Want a week of clean food to get you feeling normal again? Confused about exactly what is healthy? We’ve asked nutritionist and food blogger Chloe Moir (chloemoirnutrition.com) to give us the lowdown on those sneaky health foods that could secretly be adding calories to your diet.
1. Fruit juice
Most juices in the supermarket fridge should be avoided altogether – unless the ingredient list states 100% natural fruit juice. Then there are the freshly squeezed juices that are increasingly popular among foodies, while these are nutrient dense, when you juice a fruit or vegetable you are left with the sugar as well as the micronutrients. You lose the fibre to slow the increase in blood sugar, to keep your digestive system healthy and keep you feeling full. Keep these to a minimum and go for smaller portions or stick to eating the whole fruit.
Small portions of nuts are great, 10 almonds with a banana is a perfect snack. The problem arises when you work your way through a whole pack in a day. A few handfuls of almonds and you would have consumed the same amount of calories in a whole meal. Include nuts in your diet as they provide a range of micronutrients as well as healthy fats, just keep your portion to the size of your palm.
3. Dried fruit
Dried fruit is a better snack than many other snack options in the supermarket. However, this carbohydrate-rich snack is high in calories and sugar. The dehydration process removes the water from the fruit and increases the calories per gram compared to fresh fruit. A lot of supermarket brands of dried fruit also have added sugar, preservatives and vegetable oils, so always read the ingredients list before your purchase.
Soy is a popular health food among vegetarians and vegans due to its high protein content. However there are two main reasons why I recommend you limit your soy intake. Firstly, soy products in the supermarket will be genetically modified. Secondly, soy is a phytoestrogen meaning it mimics oestrogen in the body. If you are experiencing an imbalance in hormones (which many people are) then phytoestrogens should be avoided as much as possible. On the odd occasion that you buy soy products, make sure it is organic to avoid GMO.
5. Protein Bars
Most protein bars are glorified chocolate bars. Unless you’re an athlete who needs to consume protein every 2-3 hours and is struggling to get it through food alone, then you don’t need to eat them. Protein bars are highly processed and will usually contain sugar, artificial sweeteners and a lot of soy! Of course there are healthy brands available in supermarkets, just read the ingredient label before you purchase and keep these bars for emergencies only.
While it may be one of the healthier fast food options to choose from, and the raw component of a sushi roll means that minimal vegetable oils will be used, it is best to keep your sushi consumption to a minimum. Firstly, a balanced meal should be based around vegetables and protein, with the carbohydrate portion being the smallest. Sushi is over 50% rice making it a very high carbohydrate meal. The short-grain white rice that is used is of a high glycemic index making it fast to digest, causing a blood sugar spike. Lastly sushi rice is traditionally made using rice vinegar and white sugar, further increasing the glycemic index of the meal. Sushi will not keep you full for very long and can cause sugar cravings once your blood sugar levels drop following the spike.
Wild salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, great for brain function and skin health. However, salmon we buy in the supermarket will be farmed unless stated otherwise. Farmed salmon live on a diet of GMO corn which decreases the amount of omega-3 in the fish considerably. Wild salmon eat algae on the rocky river floor which turn their flesh pink, farmed salmon are fed pallets containing two different chemicals. I recommend you limit your consumption of supermarket salmon and try where possible to purchase wild varieties.
Yes it is true, you can drink too much water! However this is only something that athletes should worry about. This can be a problem in hot climates like Dubai where you are drinking a lot of water and sweating out a lot of salt as it may cause an imbalance of sodium levels in your blood. If this sounds like you, then look into supplementing your water with electrolyte drops to maintain the normal salt balance in your body.