Sneaky stuff: bottled green tea
Real deal: “Not only do many bottled green teas have chemical additives, sugars and corn syrup, but the polyphenols in green tea are very fragile when exposed to heat, light and time,” says Reardon. “When green tea is packaged in clear bottles, the benefits can degrade very quickly unless it’s been in a light- and temperature-controlled environment.” And while you or your grocer may store it properly, there’s no accounting for transportation conditions or the guy who left it on a loading dock in the sun.
Healthy hints: To take the best advantage of green tea’s cancerfighting, heart health-promoting, metabolism-boosting antioxidants, experts agree it’s best to brew it yourself. When you do so, be sure to drink it within 36 hours for primo benefits. Steep with lemon or orange slices to further preserve the cancerfighting polyphenols (adding citrus to your tea boosts flavor and frees up more antioxidant compounds for the body to absorb after digestion). Add sparkling water and ginger, then chill for a refreshing treat. Reardon says it’s fine to buy sugarfree options in clear, preferably glass, bottles—but think of these as caffeinated beverages that don’t deliver as many health benefits.
Sneaky stuff: gluten-free snacks
Real deal: “A lot of us don’t realize that gluten-free treats are still treats—they aren’t health foods,” says Reardon. While organic, gluten-free breads and grains are an essential part of a healthy diet, gluten-free crackers, cookies and muffins aren’t necessarily good for you. This kind of gluten-free grub is often made from refined potato or rice flours that aren’t enriched and often have added fat, sugar and artificial flavorings, making it very important to check the ingredients before buying (just like you do with any snack food).
Healthy hints: Skip the junk food and opt for gluten-free grains that also contain fiber, phytonutrients and B vitamins (like steel-cut oats, quinoa and brown rice). Better yet, think of the snack as an opportunity to increase your plant base by, say, choosing a dish of hummus and pea pods or other naturally gluten-free vegetables and legumes.
Sneaky stuff: store-bought smoothies
Real deal: These products often contain juices, syrups and purées that are loaded with calories and lack the nutrients of whole fruit. Plus, if it’s not organic, it could be full of pesticides. Many packaged smoothies are also made with unnecessary extra sugar, Reardon says, and include synthetic proteins and vitamins.
Healthy hints: Choose organic options with no more than 15 grams of carbs and at least 7 grams of protein per serving. And before you toss one in your cart, remind yourself how easy it is to whip one up at home. Koff likes blending Sambazon Açaí packs (plain) with hemp milk and half a banana to sweeten. Or toss Reardon’s favorite smoothie ingredients into your blender: 1∕2 cup each of fresh kale, beet greens and baby spinach; 3∕4 cup mixed frozen organic berries; 1∕2 cup frozen dark cherries; 1 to 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed; 1 scoop brown rice protein; 1∕2 banana; 6 ice cubes; and 8 ounces plain organic Greek yogurt.