If you’re a regular to Corefire, it’s likely that you already know the importance of fueling your body properly not only to for your intense workouts, but everyday life. And while you probably already know an apple is a better choice than apple pie, the influx of conflicting nutrition and health information we are bombarded by can leave even the most health-conscious consumer confused. Add in the sneaky marketing strategies many companies employ, it’s a wonder we can ever decide what to eat! At Corefire, we’re all about working hard AND playing hard, and enjoying life (delicious food most certainly included). But, if you’re trying to up your fitness performance, it is essential to find the right foods that work for you and your goals. Below are a few examples of popular convenience snacks that seem totally healthy, but in fact aren’t. (Of course, we’ll leave you with some better-for-you alternatives!)
Flavored Greek yogurt: Greek-style yogurt has been having a moment for a while now, and with good reason. Creamy and satisfying, it’s packed with protein and calcium; if prepared traditionally and naturally fermented, it’s also an excellent source of probiotics. However, it’s tanginess can be off-putting to some, and so manufacturers add artificial flavors and excess sugar to cater to sweet-loving palates. Even those made with “real fruit” are often sugar bombs, with 15g or more per serving.
Instead, stick to plain Greek yogurt, and don’t feel that you always have to go fat-free! The naturally occurring fat in dairy is very satiating and can be helpful for fending off cravings later on. Add fresh or frozen berries and slivered almonds for texture, flavor, and to boost nutrition. (If you’re dairy-free, check the yogurt aisle for coconut, almond, or cashew-based options – just watch the sugar!)
Protein bars and powders: While diet trends ebb and flow, it seems that protein is always in style, and it’s no surprise. Protein helps satisfy hunger, build lean muscle mass, boost metabolism, and is involved in a host of biological processes. But instead of leaning on artificial sources of protein made from processed and isolated forms of protein, lean on whole foods sources from lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts/seeds, and even some grains (like quinoa).
Although protein bars can serve in an “emergency” – because no one likes being HANGRY – they’re not ideal day-to-day. These forms of protein can be difficult to digest, and your mind and body don’t register the fullness that protein offers in whole foods form. (In case you are wondering why you are still starving after your usual post-workout shake!) For on-the-go options, try hard boiled eggs, pre-packaged nuts or seeds, roasted chickpeas, or dried beef, turkey, or chicken jerky.
Granola and other “whole grain” cereals: Granola usually falls under the “too delicious to be good for you” category, even despite having some positive nutritional attributes. If made from whole grains like oats, granola can be a decent source of fiber and even contain a bit of protein; unfortunately, most are packed with excess sugar. (Are you seeing the trend here?)
Aim for a brand with as few ingredients as possible, and take note not only of the grams of sugar (ideally less than 8g per serving), but the kinds – many brands add more than one! This is a scenario where you might want to break out your measuring cups and see what an actual “serving” looks like – it’s probably smaller than you think.
Artificially sweetened anything: If you’re watching your calorie (and sugar) intake, using artificial sweeteners may seem like an obvious choice. They contain no calories (or sugar!), and hypothetically allow you to enjoy the sweet foods you love without the guilt. As with most foods, however, this is a situation where you want to stick to the real thing. Despite a lack of calorie, artificial sweeteners are associated with a variety of negative implications. Most simply and perhaps impactful, artificially sweetened foods and especially beverages leave your body craving more calories, perhaps leading to overeating later on. (The simple science version: when you taste something sweet, your body expects calories; when you don’t give it those calories, your body will crave more food later on.) Additionally, many people report digestive and GI issues when consuming artificially sweetened foods, especially with sugar alcohols. Finally, research suggests artificial sweeteners mess with the makeup of your gut biome, which can affect everything from immunity to metabolism.
Try to wean yourself off the sweet stuff, using just as little of the real thing as you can. Your taste buds can adjust over time, and you may very well find yourself finding foods you typically ate with reckless abandon to taste overly sweet or artificial. Instead, set your sweet fix from seasonal fruits, root vegetables, and dark chocolate. Adding cinnamon or vanilla to foods can also satisfy a sweet tooth, as those flavors are often in sweet foods like baked goods. (Have you ever sliced a banana and topped with peanut butter and cinnamon? Go ahead, we’ll wait.)
While there’s an abundance of information circulating around what’s “healthy,” we’re big fans of choosing whole, unprocessed foods as often as possible; when you do decide to splurge, go for something really delicious and “worth it,” and skip the processed alternatives. Check out our tips from January on how to jumpstart May!
Have a nagging nutrition-related question you’d love to have covered in a blog post? Email Coach Liz, our resident nutrition expert and foodie, to make a request!