From a very early age, many Americans are trained to see vegetables as a necessary evil: a food that’s healthy but boring, that provides important nutrients but is a chore to eat. Maybe that’s why there are so many products that claim to provide healthy vegetables without the sense of fulfilling an onerous duty. This is a good rule of thumb when it comes to food (and everything else, for that matter): if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Here are a few foods that might make you think you’re getting your veggies but really don’t provide much nutritional benefit.
Bottled Green Juices
If you throw handfuls of spinach or kale into your homemade smoothie, you’re definitely getting those good antioxidants and nutrients. Some bottled green juices, however, don’t provide nearly the nutrients their color might suggest, and many make their drinks more palatable by adding over 20 grams of sugar. To get the most out of bottled green juices, look for ones that are cold-pressed, not pasteurized. Pasteurizing involves heating the juice to remove bacteria and mold, which is a good thing, but the process also removes many of the important nutrients that the vegetables would have offered.
Green pasta: it must be healthy, right? Wrong! Most of the time, spinach or other veggie pasta only has enough vegetable matter to change its color, not enough to give you added nutrients. Most veggie pasta is made of business-as-usual white flour with some ground vegetable flour thrown in. The calorie and carbohydrate counts are rarely much lower than white pasta, and the nutrient count is rarely much higher. A better choice? 100% whole grain pasta with some fresh veggies.
A disclaimer here: some veggie burgers are extremely healthy, especially when they’re homemade and you can control the ingredients. But the same rule of thumb applies to veggie burgers as to all foods; when in doubt, read the label. Many veggie burgers are mainly processed soy; technically, it is a vegetable, and it can be a good source of protein. However, it doesn’t provide the nutrients that other vegetables do. Other veggie burgers are, in fact, made out of healthy vegetables, but they’re held together with butter and oil, thus counteracting the value of the healthy vegetables.