinical nutrition and dietetics from New York University. You can follow her on Twitter at @tobyamidor.