“We’re easily sold by the gimmicks of marketing and celebrity endorsements,” says Tony Nakhla, a Los Angeles-based dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon. And when we think something’s good for us, we’re ready and willing to pay the up-charge. Yet, everyday Nakhla sees patients spending hundreds and even thousands of dollars a month on products and treatments that don’t live up to the claims.
In the current cult of health, anything that’s easy and purported to help us lose weight, stay fit, feel better or look younger goes in the shopping bag. Yet often these “healthy” choices are not so healthy after all and cost much more than the alternatives. Medical experts weigh in on what not to buy for your health and wellbeing.
Robin Barrie Kaiden, a New York-based dietitian, says many of her clients are now opting for soy milk instead of the old fashioned kind because they think it’s better for them. “But half the time it’s flavored, and it has added sugar,” she warns. Kaiden also notes that soy milk has become very controversial because non-organic types are genetically modified and it acts like an estrogen-like compound in the body, the effect of which remains unclear. One thing is certain: It’s much more expensive. A price check on FreshDirect.com shows that half a gallon of soy milk costs $3.99 to $4.29, compared to $2.39 to $2.49 for half a gallon of regular fat-free and reduced-fat milk. In a year, you’ll spend about $90 more for potentially harmful milk with more sugar.
“There is no ingredient so amazing that’s worth spending hundreds on a skin cream,” says Dr. Nakhla. But they still sell them: Creams infused with green tea, gold, platinum or the soil of France–all for the low, low price of $400 to $1,000. “A lot of good ones can be found right on the shelf of your local pharmacy,” he counters. “You should be spending between $30 and $50.” Dr. Nakhla recommends looking past marketing and at the ingredients. You don’t want allergens, preservatives or perfumes, he says, and should look for those that are plant-derived or have a good retinol. Also, seeing a licensed dermatologist may be a better investment in your health than buying into LED and laser skin treatments that average about $5,000. Dr. Nakhla says oftentimes a $25 prescription will work better.
Organic Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a health food, and organic is even better for you…right? Wrong, says Dan Kirschenbaum, psychiatrist and author of The Wellspring Weight Loss Plan. “Peanut butter is incredibly high in fat, with about eight fat grams per tablespoon,” he says. “A fat is a fat is a fat.” He advises using a healthier alternative like fat-free cream cheese—very tasty with jelly on a sandwich—which is also cheaper. While organic peanut butter costs $3.69 to $4.99 for a small bottle, cream cheese is just $2.99. (Please see comments below, and note that there are differing opinions in the medical community on the benefits of peanut butter.)