Every day, millions of people across the UK will tuck into food that is loaded with salt, sugar and fat, and over time this can have a negative effect on our health and wellbeing.
In many cases, people do not realise that what they are eating has added salt or sugar, and sometimes food that we would consider to be healthy is, in fact, bad for our health!
Recently, Mars Food, owner of the Dolmio and Uncle Ben’s brands, said it is rolling out recommendations for some of its products that would advise people to only consume them once a week and to view them as more of a treat and part of an overall balanced diet – even for its tomato sauces and pesto, which people may think of as a healthier option. As part of its health and wellbeing ambition, the company will soon distinguish between ‘everyday’ and ‘occasional’ items on packaging and its website – a move that has raised questions about why some food is so high in salt, sugar or fat to begin with.
With things that we might normally consider to be healthy possibly contributing to poor health, it is important to be aware of commonly eaten foods that could actually be doing us more harm than good, and to know what alternatives are out there to ensure we maintain a healthy diet.
While there is the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, many people may actually be starting off with an unhealthy option. Lots of breakfast cereals are high in sugar – particularly the likes of frosted flakes and chocolatey options – but even perceived healthy cereals such as granola are packed with oil that can soon outweigh the energy-giving benefits due to their fat content. For a healthier breakfast alternative, why not try poached eggs on wholemeal toast with tomatoes.
The perceived healthy option on every menu may actually be a secret fat and salt haven, when extras are factored in. Although lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber are certainly healthy, many salads are livened up by adding cheese, croutons, salad cream and other dressing which can soon ramp up the calorie count without even filling you up, creating a double-edged sword. Rather than choose a creamy dressing high in fat, sugar and calories, opt for a simple dressing of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar; just as tasty but better for your waistline!
While it is recommend by the NHS that everyone eats five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, many people think that this means they can just eat 5 portions of fruit a day and no veg, but this is not the case. Fruit is very high in fructose which does not make you feel full, and so there can come a point when you are consuming far more sugar than is necessary. An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but five are too many! Carrot or celery sticks are a good alternative for a healthy snack.
Although many diet drinks famously advertise themselves as having zero calories, this does not mean that they have no impact on health whatsoever. Artificial sweeteners used in diet drinks are intended to trick the body into thinking that it is consuming sugar, but the brain is more difficult to trick and in some cases it can actually have the opposite effect and drive the desire for calories, leading people to drink and eat more than they need.
There are many items of food in the supermarkets labelled low-fat, however these items are often ladened with sugar to make them taste better. Yoghurts are the worst culprit for this, with some brands packing as much as 20g of sugar into a small 150g pot. A healthy alternative to low-fat or fat-free yoghurts would be a serving of Greek yoghurt which is full of protein and can help keep you fuller for longer. If you have a sweet tooth, you could add a handful of raspberries to sweeten it slightly whilst keeping the health benefits!
According to the NHS, the key to a healthy diet is to consume things in proportion, which means balancing out fats, sugars and salt and eating in moderation and in line with physical activity. Keeping an eye on nutritional labels and consumption guidance can also ensure that people stay within the limits and avoid falling foul of secretly unhealthy foods.