All too often, I get tricked by fancy looking labels on products that swear they're full of antioxidants, vitamins, or other various nutrition-y things that are supposed to be good for your body. If you actually stop and read the info on the back, though, you'd be as shocked as I was at some of these 10 foods that I thought were healthy, but aren't.
1. Most Granola Bars
Granola bars are definitely one of the most convenient foods out there. They’re there to save you during your mid-lecture hunger crisis, when you’re late for your 9 am class and don’t have time for breakfast, or for when you’re just looking for something relatively low-calorie to hold you over until you allow yourself to use a meal swipe that day.
But, they’re really not that great for you. An average granola bar may only have 100-200 calories, but that’s all coming from one thing: sugar. It’s basically a candy bar. Try making homemade bars instead, that way you know exactly what's in them.
2. Naked Juices
Smoothies can be a fantastic breakfast or midday boost, if they’re made at home. Packaged smoothies like Naked may be full of vitamins and some other good stuff, but there’s as much sugar in one bottle of Naked as there is in an orange soda. Yikes. If you’re gonna go the smoothie route, invest in a blender and a trip to Whole Foods instead.
I love oatmeal more than most things, especially in dessert-y flavors like maple brown sugar. The box may rave about oats being heart healthy, but alas, there’s a catch.
Have you checked out the nutritional info on the side of the box? It’s kinda scary. At around 160 calories per packet, instant oatmeal is basically hot, delicious sugar sauce. You’re not gonna get much from packaged oatmeal by itself besides lots of sugar and carbs. Instead, use a plain oatmeal, and sweeten it with honey and/or fruit.
Ah, salad. The supposed pinnacle of healthy post-workout lunches everywhere. Salads can be great, but it’s what we put into salad that can make it super unhealthy, and send the calorie count skyrocketing.
Things like too much meat, salad dressings, and croutons can basically create the equivalent of a few slices of pizza. Instead, pack your salad with nutrient dense raw vegetables and portioned lean proteins, and keep the dressing use to a minimum.
5. Fruit Cups
If your mom didn’t put one of these bad boys into your lunch as a kid, you missed out. There was nothing better then opening up one of these cups during lunch to drink all of the juice before eating the actual fruit.
Fruit and fruit juice is super healthy, right? Wrong. If you pay attention to the wording on most fruit cup packages, it’ll usually say that the fruit is in “syrup” not juice. Syrup = sugar. Sugar = bad. You’re better off packing a piece of whole fruit.
6. Nut Mixes
I’m definitely guilty of picking out the M&M’s out of trail mix and eating it first. Okay, maybe just eating them and leaving the rest of the mix for someone else. If that doesn’t give you a clue as to why nut mixes aren’t that great for you, consider the fact that most nuts are filled with fats, that can be good for you in moderation, but, when you put a bunch of nuts together and put a spicy Spanish seasoning all over them, a few handfuls isn’t gonna cut it. Substitute these for plain salted peanuts, cashews, or almonds instead.
7. Vitamin Water
This one definitely makes me sad. Vitamin Water is not good for you. Sure, it has some B vitamins and other stuff, but drinking this after a workout will pretty much undo that half hour cardio class you just kicked butt at. Lots of sugar, lots of calories, lots of reasons why it just isn't worth it (Triple-x is still my favorite flavor, though).
Sick? Soup. Cold? Soup. You came home for break with a slight sniffle and your mom is concerned? Lots of soup.
It’s true, soup is definitely one of the most comforting foods. But don’t be fooled. Broth-based soups are LOADED with salt. One can has more than twice the daily recommended amount of sodium. Do your blood pressure a favor and think twice about your soup or check for low-sodium alternatives.
Keyword of this article: sugar. Packaged yogurt is usually secretly packed with the stuff. Sure, yogurt is definitely full of great probiotics and a good source of calcium, but other than that, it’s basically just thick ice cream. Instead, try plain greek yogurt with chopped berries or plain granola. Your conscience and craving for sweets with both be satisfied.
10. Packaged Dried Fruit
I know, I know. What could be wrong with dried fruit? I thought the same thing one day when I happened to peek at the nutrition info while picking at a package of dried apricots. The calories were at least triple what I thought they’d be-at least 70 calories per ounce of dried apricot. Whaaaat?
It all comes back to the sugar content. The innocent snack is pretty much turned into the equivalent to a package of sour patch kids because of all of the added sugar. If you feel creative, try making your own dried fruit at home. Not only will you have a delicious guilt-free sweet, but your apartment will smell heavenly.
A handful of pretzels may seem like an innocent, fat-free snack, but they're just another source of empty calories. Plus, if you don't prefer the unsalted variety, the sodium content is sky-high, especially if they're flavored with seasoning. You're better off just skipping the pretzels all together.
Maybe don't rely on these choices as "health" foods, but they're definitely not gonna kill your diet. These definitely aren't the worst snack options in the world, but it's important to be aware of the true content of your food, especially when assuming it to be a healthy choice.
Don't get me wrong, though—I'll still run out the door with a Nature Valley granola bar in hand to make it to my Monday morning 9 am.