To be honest, there is a lot of false information out there when it comes to “healthy” foods. We’re constantly influenced by social media and advertisements that don’t always provide accurate information and, therefore, change our perception of food. Product labels provide some of the most misleading information because there is room for interpretation of what “all natural” and “100% whole wheat” actually mean.
Unfortunately, some of our favorite meals, snacks, and drinks – that we think are healthy – are in fact unhealthy. I hate to burst your bubble, but I’ve got some bad news that you’re probably not going to want to hear, but I’m just looking out for you and your health. To be fair, the majority of the foods on this list can be homemade and, therefore, healthier because you know the exact ingredients.
For those of you who didn’t know, a serving size of granola is 1/4 cup. Chances are, you’re not only eating a 1/4 cup of granola for breakfast so you’re doubling or tripling the amount of sugar, calories, and carbohydrates and not getting enough fiber. Stick to granola that has healthy nuts, and a little sugar, like the one Alton Brown makes.
2. Gluten-Free Products (if you’re not gluten-free)
Gluten-free products contain a variety of rice flours, starches, and additional sugar that aren’t benefiting you nutritionally. If you aren’t gluten-free, you shouldn’t be eating these products because they usually contain more sugar and calories than normal gluten-filled food.
3. Dried Fruit
Say Sayonara dried mango and pineapple because they’re loaded with sugar. A serving of dried mango has 27g of sugar and contains unnecessary preservatives to extend the shelf life. Check out the nutrition facts of dried fruits before you go grocery shopping.
4. Sugar-Free Anything
Artificial sweeteners are bad for you. Some contain aspartame which is linked to inducing cancer, but some come from natural sources like agave plants. Be mindful of where your sugar-free products come from and opt for zero sugar instead.
5. Flavored Yogurt
When it comes to yogurt, choose plain or natural flavored over fruity flavors because 1) there is probably no actual fruit in your yogurt and 2) there is a lot more sugar.
6. Trail Mix
If you’re like me, you pick out the M&M and mini chocolate peanut butter cups from the bag of trail mix and leave the raisins behind. The healthiest trail mix contains a mix of unsalted nuts, a bit of dark chocolate and a little fruit. Stay away from the sugar filled candy trail mixes if you’re tryna be healthy.
7. Meal Replacement Bars
There’s a good chance that your protein/power bar is as nutritious as a candy bar. Make sure to look at the nutritional information before you bite into your next cookies & cream meal replacement bar.
8. Frozen Yogurt
This one is a hit or miss. The Natural flavor is the healthiest flavor option, but it all comes down to how much you pile on at the toppings bar. If you load up your natural froyo with candy and sugar, it’s almost as bad starting with a sugary flavor of frozen yogurt. Plus, the mere size of the cup doesn’t help when you’re trying to stay healthy.
9. Fat-Free/Low Fat Anything
According to a recent UK study, low-fat/fat-free foods can contain up to 10% more calories and 40% more sugar. Fat usually equates to flavor, so when fat is removed, the flavor is lost. Companies add additional flavors and sugar to make up for the fat loss. You can read more about why you shouldn’t eat low fat foods here.
10. Prepared Salads
Don’t be fooled, just because it says “salad” doesn’t mean it is the healthiest option. Most restaurant salads are doused in salad dressing which decreases the healthiness of a salad by a lot. The kale salad at Panera bread has 600 calories and 40g of sugar, that’s more than the Little Cheeseburger at Five Guys.
11. Instant Oatmeal
Maple Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal contains 12g of sugar and 32g of carbohydrates. Instead, opt for a homemade bowl of oatmeal using 1/3 cup of instant oats contains only 0.37g of sugar and 18g of carbohydrates. To amp up a boring bowl of instant oats, try these recipes.
12. Salad Dressing
All you need to make a healthy salad dressing is a little EVOO, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice. There is no need for additional preservatives, flavorings or salts.
13. Microwave Popcorn
There are so many bad ingredients in microwaved popcorn, it’s unreal. Air-popped or stoved-pop popcorn is the perfect alternative because you can control the amount of oil and butter in the recipe and won’t have to worry about the added trans-fat. If you can’t get away from eating a bag of popcorn, don’t worry you can make your own in an ol’ brown bag.
Okay, this one is a little tricky. The smoothies made at stores (like Jamba Juice) rarely contain real fruit and are packed with sugar and calories. However, smoothies made at home are much healthier, but when it comes to ingredients, there are certain ones to stay away from. Instead of using fruit juice as the liquid base, try using water, coconut water or even almond milk to prevent a big sugar rush.
Juice is one of the worst drinks for you. If you’re craving something tangy and fruity, you should just eat a piece of fruit because it contains fiber whereas juice only contains sugar even if it is 100% juice.
I’m sorry, I really am. Some sushi is not bad for you, but the specialty rolls (like the California Roll and Rainbow roll) have 500 calories or more because they’re filled with cream cheese, fake crab, and tempura shrimp. Check this list to see if your favorite sushi is healthy or nah.
17. Veggie Burgers
If you look at the ingredients in a veggie burger, chances are they don’t contain as many veggies as you think. Most burgers are made with rice, beans and are held together by a variety of oils and veggie proteins, but this veggie burger is 100% veggies and 0% oily.
18. Bottled Tea
Iced tea is a big culprit of hidden sugar. If you make iced tea at home it should have zero calories. However, when you buy store bought tea – like Arizona Ice Tea or Lipton Green Tea – you’re getting an additional 27g of sugar and 100 more calories. Make your own iced tea and you will save calories and money.
19. Veggie Chips
Just because they’re made with vegetables doesn’t mean they aren’t fried like normal potato chips. Baking, frying and even cooking vegetables removes some of their nutrients so if you’re craving vegetables you should probably just eat them raw or make your own baked chips.