It is a common misconception that any food labeled “vegetarian” is automatically healthy. If you’re working on a plant-based basis for your health or to help manage your weight and reduce your risk of disease, unless you’re shopping at the farmers market or in your produce department, finding really healthy products can be a minefield. So beet This guide has been put together to help you be a smart shopper and avoid the “green aura” marketing traps.
So-called healthy foods can be bad for you
Food companies and retailers have become adept at using buzzwords like “low-fat,” “natural,” and more recently “vegan” or “vegan” to encourage people to buy their products under the guise of health. However, if you look closely at the ingredient list on the back, you may find that these products have been highly processed and contain excessive amounts of sugar, fat, salt, flavoring, fillers, or artificial colors.
To avoid giving in to the concept that vegan = healthy, you need to first read and then be able to understand food labels, rather than being tempted by clever packaging.
What to look for on vegan food labels
Healthy food is as close as possible to its natural state. Vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes, in their whole state (without the outer skins removed or processed), are the best foods to eat. Whole foods provide your body with the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber it needs to function properly and manage your weight.
The best foods to eat — vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains — are so natural that they don’t even need a food label. So eat whole foods as the majority of your diet, but if you choose to add canned food, be sure to read the label and look for the following.
Less processed natural ingredients
When reading a food label, look for a shorter list of ingredients that you identify as food rather than long names for additives, preservatives, and fillers. Processed food comes in a wide range – from minimally processed can of lentils to highly processed veggie burgers and prepackaged microwave meals.
Frozen vegetables, pre-washed salads, canned beans, and jars of passata are foods that are lightly processed and are convenient to include in a whole plant-based diet.
Avoid ultra-processed foods that don’t look like anything grown in the ground – these foods can be marketed as healthy despite being heavily processed. (Look for fillers, flavors, colorings, added sugars, and lack of natural ingredients.)
Less added sugars
The Dietary Guidelines recommend that we limit added sugar in our diet to no more than ten percent of our total calories, which is about 50 grams per day in a daily 2,000-calorie diet. Added sugars are listed on food labels, and you can also look for ingredients ending with “or– The last letters in the names of most sugars – eg Sucrorfruitor, beeror, Dexteror, As well as other types of sugars such as corn syrup, invert sugar and molasses.
Look at foods’ macronutrients to help you stay within recommended guidelines. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 advises that adults consume 45 to 65 percent of their calories in the form of carbohydrates, less than 10 percent of their total daily calories as saturated fat, and no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day (that’s about a tablespoon small) of salt). Adults also need 25 to 31 grams of fiber per day, and the best way to get it is through whole foods like vegetables, grains, and legumes. Paying attention to these amounts on food packages can help with weight management, diabetes risk, and blood pressure.
10 plant foods to avoid
The following foods are marketed as healthy by many manufacturers and are placed on shelves in the healthy foods section of supermarkets or health food stores. But many of these foods contain added sugars or other ingredients that aren’t part of a whole-food vegetarian diet.
1. Energy bars
If you’ve just finished a half marathon, have been hiking all day, or have skipped an hour-plus workout at the gym, an energy bar might be just what you need to refuel. However, most people who don’t exercise or do limited activity don’t need all the carbs and calories that come in these packed energy bars. The “energy” in these wraps will likely take hours to burn, and if you’re sitting at your desk, you won’t be consuming that many calories. They’re called energy bars for a reason: They’re energy-dense and contain added sugars, fats, and calories. Some contain up to 360 calories, 15 grams of fat, and 50 grams of carbs per bar.
2. Fruit juices
As tempting as delicious fruit smoothies can be, they are not the best choice for weight control and energy regulation. Some juices have added sugars or filler juices such as grape juice, so look for them on the labels. Even if your juice is made simply from fruit with no added ingredients, it can still contain about 35 grams of natural sugar — which can spike your blood glucose and lead to weight gain if you’re in the habit of having a smoothie every morning. The same goes for a bowl of acai, which can contain more calories than lunch.
It’s helpful to remember that when we eat a whole fruit, our digestive system needs to break down cell walls from natural fibers to release sugars and beneficial nutrients like vitamins and minerals. When you drink fruit juice or juice that has been frothed and mixed, all that hard work your body normally does is done by the machine, so sugar is released more quickly and will be stored as fat if you don’t burn that energy. Some smoothies have more than 500 calories, so if you’re drinking one, think of it as a meal.
3. Sweetened vegetable milk
According to a 2021 study, most plant milks are overprocessed, and more than half of the products available on the market contain added sugar. Avoid sweetened or flavored plant-based dairy, which tend to contain higher amounts of added sugar.
Plant-based milk can be the basis for transitioning from a dairy system to a healthy vegan diet, and there are many alternatives available that have no added sugars or less added sugars, so look at the label. It helps to remember that four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon – so if you didn’t put two teaspoons of sugar on your oatmeal in the morning, why pour it instead?
4. Yogurt with fruits
A plant-based fruit yogurt can contain about 16 grams of sugar in one small container. Not all of the sugars in fruit yogurt are added — some come from the fruit or juice. But if you’re trying to control your weight or lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, eating plenty of sugar in what’s called a healthy snack. Instead, try an unflavored, unsweetened yogurt like coconut or almond and top it with some fresh berries or apple slices and cinnamon.
5. Agave nectar, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, vegetable honey
Although these types of sweeteners are natural, they are still sugar. This means that you still need to know how much you are using. Agave nectar has a low glycemic index (GI), so retailers often market it as healthy, but it is high in fructose which research indicates is detrimental to weight and risk of diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. .
Coconut sugar is another naturally high fructose sugar, rice syrup has a very high sugar 98 content, and vegan honey contains sugar or other natural sweeteners. While these natural sweeteners are empty calories, other sweeteners like molasses and maple syrup contain some nutrients like iron and antioxidants but you still need to use them in moderate amounts. Some people may prefer to use stevia as a sweetener if they are trying to control their weight or diabetes.
6. Margarine or vegan butter
Your favorite vegan margarine and butter may contain saturated fats and oils that aren’t good for you. These alternative foods are processed foods made with oils rich in omega-6 fatty acids (which we eat a lot in the Western diet) and contain flavorings, colorings, and preservatives. Look for tropical oils such as palm oil, coconut oil, and palm kernel oil that are high in saturated fats found on the label. Even if it says “made with olive oil,” odds are that the first ingredients are something less healthy for you.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t use a few for sandwiches or on toast every now and then, but just be aware of how often you use processed products like these, which have little to no nutrients (some may be fortified with vitamins) regardless. about fat.
7. Flavored rice cakes
Somehow rice cakes gained a reputation as a healthy food and everyone decided to have this snack. But in fact, even regular rice cakes are a high glycemic index food, which means they raise blood sugar. Those that are sweetened are worse and are full of salt and artificial ingredients, so this “health food” is anything but. Choose wholegrain varieties and add natural protein like almond butter or chickpeas to slow the release of energy and keep you fuller for longer. This will also help you avoid gaining weight.
8. Dried fruit
Dried fruit is synonymous with “healthy” but the apricots you love are a more concentrated form of sugar than whole fruit, so watch the amount you consume.
One ounce of raisins–or about 16 raisins–has 17 grams of sugar. A quarter cup of dried mangoes, or about 9 pieces, has more than 26 grams of sugar. One cup of mixed dried fruits you might use in baking contains 106. grams of sugar. Instead of adding dried fruit to your favorite blend, try some fresh blueberries instead.
9. Sports drinks
Sports drinks can contain more than eight teaspoons of sugar and studies say it contributes to childhood obesity as youngsters drink more than they do at rest. Unless you’ve been in vigorous activity for more than an hour, there’s little need for these sports drinks to replace the fuel in your body.
10. Breakfast Cereal
We all know that most breakfast cereals are full of sugar, but those that market themselves as healthy or full of natural ingredients are trying to separate themselves from the rest. Even granola that’s packed to look healthy or labeled as “heart healthy” can fool you until you read the label. Check for added sugar, total carbs, fat, and fiber per serving. The more fiber the better, of course. A healthier option is to top whole-grain oats (the kind of oatmeal you make from scratch, not packets full of brown sugar) with fresh berries and nuts and serve it with an unsweetened veggie mL.
Bottom line: Be a smart shopper and read labels to check for hidden sugar
Look for high levels of salt, sugar, and fat, which may hamper your efforts to lose weight or follow a healthy diet. Eat mainly whole foods, and if you buy packaged foods, look for brands that have been minimally processed and have a shorter list of ingredients.