Know What You Eat

man chooses dairy products in the storeA healthy diet has a wide range of benefits including body composition (fat percentage), longevity (live longer), reduced likelihood of many diseases (such as diabetes), feeling better (improved mood and more energy), and more. Having a healthy diet means eating mostly healthy foods, but knowing how healthy foods are is not always so easy.

The food industry has a vested interest in selling food, regardless of its healthiness. Since being "healthy" is a selling point for many foods, products are often portrayed as healthy with questionable rationale. (Some foods, like most desserts, may be more appealing as unhealthy foods; think of anything marketed as "decadent.") With enough marketing, the healthiness of some foods can become "common knowledge" with little or no reason and with increasingly unhealthy variations popping up.

Take, for example, "trail mix." A simple version is just nuts and raisins used to provide quick energy for hikers (who need it). Adding chocolate for even more quick energy became common and before you know it, "trail mix" was more like a dessert than a snack. This "Hiker's Trail Chex Mix" has soy nuts, two kinds of processed cereal, raisins, and candy, and has (at least) 21 grams of sugar per serving.

Hiking

Hiking

A trail mix can be fine for hikers (or folks engaged in some other vigorous activity), but it's not a "healthy snack" for someone sitting around watching TV. Hikers will burn that quick energy (the sugar and other simple carbs) right away while loungers will just turn it into fat. And if it's mostly candy (or processed cereal), it's not great for anyone. But it's a great way to market candy as seemingly healthy, right? (Side note: it's really easy to make your own trail mix that is much cheaper than the stuff available in packages at the supermarket.)

Another example is organic...stuff. Slapping the word "organic" on a food product does not make it healthy. The same holds true for "natural" (hint: sugar is natural; so is cyanide) or "gluten-free" (ditto on the sugar) or, unfortunately, "healthy." (It's funny how some foods claim to be healthier because their portion size is so small.)

There are plenty of other examples: "snack" yogurt (more like "dessert" yogurt), fruit juices (with as much sugar as soda), "dark" chocolate (some brands are much darker than others), and smoothies that can wind up loaded with sugar (especially if made with juice).

sundae

Not mistaken for health food

The point isn't that some foods (or "foods") are unhealthier than others--we already know this, right?--but rather that we need to know when we're eating unhealthy foods so we don't overdo it. I loves me a (very occasional) good hot fudge sundae, but if I thought it was healthy (hey, maybe it's organic!) I'd likely wind up eating lots of them, and that wouldn't be good.

What are your healthy foods? And how healthy are they really? It's good to know what you eat.

Be seeing you.

-gary

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