Here are five food-foes masquerading as healthy superstars. Learn why you should avoid them (and what you should eat instead).
Low-fat, dairy-free, no-gluten, "free-from"… food labels and food marketing can make healthy eating confusing. Don't worry, the running4women team have got your back!
Breakfast Foe: Granola
Crunchy, sweet, buttery granola… there's a reason it tastes so good. Even the granola labelled as healthy, whole grain and packed with seeds and nuts is a calorie-bomb laden with sugars. A small amount as a topping for yoghurt or a smoothie would be fine, but a bowlful? Far too much energy, sugar and processed carbohydrates for anybody. Try this instead: Oats (as porridge, or cold as overnight oats - see our article for a how-to!) or another grain like buckwheat. Or try making your own granola or muesli, just watch the add ins and keep an eye on the sugars. Or ditch the carbs and grains altogether and see how you get on with a protein and fat breakfast such as eggs.
Drink Foe: Diet Fizzy Drinks
You might think you're making a smart nutritional move by choosing the diet or zero option of popular fizzy drinks. Whilst these don't contain the sugar of their original counterparts, they do contain some scary alternatives. Aspartame, anyone? Read up on the sweeteners in your favourite diet drink. Not only are they potentially dangerous to your health, but they throw your hormones and energy levels into freefall. Try this instead: fizzy water, with your choice of add-ins: lemon or lime, fresh herbs, a few drops of a natural sweetener such as Stevia. Or try green tea (hot or chilled and poured over ice) or coconut water.
Snack Time Foe: Low-Fat Yoghurt
Ditch the low-fat, no-fat diet mentality (and leave it in the 80s where it belongs). When food manufacturers remove fat from foods, they usually add in a host of unwelcome extras. This is particularly true for dairy: fat-free yoghurts are usually then packed full of sugar or sweeteners, which are actually less desirable than the dietary fat which is in the natural, higher-fat version of the food. Try this instead: plain yoghurt with the natural level of dietary fat. Just have a slightly smaller portion, and stir in some berries, flax, oats or protein powder to create a filling, truly healthy snack.
Lunchtime Foe: Wholegrain Bread
Wholegrain is good, surely? Here's one of food marketing's most pervasive tricks! Even wholegrain bread, rolls, wraps and pittas are manmade, and processed to an extent that they are barely recognisable as real food at all. There's little difference between white bread and wholegrain bread. Neither give your body anything nutritious, just a sudden influx of fast carbs and calories. Try this instead: If you really want bread, try rye bread. It takes a little getting used to but is much less processed than breads derived from wheat. Or ditch the bread altogether and opt for food choices which actually give you some nutritional benefit such as rice, potatoes or nori wraps (nori wraps are what sushi is often made of, it's low calorie and very nutritious and a great substitute for bread-type wraps as it will hold any kind of filling).
Salad Foe: Lettuce
If you're making (or buying) a salad then three cheers for you, but make sure your bowl packs a hefty bang for your buck. There's nothing wrong with round, cos and romaine lettuce; there's just not a lot to commend it. Try this instead: Opt for other leafy greens like spinach, watercress, rocket, lamb's lettuce, chard or kale - nutritional powerhouses which will give your hard-working body a dose of vitamins, minerals, micronutrients and fibre. As a rule of thumb, the darker the leaf, the more nutritious the vegetable.