The reality behind “healthy” food alternatives


Ana Patricio '24

Customers searching for simple solutions often gravitate towards tempting health advertisements, unaware that these alternatives offer little nutritional value.

Supermarket aisles can be a shopper’s worst nightmare as countless “healthy” alternatives fill the shelves, trapping consumers inside the world of false advertising.  Living in a society that revolves around retaining a perfect appearance leads populations to develop false definitions of health.  Many associate health with the physical state of one’s body, but disregard internal well-being.  It is essential to recognize that goods marketed as “healthy” do not always include nutritious benefits.  

Foods that companies market as “healthy” may harm one’s health.  Yogurt has a long-standing reputation as a health food, yet it loses nutritional value when consumers opt for low-fat alternatives.  While this product contains higher levels of sugar to accommodate the artificial taste, the low-fat label attracts shoppers who associate the product with weight loss.  The reduction of whole ingredients leaves the consumer feeling unsatisfied and can increase their daily sugar intake, according to

Low-fat products continue to gain popularity as they flood supermarkets and advertisements.  Courtesy of

Fat in food was not the enemy of American diets until about 1977.  Around this time, the United States government began pushing low-fat diets, which resulted in mass manufacturing of low-fat products in the 1980s, according to  The food industry devised a new low-fat, high-carb mantra, creating a completely new range of products.  Items such as fat-free frozen yogurt, muffins, and cookies gained popularity as food producers developed a new formula. 

This formula consisted of reducing the fat in food products, then adding an excess of sugar in replacement.  The anti-fat craze derives from the belief that saturated fats were directly linked to heart disease, but recent research suggests that the data is inaccurate, according to

Mrs. Rahaf Al Bochi, registered dietitian and founder of Olive Tree Nutrition, explains that new evidence suggests that there is a positive effect of full-fat dairy on cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk.  Bochi explains that experts have recommended low-fat dairy products over full-fat dairy products for years.

Although higher in calories and fat, full-fat dairy is healthier than its reputation suggests.  Those who consume full-fat dairy are not only less likely to develop cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes, but they may even be less likely to gain weight, according to

Unfortunately, deceptive advertising and weight loss products remain intrinsically linked.  Many products use deceptive endorsements and marketing techniques to sell their products, where in reality, they may be hazardous or offer no nutritional value.  Customers gravitate towards these items in search of simple solutions, only to be disappointed that no health nourishment comes from the foods.

Mrs. Christina Cauliffe, Head Athletic Trainer and Upper School Health Teacher, emphasizes the importance of recognizing falsehoods in food industries.  Mrs. Cauliffe explains that many advertisements and social media posts concerning diet and food are toxic.  One can easily misconstrue the message of these advertisements in a harmful way, potentially weakening relationships with food.

“The media does what they are supposed to, advertising a product to make money, just like any other consumer product.” Mrs. Cauliffe said.  “Perhaps a better message to the public would be to teach humanity how food can serve one’s body effectively, as opposed to displaying a misconception of health.”

Everyone’s diet is unique to what their body requires, so the generalization that everyone must eat a certain way to adhere to societal standards is misleading.  Instead, it is important to recognize how different foods respond individually to the body and work to establish a balanced relationship with food.

“We need to be in tune with the food that we put in our bodies and listen to how our bodies respond to what we consume.”  Mrs. Cauliffe said.  “To do so, [people] can learn to be cognizant of what [their] bodily cues are to foods they consume.  These cues dictate what works for their body and what makes them feel good.” 

Although nutrition plays a vital role in an individual’s physical health, it also affects emotional well-being.   Following bodily cues and recognizing what works for one’s body is crucial to having a healthy lifestyle.  Research shows that healthy diets can even help with symptoms of depression and anxiety, whereas unhealthy diets link to an increased risk of dementia or stroke, according to

Data suggests that, in addition to physical health, the food people consume has an impact on how they feel. Courtesy of

In an interview with The New York Times, Dr. Felice Jacka, Director of the Food & Mood Centre at Deakin University in Australia and President of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research, explains how an increase in nutritious foods impacts mental wellness. 

“Mental health is complex,” Dr. Jacka said, according to The New York Times.  “Eating a salad is not going to cure depression.  But there’s a lot you can do to lift your mood and improve your mental health, and it can be as simple as increasing your intake of plants and healthy foods.”

The quality of food individuals consume matters for every facet of health, but especially mental.  Diet is a crucial component of mental health because nutritional foods fuel the brain.  A diet filled with high-refined-sugars is linked to reduced brain function as well as the aggravation of mood disorder symptoms including depression, according to

Like an expensive car, ingesting anything other than “premium fuel,” such as processed or refined foods, limits the brain’s ability to function properly.  Refined sugar-rich diets, for example, are detrimental to the brain, resulting in deprivation of good-quality nutrition.

Although people often associate health with the amount of caloric value, fat levels, or sugar content, being healthy derives from much more than these factors.  The misconception of health emanates from assuming that well-being comes from one’s physical state, instead of how a person feels internally.  Food has the power to alter mental and physical health, so why perceive it as the enemy?

Featured Image by Ana Patricio ’24