While it’s common knowledge that fruit and vegetables are good for you, and chips and junk food probably aren’t the optimum fuel, it can get a little more confusing when you throw so-called healthy foods into the mix.
This is why Sydney-based dietitian and nutritionist, Lyndi Cohen, is here to help.
Speaking to FEMAIL, she revealed the top seven junk foods that are regularly disguised as health foods.
Lyndi also explained how you can swap out these items – including acai bowls, rice cakes and sugar-free lollies – for a healthier alternative.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Sydney-based dietitian and nutritionist, Lyndi Cohen (pictured) revealed the top seven junk foods that are regularly disguised as health foods
Top of the list is the so-called ‘superfood’-stuffed acai bowls, which may contain antioxidants but also contain tonnes of sugar and calories (stock image)
If you’re craving acai, Lyndi (pictured) recommends making up your own smoothie bowl at home, by combining a banana with a cup of frozen blueberries, nuts and seeds
1. ACAI BOWLS
Top of Lyndi’s list of junk foods which are routinely marked as healthy are acai bowls.
‘While they do contain good nutrients and have the same amount of antioxidants as an apple, they are simply not worth paying the extra money – just because they are a so-called “superfood”,’ she told FEMAIL.
‘In fact, acai bowls can be incredibly high in both sugar and calories. And even if they are loaded with things that are good for you, the portion size can get out of hand.’
Instead of forking out the prerequisite $15-$20 for acai in cafes, Lyndi recommends mixing up a smoothie bowl at home.
‘Swap the acai berries for one banana and a cup of frozen blueberries and top with a handful of seeds and nuts,’ she said.
‘You’ll save bucketloads of cash, stock up on nutrients and skip the superfood hype.’
Lyndi (pictured right) also said rice cakes (pictured left, stock image) are junk foods disguised as health foods – they offer fast-burning carbs without much fibre or nutritional balance
2. RICE CAKES
Next on Lyndi’s junk food list are a relatively low-in-calorie option: rice cakes.
‘They might be low in calories, but they are not a healthy option,’ she argued.
‘Rice cakes offer fast-burning carbohydrates without much fibre or nutritional value. Because they are perceived as ‘guilt-free’, many people assume they can have lots of them.
‘But the toppings quickly add up, and lots of shop-bought rice cakes contain flavourings or additives.’
The dietitian recommends a slice of grainy brown bread with avocado or a slice of cheese as a more nutritionally-sound option.
‘It’ll be far more satiating and enjoyable,’ she said.
When it comes to juice, Lyndi (pictured) said it can often be stuffed with sugar – instead of going for the fruit varietal, she advocates a vegetable green juice (pictured)
It’s marketed as a health food, models and Instagram stars regularly snap themselves sipping on the green varietal and it’s filled with fruit.
What could go wrong?
‘While a whole piece of fruit is healthy, fruit juice is really high in sugar without the benefit of fibre to help slow how quickly it’s digested,’ Lyndi explained.
‘It can also take 6-7 oranges to squeeze one cup of orange juice, yet you’d never just sit down and eat 7 tangerines.’
Lyndi also said that juices are exceptionally high in calories, and it’s easy to drink calories quickly without realising.
‘It might be better than a soft drink, but it’s not a healthy option,’ she said.
If you want a drink that’s not water, go for a vegetable juice and keep fruit to 1-2 pieces minimum.
While frozen yoghurt (pictured, stock image) might be healthier than ice cream or sorbet, it is still a dessert and contains a lot of added sugar – it also doesn’t have probiotics like yoghurt
4. FROZEN YOGHURT
When it comes to frozen desserts, countless people think that frozen yoghurt is the healthy version of ice cream.
‘But unlike the non-frozen variety, frozen yoghurt doesn’t contain probiotics, or good bacteria for your gut,’ Lyndi said.
‘It is a better option than ice cream or sorbet, but frozen yoghurt is still a dessert and contains a lot of added sugar.’
Lyndi advocates trying to make your own (healthy) version at home, by ‘blending it with fresh fruit like banana and a dash of honey’.
‘Because green and black teas are healthy, you can be tricked into thinking iced tea (pictured left, stock image) is just as good for you,’ Lyndi (pictured right) said; it’s actually just cordial
5. ICED TEA
‘Because green and black teas are healthy, you can be tricked into thinking iced tea is just as good for you,’ Lyndi said.
But, she argued, it’s ‘essentially cordial – a sugary drink with zero nutritional benefits’.
If you must drink it, Lyndi said it helps to look for iced tea with ‘no added sugars’. Or, go one better and make it at home, adding fruit for ‘natural sweetness’.
‘Unless you’re exercising often and hard, most people think that added protein will help them to lose weight, but it simply adds more calories,’ Lyndi said – skip protein bars (stock image)
6. PROTEIN SHAKES AND BARS
You might be told you need more protein, but Lyndi said ‘protein shakes and bars are often not healthy because they are so incredibly processed – many have added flavourings, sugar alcohols, sweeteners and additives’.
‘Unless you’re exercising often and hard, most people think that added protein will help them to lose weight, but it simply adds more calories,’ Lyndi said.
If you aren’t lifting huge weights, Lyndi said you should skip the protein supplements and ‘opt for a wholefoods snack – if you’re after protein, go for nuts and seeds, a couple of boiled eggs, ricotta or cottage cheese.’
She said a glass of milk, lean meat and fish also work well here.
When you’re craving something sweet, instead of opting for sugar-free gum or lollies, try a piece of fresh fruit (pictured: Lyndi Cohen)
7. SUGAR-FREE GUM OR LOLLIES
They’re low in calorie, and many people chew on them to stop them from indulging in the biscuit tin, but according to research, Lyndi said that ‘sugar-free lollies and gum increase your cravings for sugar, even when natural sweeteners like stevia are used’.
‘Chewing stimulates your appetite, it’s much better if you’re hungry to have something to eat,’ she said.
‘If you’re craving sweet, try a piece of fruit.’
Lyndi added that you should steer clear of sugar-free or diet drinks, which will merely leave you craving sugar.
Lyndi Cohen is the author of the Keep It Real programme, which aims to overhaul your attitude to diet and fitness. For more information, please click here.