Depending on what bag you choose, trail mix can actually be a calorie-laden snack that leans more toward unhealthy than healthy. Many packaged trail mixes are filled with super salty roasted nuts, candy-coated chocolate, deep-fried banana chips and artificial ingredients galore.
Smart substitute: Make your own trail mix by combining raw nuts, dried fruits and seeds from your store’s bulk food section.
Loaded with sugar and a laundry list of ingredients, pre-packaged granola bars are basically candy bars parading around as health food. While there has been an influx of bars on the market with better ingredients, you’re often looking at a snack that’s high in calories.
Smart substitute: Look for a bar with simple ingredients (oats, grains, fruits, nuts), low in sugar and high in fiber. Even better? Skip the bars and stick to your homemade trail mix.
A few years ago, agave nectar flew onto the scene as a healthy substitute for sugar. It turns out it’s actually a pretty poor sugar substitute. Agave nectar has incredibly high fructose content—in fact, it’s higher than high fructose corn syrup. Due to this, it ranks low on the glycemic index (a ranking system for rating how carbohydrate foods affect blood sugar—high is good, low is bad), which means it negatively affects blood sugar.
Smart substitute: Pure, raw honey is the best choice for a sugar swap. In addition to sugar, honey has amino acids, electrolytes, antioxidants and more.
Cousin to sports drinks, vitamin drinks are a popular beverage choice—and both are also incredibly high in sugar. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6.5 teaspoons of added sugar (26 grams) a day, but the average American is actually getting around 22 to 30 teaspoons (88 to 120 grams) each day. A popular vitamin drink brand contains about 32 grams of sugar, i.e. more than your daily recommendation.
Smart substitute: Water is the obvious choice, but there are a ton of other healthy options out there! Try sparkling mineral water, sparkling waters with a splash of 100% juice or try green tea.
Many people over the years have switched to brown rice as a healthier option to white rice—but that might not be the case. Rice contains phytate/phytic acid, which basically binds to minerals and renders them useless. And while brown rice is high in nutrients, it’s also high in phytic acid—which means your body isn’t able to access the nutrients you were feeling good about in the first place.
Smart substitute: Swap your rice for quinoa or get creative and make or buy cauliflower rice.