On this Halloween, I bring to you a true American horror story! We all recognize many of the items that make it to the grocery store shelves are an absolute nightmare: Candy, chips, processed meats and other junk food. But beware! There are many products disguised as healthful options, tricking us into thinking we’re making a good choice…when really they’re junky as the stuff we’re avoiding! Let me take you on a terrifying tour of a few of the products that make my list of scaaaariest junkfood in disguise!
1. This Greek yogurt masquerades as a healthy choice, but watch out! The ingredients in this "light and fit" option start innocuously enough with milk, but then comes water, sugar, cornstarch—ingredients that have no place in yogurt! Then comes the super scary stuff: Generic Splenda is added for extra scare, and the coconut flavor is but a ghost! No actual coconut to be found. Un-scary choice: Go for a plain greek yogurt and add your own coconut or fruit. Ingredients in yogurt should be milk and cultures. Period.
2. Don’t let the name “Vitamin Water” deceive you! They should rename this product Sugar Water. Because it is sugar and water. In this one bottle, you’ll drink up more than a frightening 1/4 cup of sugar! Scary, indeed! Whether we can even absorb the vitamins added to this brew is up for debate. Just as scary is the sugar free stir-in option. There is nothing natural about this chemical concoction, and evidence is mounting that artificial sweetener contributes to obesity, disturbances in your gut flora and worse. Un-scary choice: If you’re looking for hydration + vitamins, enjoy water or tea with a piece of fruit and skip the added sugar and artificial sweetener!
3. Reduced Fat Peanut Butter? More like Reduced Health Peanut Butter! Sure, this lower fat option knocks about 4 grams of fat off of the real deal, but replacing that natural, heart-healthy fat is corn syrup solids, sugar, soy protein concentrate (which is created through a really nasty process), and the worst kind of fat there is for our hearts: Hydrogenated cottonseed, soybeen and rapeseed oil. Terrifying!!! Un-scary choice: Choose natural peanut butter with an ingredient listing of Peanuts and optionally salt, and exercise a bit of portion control.
4. A casual observer looking at the front of this box may assume claims like “Naturally Flavored,” “Simply Nutritious,” “Gluten Free,” and other phrases make this a healthy option! That observer would be dead wrong. These claims mean absolutely nothing. This first ingredients in this cereal are corn, corn meal, sugar, honey, salt, brown sugar syrup, molasses and oil, followed by flavoring. Four different kinds of sugar plus corn does not a healthy cereal make! Un-scary choice: Never read the claims on the front of the box—go straight to the ingredient label to see what you’re really eating. Look for whole grains and make sure that there aren’t umpteen types of sugar listed.
5. Ah, the Nutri Grain bar—can’t spell “nutritious” without Nutri. And those claims on the front are hard to ignore: Made with real fruit and whole grains! No high fructose corn syrup! What could go wrong?! Well, flip that baby over and you’ll realize that these claims mask a sugary Frankenstein of a bar. Oats are sewn together with white flour, several types of sugar, wood pulp (referred to as cellulose) and all manner of artificial flavors and preservatives. The “real blueberry flavor” comes from blueberry concentrate, which is a euphemism for sugar. In fact, each tiny bar has a full tablespoon of sugar. Un-scary choice: If you’re looking for a fast breakfast, try overnight oats made with oats, fresh or frozen fruit and almond milk. Or grab a handful of seeds and nuts with a piece of fruit. Or you could even whip up your own bars with ingredients that are all easily recognized as food.
Stay safe this Halloween! Avoid these spooky concoctions by reading those ingredient labels today and every day.