Committing to living well does cost more money than swooping through the drive-thru for a $1 burger. Nevertheless, when it comes to improving your health, shelling out extra money is worth the long-term benefits–unless you’re paying for healthy benefits that you’re not actually getting. Here are some healthy moves, that while well-intentioned, might be a waste of your money.
Buying Foods Labeled Antibiotic-free
According to the site Greener Choices, the food label “antibiotic-free” is completely meaningless. In fact, the USDA has banned its use on meat and poultry products. While similar labels with terms such as, “no antibiotics administered” or “raised without antibiotics” are allowed, there is no USDA verification system in place to ensure that the claim is valid. A better bet for your budget is to stick to meats labeled as “Certified Organic.” You may pay more for these foods, but producers go through a stringent process to earn the right to use the label.
Splurging on 100% Vegetarian
According to the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), “flexitarians” (consumers who are have not completely resolved to a vegetarian lifestyle, but make an effort to reduce their consumption of animal derived products) make up a quickly growing consumer group. To target this demographic, mass-market producers such as Kraft, General Mills and ConAgra foods have launched their own vegetarian lines that carry a label indicating as such.
The problem? Vegetarian lifestyles come in many forms: Some avoid meat, fish and poultry, but eat dairy and egg products. Others avoid all animal products, including honey. Furthermore, there is no governing body that regulates the “vegetarian” claim. Unless you buy products labeled “Certified Vegan,” which are verified by Vegan Action (a company that certifies vegan products based on documentation from manufacturers), the “vegetarian” label can mean any number of things.
Buying Gluten-Free Snacks to Lose Weight
Gluten-free diets are intended for those who suffer from a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, which requires avoiding products that contain wheat, rye and barley. However, gluten-free diets have gained a reputation as a weight-loss tool, which is rooted in the misconception that they are low in carbohydrates.
Processed food manufacturers have jumped on board with gluten-free packaged goods such as crackers, waffles, and chips. For people who medically require a gluten-free diet, the uptick in product availability makes overhauling one’s diet more attainable. For the rest of the population interested in gluten-free as a way to diet, skip the gluten-free processed snacks and experiment with recipes from a gluten-free cookbook using whole foods like meat, fish, rice, fruits, and vegetables.
Why? Essential Nutrition for You founder Rania Batayneh explains, “Although it sounds like gluten is a component of all dry carbohydrates, there are plenty left that do not contain gluten, like buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa, rice, and oats. These grains can all be used to make products that are normally made with wheat, including bread, pasta, cereals, and baked goods.” Unless you have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, a gluten-free cookie is not healthier than a regular cookie.
Investing in Toning Shoes
Shoes that claim to “tone your backside” will likely only lead to a toned down bank account balance, according to fitness expert Ann A. Rosenstein. The only way toning shoes will work in your favor is if you’re willing to put forth the energy to exercise. “If you read the fine print, the manufacturers strongly advocate engaging in a sensible exercise plan and eating a healthy balanced diet. Simply walking in an advanced pair of shoes can’t take the place of a well-structured exercise and nutrition plan. Always be skeptical of the easy way to perfect health or a perfect body.”
Splurging on Celeb-Style Cleanses
The idea of a cleanse to rid the body of toxins is not inherently an unhealthy act, but expensive juice cleanses and meal delivery services that often attract attention when celebrity clients tout their benefits aren’t necessarily a wise use of your money. For example, the “Cooler Cleanse” (a juice cleanse that is endorsed by Salma Hayek) can cost more than $50 a day for delivery service of the product.
That’s not to say you won’t shed pounds in the short term, but you probably won’t maintain the lifestyle for long once the cleanse is complete. Holistic health coach Marissa Vicario suggests that a better way to “cleanse” the system is to change the diet and focus on eating whole foods, while minimizing processed foods and alcohol. A juice cleanse can be used a few times a year to go “deeper,” but focusing on big changes instead of an expensive short-term fix will deliver a far more impactful health benefit.
Batayneh adds that juicers are another health misconception, because juicing fruits and vegetables removes one of their most valuable components: fiber. “By removing the fiber, you’re left with a vitamin- and nutrient-rich juice, but one that is brimming with sugars and a skyrocketing glycemic index. Ultimately, this will lead to unstable blood sugar levels and hunger,” says Batayneh. For maximum nutrition, aim to fit whole fruits and veggies into your diet the old-fashioned way.
Stephanie Taylor Christensen is a former financial services marketer based in Columbus, OH. The founder of Wellness On Less, she also writes on small business, consumer interest, wellness, career and personal finance topics.