Six things you think are healthy that aren't

These days the shopping aisles are a minefield of low this, high that and diet something-or-others. You almost need a degree to work out what is healthy and what isn't.

The current affairs programs are spruiking the latest diet guaranteed to get results and the magazines in the GP waiting rooms are full of stories about some celebrity who just can't get enough of some miracle food. 

This month Diabetes Queensland put some of the most common foods and fads to the test to bust some popular misconceptions about food. 


Couple eating


Let's start with the big one - diets. It doesn't matter whether it is Paleo or Atkins or the 'Nothing but Carrots' diet, just about any whizz bang diet is a bad idea. While you may lose weight to begin with, more than two-thirds of people who go on a diet pile the kilos back on once the diet is over. Why? Because diets can be restrictive and difficult to maintain. They don't always fit easily with real life so when the program is over and you're left to your own devices, it can be easy to return to your old habits and then the weight creeps back on. Drastic changes in diet can even do you more harm than good and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.


The healthy alternative

The key is not to diet at all but commit to eating a healthy and well balanced range of foods every day and burning kilojoules through regular exercise. Restricting yourself when you're on a diet is often something that makes you want to reach for junk foods. If you're looking for some kitchen inspiration, check out some of the recipes on our website.


Coconut water

This one has definitely been in the news. Madonna, Demi Moore and Lara Bingle all swear by it. Apparently this miracle drink will do everything from beautify your skin, to help you lose weight and boost your immune system. While it is true that coconut water is moderately rich in potassium and contains small amounts of minerals such as magnesium, calcium and phosphorous, so do the banana and the potato - and you don't see celebrities endorsing potatoes! As a refreshing drink now and again, coconut water is fine but should not replace the water you drink every day because it can be packed with sugar.  Check the label and be mindful of how much you're drinking.


The healthy alternative

Drink water or soda water with a squeeze of lime.


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Going gluten-free

Unless you've been diagnosed with coeliac disease or a wheat allergy by your doctor (not Doctor Google), then going gluten-free isn't a healthier option. Gluten-free products can often be high in fat and sugar content to improve the taste and texture. Going gluten-free can also put you at risk of missing out on important nutrients like fibre.


The healthy alternative

If you're experiencing bloating or other symptoms associated with gluten intolerance, it's important to see your doctor. You may have coeliac disease, but you may also have a number of other conditions that can cause bloating.


Light salad dressing

A light salad dressing might sound better for you than a full fat creamy ranch or mayonnaise dressing, but that may not be the case. The words Lite/light might refer to a reduced fat content, but it could still contain high amounts of fat. The term lite/light can actually be used to describe taste, texture or colour.


The healthy alternative

To make your own healthy dressings, try a combination of olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, garlic, mustard seeds or vinegar to give your salad a kick without the extra sodium.


Museli Bar

Muesli bars

Muesli was invented by a Swiss doctor for his hospital patients. So it goes that muesli bars must also be healthy. Right? However, they're the wolf in sheep's clothing of the snack world. Muesli bars can easily contain 800kJ or more, which is equivalent to three apples or two cups of reduced fat milk. With all the energy, fat and added sugar they contain, they really should be a 'sometimes food'.


The healthy alternative
If you do reach for a cereal-based bar, try to compare nutrition information panels and choose the one with the lowest fat content. If you are reaching for a dried fruit bar or fruit strap, why not think about having a piece of fresh fruit instead? If you need help with reading nutrition labels head to our "Healthy Shopping" website. It'll help set you straight.


Vegetable chips

They've got vegetables in the name right? They must be better than a normal packet of chips. Well, not really. There are about 2070kJ and 514mg of sodium in a100g packet of potato chips. What about veggie chips? Around 2160kj and 478mg of sodium. On top of this the way veggie chips are sliced and diced means that most of the original nutrients are sliced and diced away as well.


The healthy alternative

Slice up some raw veggies for delicious carrot, capsicum and celery sticks. 


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