- Sugar substitutes: The average Australian adult consumes 16 teaspoons of added sugar each day. The World Health Organisation recommends that we aim for six teaspoons of added sugar each day. It is important to remember that sugar comes in many different forms. Even the ‘natural’ and ‘healthy’ sugar substitutes such as agave, honey and maple syrup are metabolised by the body in the same way as white sugar once ingested. Sugar, regardless of its form, follows the same biochemical pathway. It is important to remember that sugar substitutes are still sugar, granted some are less processed and are therefore in a more natural form. Ensure you consume these foods in moderation.
- Low-fat foods: Fat has been demonised in recent times due to its high kilojoule content. Healthy fats are an essential component of a balanced diet. It is important to remember that fat is vital for hormone balance and brain health. Depending on the existing amount of fat in your diet, you may benefit from low-fat or full-fat foods as part of a nutritional plan. While low-fat foods may be suitable (and recommended) for some, it is imperative to check the ingredients on your low-fat food products. Many contain added sugars and artificial sweeteners.
- Soy flour: Soy flour is often used as a replacement for wheat flour in gluten-free foods such as wraps and bread. Soy contains a digestive enzyme that makes it difficult to digest unless it has been soaked and cooked properly. Good quality tofu, soy milk, tempeh, natto and miso that are made using whole soy beans have been prepared in this way. Tempeh, natto and miso have also been fermented. Fermentation further improves digestion. However, soy flour can be difficult to digest as it often hasn’t been prepared via appropriate soaking and cooking methods.
- Artificial sweeteners: Artificial sweeteners are sugar substitutes without the kilojoules. However, they are chemicals. They are not real food and they are not a healthy alternative to sugar. When a food product is labelled ‘sugar-free’, chances are it contains artificial sweeteners.
- Fruit juice: The issue with consuming fruit via juice rather than fruit in its whole form is the loss of fibre and nutrients contained within the skin and pulp. Juice is primarily fructose and nutrients. When you consume whole fruit the fibre ensures the fructose is absorbed slowly and promotes satiety. Therefore, we stop when we feel full after consuming one or two pieces of fruit. However, because fibre is removed from juice, we consume far more fruit juice than we would whole fruit. This results in excess kilojoules which can result in weight gain.
- Muesli: Store-bought muesli often contains added sugars, and unhealthy fats such as hydrogenated vegetable oils and sodium. It is important to check the ingredients list when buying muesli. If you divide the grams of sugar in one serving by four, this figure will provide you with an understanding of approximately how many teaspoons of sugar you are consuming with each bowl. Remember that one serving is usually one quarter of a cup. Better yet, make your own at home by combining oats, nuts, seeds and coconut oil and baking in a low-heat oven until crunchy.
- Multigrain bread: A grain can be broken down into three components: bran, endosperm and germ. The bran is the hard outer protective skin of the grain and is a source of dietary fibre. The endosperm is the inner part of the grain and comprises protein and carbohydrate. The germ is the part of the grain that if sown will produce a new plant. The germ contains healthy fats and vitamins. A healthy bread product will be made using whole-wheat flour. An unhealthy bread product will be made using refined flour. This means that the flour has been milled to remove the bran and the germ. The flour used in multigrain bread is not made from whole-wheat flour (unless the packaging specifies). Multigrain bread is made using refined flour. Therefore, it does not contain the fibre, healthy fats and vitamins found in the bran and germ. It is important that the bread that you purchase is wholegrain to ensure you obtain nutrients from the entire grain.
- Yoghurt: Yoghurt is often filled with added sugar. It is important to purchase Greek yoghurt or similar that contains no added sugar. The only ingredients present in your yoghurt should be milk (whole, reduced-fat or non-fat) and live active cultures. Personally I prefer whole milk as the fat is important for my hormone balance and satiety. If you prefer the taste of reduced or non-fat milk, consider adding some chopped nuts to your yoghurt to ensure sustained satiety.
- Sports drinks: Sports drinks are flavoured beverages that contain carbohydrates in the form of sugar, and electrolytes in the form of sodium and potassium. Elite endurance athletes may benefit from sports drinks. However, everyday sportspeople and those who exercise may be at risk of consuming excess kilojoules. Thirst should be our guide and water should be our beverage of choice.
- Protein bars: Not all protein bars are created equal. There are some excellent options that contain real ingredients and are high in protein and low in sugar. However, some protein bars are primarily sugar and contain very little protein. It is important that you read the ingredients list and are aware of what you’re consuming. Research shows that we should consume about 20 grams of protein following strength and resistance training to stimulate new muscle protein synthesis.
Emily is a nutritionist and author of Transform Your Life in 8 Weeks and Conscious Cleanse. Emily inspires countless people to use food for abundant energy, clear skin and a peaceful mind. She is on a mission to spread the word about natural wellness and health, nutritional wholefoods, clean organic living, a sustainable future, self love, gratitude and kindness. When she's not writing you can find her juicing her greens, meditating, walking barefoot, sitting in the sun, drinking peppermint tea, making raw desserts and studying for her Masters in Human Nutrition.
For more information visit www.conscious-foodie.com