Did you know a smoothie bowl can have as much sugar and calories as several glazed donuts? Or that your favorite crunchy topping of granola averages a whopping 597 calories?
With the current health food craze, it’s difficult to know which foods are actually good for you. The bittersweet truth is that not all these health labeled foods are actually healthy. Don’t be fooled by labels such as “organic,” “all-natural” or “no added sugar.” Many healthy foods are jam-packed with honey or artificial sweeteners that give them just as much, or more, calories and sugars than traditional foods.
“It’s important to understand how to consume health foods properly and which ‘health foods’ actually contain hidden sugars and calories which can be detrimental to your diet,” says Nutritionist and F45 Challenge Director, Lyn Green.
Here are some common health foods to look out for:
1. Acai bowls
These insta-worthy bowls can pack up to 490 calories and 67 grams of sugar. That’s because many smoothie bowls, including the popular acai bowls, found in juice shops and cafes are using frozen acai blocks that have added sugar or adding fruit juices and sweetened yogurt into the blend. It has become the latest health food craze, and even though it’s widely known for its health benefits, acai bowls can contain up to 75 grams of carbohydrates.
Compare this to Oreo Mcflurry at McDonald’s, which contains 60 grams of carbs. However, when consumed with a balance of fresh fruit and veggies, smoothie bowls can be a great source of nutrition. Also, by adding a hit of protein into the bowl, you can significantly reduce the spike of glucose in the blood. This is because protein slows down carbohydrate digestion and absorption, leading to reduced levels of the fat-storing hormone known as insulin.
2. Fruit smoothies
Portion size is very important when it comes to juices and smoothies. The issue with smoothies is that they can contain a lot of sugar, so ensuring you are consuming the correct portion size is very important. Although it is ‘natural sugars’ the effect this has on insulin and glucose levels is what contributes to fat storage around the abdomen.
A 250ml smoothie can contain the sugars of up to four or more fruits—too much sugar in one day for the regular person! To consume the proper amount of sugars and fruits, we should be drinking smoothies which are equivalent to one fruit in a single bottle, which is usually around 150 MLS.
3. Trail mix/granola with dried fruit
A cup of our favorite crunchy topping can average a whopping 597 calories, 28 grams of fat, and 24 grams of sugar. Many granola packs or trail mixes sold at your supermarket are loaded with so much sugar that it isn’t much different from eating chocolate cake with frosting, which on average contains 26 grams of sugar. This is due to the excess sugar, oils, and preservatives topped off with dried fruits such as banana crisps that are usually dried and fried!
A healthier replacement to trail mix or granola is ‘Buckinis’. Buckinis is activated buckwheat, a fruit seed, which is a rich source of protein, essential minerals, and B vitamins. It’s the perfect way of adding crunch into your smoothie, cereal, or porridge without increasing sugar levels.
4. Bottled green juices
A pre-made 350ml bottled juice can also have just as much sugar as soft drink and can contain 44 grams of carbohydrates (equivalent to eating an entire pineapple or three bananas!). This is due to the addition of pureed fruit rather than vegetables to make green juices more palatable. Unless burnt off, this creates a surplus of carbs that can go straight to your fat cells.
Juicing also extracts all the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that whole foods contain. The sugar ‘fructose’ which is naturally found in fruits will raise your glucose levels more after digestion with the removal of fiber. Fiber is a carbohydrate that is not broken down by the body and absorbed, therefore, it keeps you feeling fuller for longer and reduces blood glucose levels.
Rather than a juice, a homemade smoothie is a better way to retain all the nutrients in whole foods and keeps you fuller for longer, but again, be aware of how much you consume and try to limit your smoothie to 150 MLS (equivalent to one who fruit).
5. ‘Clean’ raw treats/protein bars
Protein is critical for lean muscle mass, hormonal health, and maintaining your metabolic rate at an optimal level. Raw treats and protein bars can also contain good carbs, fats, and fibers to assist with energy as well as recovery prior to, and after, your workout sessions. However, these snacks can also contain high levels of sugar, with some protein bars containing up to 30 grams of sugar! When purchasing raw treats and protein snacks ensure you check the ingredients list, and pick a snack that is made up of whole foods such as nuts, fruit, egg whites, oats, and coconut. A nutritious protein snack will also keep you fuller for longer, keeping you from reaching for sugary snack alternatives!
Looking for a healthy sweet treat that won’t undo all your hard work? Check out Lyn’s protein ball recipe below…
1. Combine cacao powder, dates, protein powder, almonds and water in a food processor and process until a sticky mixture is formed
2. Divide the mixture into 5 piles and using the palm of your hands roll the mixture into firm balls
3. Roll the balls into the coconut, ensuring all sides are coated
4. Serve 1 ball and refrigerate the remaining choc coconut balls to be consumed throughout the week Nutrition Facts
Calories – 159 cal
Protein – 6.6g
Fat, total – 9.4g
Carbohydrate – 10.3g
Sodium – 11mg