As the saying goes, ‘Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future’ – a food sinner that is. It’s never too late to change your evil ways and adopt a heavenly lifestyle. If you’re new to healthy eating or trying to lose weight, it can be hard to know where to start. The world of fitness and food can be a totally confusing and mis-conceptive mine field. We all need to start somewhere.

What doesn’t help is the brainwashing we as consumers have suffered. Food corporations want to sell their product, and they’ll trick us into believing a food is good for you when it in fact can turn out worse for us than other ‘bad’ foods. The supermarket holds many choices: Left or right, fresh or frozen, original or low fat… Who wouldn’t choose the ‘healthier’ option? Well, in many cases the ‘healthier’ option can be less nutritious, higher in calories and a potential danger to our health…

1. Granola

Combing rolled oats, brown sugar or honey, dried fruit and nuts, Granola is commonly revered as the delicious but ‘healthy’ breakfast option over, say, Americanised cereals and sweet day starters. Usually combined with yogurt or milk, is seems pretty natural and therefore ‘good for you’. WRONG. This is a typical case of ‘Read (the box) Before You Buy’.
“Most granolas are classified as high sugar, with more than 12.5g of sugar per 100g, much of which has been deliberately added to make it taste more palatable than the granola once found in health food shops,’ says Anna Raymond, dietician and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. “Health guidelines recommend consuming no more than 90g of sugar in a day.”

The most popular (and perhaps worst) brand is Jordan’s Super Nutty Granola, which contains a whopping 463 calories per 100g, and that‘s minus milk or yogurt. Try a low-sugar muesli or porridge for a hearty breakfast that will fill you up until lunch.

2. Dried fruit

Everyone needs their 5-a Day. I personally can’t get enough of fruit. However, the dried variety is often sprayed with sugar or syrup and laden with additives. In most cases, a chemical additive gets added to the fruit in order to maintain freshness and vitamin content. But through this process, some fruits actually lose vitamins and minerals. Stick to a very small portion of dried fruit and check the calorie content, which can be sky high.

3. Bars

We’ve all been there – short lunch break, still peckish, rushing to catch a train… The easiest on-the-go snack is a ’health’, ‘nutrition’ or ’energy’ bar. They promise ‘raw’, unprocessed ingredients and claim to aid weight-loss. In fact, a lot of these angelic bars are lying. In short, most things that we buy in wrappers or pre-packaging have in some way been processed. The main culprits in this case are EAT NATURAL BARS (which I used to adore, until I did some research on the website, as quite sneakily, the nutritional values are not printed on the packet) and Special K bars. There are many Eat Natural flavours and each differs in content, but on average they contain more sugar than a two-finger KitKat, and more calories than a bag of Maltesers. They are already high in fat at 11g, and a third of that comes from unhealthy saturates. Special K bars contain two teaspoons of sugar. This will give you a sugar rush and a crash within twenty minutes, leaving you lethargic and hungry. Best to stick to a snack size packet of almonds when on the go!

4. Processed Smoothies

Homemade Smoothies are yummy, fun to make and very nutritious (My go-to combination is one banana, half a dozen strawberries, a handful of blueberries and a small pouring of soya milk or yogurt), however, the smoothies bought in supermarkets or coffee chains often contain sugar, syrup, full fat milk and even ice cream. You might as well be eating a Chocolate fudge sundae, and that’s definitely not healthy.

5. Frozen yogurt

The recent craze for the American born ‘Frozen Yogurt’ catapulted a few years ago, with experts Stateside claiming it’s nutritional value and ‘fat-free: guilt free’ ideals. Many yogurt bars dotted around the country boast fat free, low calorie variety. But you have to ask – if there’s no fat and not a lot of dairy, how on Earth is it so sweet? No one knows the exact content, because companies fail to provide it, but it contains vast amounts of sugar and artificial sweetener. Don’t be fooled – just because something is low calorie, does not prove that it is ‘good for you’. Not to mention the toppings – fruit drenched in syrup, Oreo cookie and Fruit Loops are favourites.

6. Coffee Shops

Surely no sane coffee lover believes that Starbucks is no worse than boiling water and coffee beans. Around 90% of hot drinks on offer contain syrup and added sugar, and the calorie count is through the roof. The seasonal favourite Eggnog Latte contains a gigantic 579 calories, which is over a quarter of the recommend daily intake; that’s 140 calories more than a McDonalds double cheeseburger. “Such a massive amount of sugar and fat in one drink is alarming,” says Dr Frankie Phillips of the British Diabetic Association. “The calories are the equivalent of a meal, but the one that lacks any real nutrition.” If you want to check any values of Starbucks products, check the website, as there is no fat/sugar chart in stores.

7. ‘Low fat’ baked goods

Choosing a low-fat cake or a ’skinny’ muffin over a full fat version may seem like a clever choice. However, this snack or occasional treat can contain more sugar than the ‘fat’ version. In short, the ‘healthier’ muffin could contain even more calories and also be less filling.

8. Diet ‘Ready Meals’

These cheeky little boxes are as quick and easy as five minutes, PING. Weight loss corporations entice us with low-calorie, low-fat options with healthy sounding product names. The truth is, excessive salt, sugar and other additives are added to pre-prepared diet foods to enhance taste and compensate for lack of fat. Claims include constipation, bloating and feeling very lethargic. Lack of fat also means that they are not filling and dieters eat more as a result. Fat is seen as evil, when in fact natural fat is an essential part of our brains. Some dieters claim these meals made them put on weight. This is usually through water retention because eating foods full of processed chemicals, salt and sugar can cause an abnormal accumulation of fluid under the skin.

In a future article will provide some nicer alternatives to these naughty foods. But for now, the best way to judge the healthiness of the product is to question it’s birth place. The healthiest foods are raw, un processed and clean – Halos perfectly in tact.