If you avoid processed grains, pre-packed snacks, anything that looks less like a vegetable and more like cardboard, you probably consider your diet pretty clean. But not all processed products are quite so obvious. We’re willing to bet there are a few incognito offenders in your clean-eating cabinet—some of which you nosh on every day. Here are five of the most common imposters it’s time to kick to the curb.
Choosing a high-quality protein powder is incredibly important—most of us have at least one scoop of the stuff a day, after all. And while it definitely helps you build bulk, it isn’t typically the cleanest of fare. Most protein powders are highly processed and have a handful of chemicals added in. GNC Pro Performance AMP Pure Isolate undergoes an extensive filtration process to remove unwanted components, like excess fat, cholesterol, and sugar. The powder delivers 25 grams of ultra-pure, micro-filtered 100% whey protein isolate—the gold standard of clean proteins easy for your body to digest.
You know there’s a difference in fat from whole milk to skim, but did you know there’s also a difference in the fat profile of grass-fed to grain-fed? “While both grass-fed and grain-fed beef contain very similar amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids, grass-fed is a much better choice when it comes to omega-3s—containing up to five times as much,” says Alexandra Caspero, R.D., nutrition consultant at delishknowledge.com. Opt for grass-fed milk, cheese, and meats as often as possible to score the most nutrients per bite (or sip).
Extra-virgin olive oil is the gold standard of plant-based oils. But that bottle sitting on your shelf probably isn’t the real deal. Studies out of UC Davis have found that the majority of top-selling imported brands of "extra virgin" olive oil sold in the U.S. are a sham—73 percent failed the International Olive Council’s sensory standards.
“Unfortunately, most olive oils are a blend of rapeseed oil, canola oil, and other vegetable oils with some olive oil mixed in. This changes the fat profile significantly, adding in more omega 6s than 3s,” Caspero explains. On the whole, omega 6s aren't bad, but most of us get way too many of them compared to omega 3s.
What bottle should you reach for? The brands that didn't fail in the UC Davis study: California Olive Ranch and Cobram Estate. (That’s not to say these are the only two—just two that have been tested!)
Fruit, sandwiches, smoothies, straight off a spoon—we think peanut butter tastes good on pretty much everything. The problem? “Regular peanut butter contains partially hydrogenated oils, added to help keep the peanut oil in solid form rather than liquid,” says Caspero. This is great for texture, but bad for your heart considering these oils are trans-fats, known to increase risk of cardiovascular disease, she adds. Instead, look for peanut butter that contains only peanuts and possibly salt (like Smucker's Natural Creamy Peanut Butter, Justin's Classic Peanut Butter, or Brad's Organic Peanut Butter). Caspero even has a simple trick to minimize the oil seperation: Store the jar upside down.
Grass-fed, free-range, hormone-free—there are a whole lot of buzz words surrounding poultry products, and while they drive up the price, not all of them actually mean something of significance. The heaviest hitter you should be willing to open your wallet for: USDA Certified Organic. The most regulated of the USDA's terms, certified organic means you're getting high-quality, ethically-raised chickens. (For more, check out The Fit Guy’s Guide to Chicken.)