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Surprise, surprise.

In my many discussions with clients over the past few months, I continue to find common misconceptions about certain foods. You may be surprised to hear the truth.

Let’s clear up some confusion:

Chocolate milk is the perfect post workout drink. The initial thought behind milk as a replenishing snack post workout is actually pretty solid. It’s a great source of natural carbs and proteins and can help build and repair muscles after you sweat it out. The “chocolate” part? Not so much. It’s just added, refined sugars that have no benefit. There is natural sugar in NesquikChocolateMilkmilk – there is no need to add more. Yes, cocoa has been called a powerful antioxidant – but most chocolate milks contain a minuscule amount. Common brands of chocolate milk (ie. “Nesquik” which I often see kids drinking) are full of artificial ingredients and chemicals: Reduced Fat Milk with Vitamin A Palmitate and Vitamin D3 Added, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Less Than 2% of Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Nonfat Milk, Sugar, Calcium Carbonate, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Guar Gum, Salt, Carrageenan. This is not chocolate milk. You are much better off with just plain milk. And Nesquik went so far as to claim their chocolate milk beverage as the “official beverage of AYSO and USYS” soccer leagues. No wonder we have issues with the American diet and obesity with our children. Thank you, Big Food companies.

American cheese is good for you. As one of the most commonly used cheeses in food establishments, American cheese is actually not really cheese. It is a processed factory creation that includes milk fats, solids, whey, emulsifiers and food coloring and is high in fat. It was once made from a mixture of cheeses, but now that it is fully processed, it cannot be legally called “cheese” and has to be labeled as “processed cheese”, “cheese product“, etc. Sometimes, instead of the word cheese, it is called “American slices” or “American singles”. Check it out in the supermarket and notice it doesn’t say “cheese”. Under the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, American cheese is a type of pasteurized processed cheese.

A food labeled “Natural” is better for you. The word “natural” is actually a marketing term and is not defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). It can mean almost anything. Even products labeled “all natural” can be highly processed and contain high fructose corn syrup, pesticides, GMO’s, antibiotics, growth hormones and much more. Just because it sounds good – don’t buy into it. It’s all hype.

Wheat bread is always better for you. Next time you are in a supermarket, pick up a package of whole wheat rolls or breads and you are most likely to see ingredients like: Enriched Bleached Flour, Modified Wheat Starch, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Mono- and Diglycerides, Datem, Caramel Coloring, Guar Gum and Gum Arabic. Not so appetizing – especially when you can’t pronounce them. In actuality, healthy bread should say “100% whole grain” or “100% whole wheat” on the package: that means the bread is made from unrefined wheat, which has more than double the fiber and is also higher in selenium, potassium, and magnesium. There are even healthier options available like sprouted bread. To really be safe, purchase bread that is organic and made with minimal ingredients. Your body will thank you.

Diets shakes are going to help me lose weight. Enter Isagenix, Special K and Shakeology. It’s the same story – once you go off of these shakes, your body will be unable to regulate itself and you will most likely gain the weight back. It is unsustainable. And the ingredient list is mile high and includes additives like guar gum and gum arabic. You are much better off eating real food vs. processed food shakes.

Microwave popcorn is healthy. Popcorn, maybe – microwave popcorn is a whole notha animal. Almost all microwave popcorn varieties come in a bag lined with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). This chemical is the same toxic stuff found in teflon pots and pans. It can stay in the environment and in the human body for long periods of time. When heated, this chemical has been linked to infertility, cancer and other diseases in lab animals. No long term studies have been conducted on humans, but the EPA lists this substance as a carcinogen. Not to mention, most microwave popcorn brands include ingredients like hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors and added colors. Stick with organic popcorn in a bag or, better yet, make your own.

Yogurt is healthy. Well, yes, organic plain Greek yogurt is healthy for you. However, most of the yogurt consumed is flavored with sugar and come with toppings. For example, a Yoplait strawberry yogurt has 170 calories, 15 g fat, 33 grams carbs, and 27 grams of sugar. And the kid varieties of YoCrunch include options like m&ms, Crunch bar, Reeses Pieces and Oreos. Let’s call it what it is…dessert.

All organic foods are healthy. Organic foods have to adhere to strict regulations by the USDA on how foods are produced to earn the organic seal of approval. However, you still have to watch the ingredients and read the nutritional facts. For example, Nature’s Path Organic Frosted Cherry Pomegranate Toaster Pastries are a glorified organic Pop Tart with 200 poptart2calories per pastry, 3 grams of saturated fat, 37 grams of carbs and 17 grams of sugar. The ingredient list is also a mile high. Be sure to read the labels.

Gluten free foods are better for you. “Gluten free” is the latest buzz word in the food industry. Gluten free does not necessarily mean healthier. Gluten free products are often made with white rice flour, milled corn flour, even potato or corn starch and typically include carbs with less fiber and higher glycemic indices than the original foods people are trying to avoid. There is a small percentage of people that it is a medical necessity to eat gluten free as they have celiac disease – an autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine. Millions of others may have a diagnosed gluten sensitivity that causes inflammation throughout the body. Research suggests the epidemic of sensitivities is a result of the refined, GMO processed foods that our bodies are unable to digest. Gluten free is not necessarily a solution to a healthier diet or weight loss.

Foods marked “Whole Grain” are healthy. Companies actually pay fees to belong to the Whole Grains Council, which administers the program.  A food only has to have 8 grams of whole grains to bear this stamp. For example, a 2 oz serving of pasta (56 grams) with 8 grams of whole wheat could actually come with 48 grams of white refined flour. You will commonly find the whole grain stamp on sugary cereals like Lucky Charms – giving a false sense of what is healthy.

The best thing you can do for yourself is learn to read food labels and nutrition facts. They often give all the insight you need into making healthy choices.

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