You try to eat well. You don’t skip meals. You keep sugar to a minimum. You understand the science behind carb cravings. You eat clean most of the time and treat yourself when the occasion calls for it.
It seems like it should be easier than ever to maintain a healthy diet. Fitness and nutrition have gone fully mainstream, with the wellness craze sweeping the world, supermarket shelves are lined with products proclaiming major body benefits.
But when was the last time you looked at the labels of your favourite organic, non-fat, gluten-free, all natural, no sugar added foods? Really looked? The truth is, many foods that seem healthy are misleading, and you’re better off making homemade versions or skipping them entirely.
Watch out for these 10 sneaky offenders if you’re aiming for abs.
Go Greek or go home. Plain Greek yoghurt is packed with protein while minimising sugar, and is lower in lactose for sensitive stomachs. Fruity flavoured cups of yoghurt, on the other hand, are loaded with sugar and probably contain no actual fruit.
What is it about “pita” that sounds so much healthier than bread or a greasy potato chip? Your go-to hummus dippers aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Most pita chips are made with white flour or enriched wheat flour, which don’t contain the fiber or nutrients found in whole-grain flour. Studies have found that a diet high in these refined grains increases the risk for weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease.
Meal replacement bars. Energy bars. Protein bars. The vast majority are candy bars dressed in healthy costumes. While there are quality products out there, it’s essential to read the nutritional information to find them. Look into ingredients, sugar, carbs, fat, fiber, and overall calories.
They may be veggies, but they’re mostly chips. Vegetable chips (and their fruity cousins) are processed to the point that they contain very little of the original healthy food. The production process zaps out most of the good nutrients, leaving behind a husk that has to be artificially coloured and flavoured in order to look and taste anything like the original.
Granola is on the most wanted lists of countless frustrated nutritionists. Many brands layer on sugar and oil during the production process, and flavours with nuts or dried fruit can rack up calories quickly. There’s also the serving size – it’s probably only ¼ cup, but how many hungry dieters actually stick to it? Watch your portions, check the ingredients list, and if possible, make your own granola.
Flavoured Instant Oatmeal
Oatmeal – yes, even instant – can absolutely be part of a healthy diet. It’s only when companies start adding flavours that your abs run into trouble. Flavoured packets of instant oatmeal contain more carbs and way more sugar than the plain stuff. Add your own spices, fruits, nut butters, protein powder, and other healthy dressings to jazz up a boring bowl.
Many a diet-conscious man has been led astray by dried fruit. Though they do pack the vitamins, minerals, and fiber of whole fruits, dried fruits are super easy to overeat, and what you’re overeating are preservatives and added sugar.
Wraps are advertised as the health nut’s answer to the sandwich, but many of them are loaded with even more calories and carbs than the regular old ‘wich. Be wary of wraps peddled in restaurants and to-go shops, which are often stuffed with suboptimal choices like bacon and ranch dressing. Make your own so you know exactly what goodness is going in.
Pretzels are a misleading prospect. There’s not a lot of fat and there’s not a lot of sugar, but there’s not a lot of anything useful, either. Protein and fiber are minimal, sodium is high, and the white flour used to make these crunchy snacks will quickly spike your blood sugar.
Humans are desperate to find a healthy sugar fix, leading many to adopt agave nectar as a natural alternative. But “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean “good”, and in the case of agave nectar, it actually means more fructose than any other common sweetener (even high fructose corn syrup). Use it in moderation as you would any other sugar.