Navigating the world of healthy and unhealthy foods can be harder than it seems. While some foods are easy to distinguish as “good” or “bad,” others are trickier. The worst are those that seem healthy but are packed with sugar, fat, sodium or preservatives. On your next trip to the grocery store or your pantry, watch out for these “healthy” foods that aren’t actually healthy.
Salads are a healthy meal option, but they can turn unhealthy when you drizzle on the dressing. To ensure they last for months, dressings are filled with preservatives and additives, along with sugar and salt. And dressings like bleu cheese and ranch contain fattening cream and cheese. The healthier option is to make your own dressing using a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Granola and Granola Bars
Granola seems healthy, due to its oats, nuts and fruit. However, packaged granola and granola bars from the grocery store often are packed with sugar and preservatives that add unnecessary calories to your snack or breakfast. Before buying granolas, check the ingredients and look for high-fiber varieties without added sugar. Or, you can easily make your own, using honey or agave for sweetener and cinnamon for flavoring.
Soup can be a healthy, vegetable-based meal and an easy way to cut out meat and carbs. However, some canned soups have some not-so-healthy ingredients added to preserve the soup and make it more flavorful. Most often, canned soups have significant sodium levels, which can make you feel bloated and raise your blood pressure. Check the ingredient level and consider making your own soup using a low-sodium stock, fresh herbs and vegetables.
Canned fruit is technically processed, and to give it a long shelf-life, the fruits are soaked in a sugary syrup that adds a lot of unnecessary calories. You’re much better off eating fresh fruit. However, if you prefer canned fruit or crave a good fruit cocktail, look for varieties that are in water without any syrup and that don’t have any added sugars. These can be difficult to find, so you may be better off canning your own fruit!
There’s nothing better than a glass of orange juice with breakfast. While 100% fruit juice is a great way to get your daily servings of fruit, most fruit juices from the grocery store also contain unnecessary sugar and extra calories. Worst of all, it’s hard to find a juice with 100% fruit and no additives. A much healthier alternative is to invest in a juicer to make your own orange or carrot juice for a delicious and vitamin-rich beverage.
Trail mix seems like a healthy snack alternative to chips and cookies, but be careful of some store bought mixes, which can have just as much salt and fat as chips and as much sugar as cookies. Look out for salted nuts and skip the mixes with chocolate or peanut butter chips, which add a lot of sugar to your snack. Stick to unsalted nuts and unsweetened dried fruits, and be wary of how many nuts you eat. Certain nuts, like pecans and peanuts, are packed with calories.
If you follow the Mediterranean diet, you likely enjoy a bowl of Greek yogurt for breakfast. While plain Greek yogurt makes for a healthy breakfast, skip the flavored yogurts. Even if it’s a fat-free variety, it likely has an unnecessarily high level of added sugar. These yogurts can lead you feeling unsatisfied and still hungry. If you want to sweeten your breakfast, add a drizzle of honey or agave, cinnamon and fresh fruit.
A smoothie is another snack where you’re much better off making one yourself at home where you can monitor the ingredients. Just a few years ago, Naked Juice came under fire for calling its smoothies and juices “all natural” when they actually had high levels of sugar and calories. Other smoothies may contain frozen yogurt as a base, which is loaded with sugar. Dust off your blender and make a smoothie at home with coconut water, fruits and vegetables.
Dieters often replace butter with margarine to cut back on calories. Unfortunately, margarine is full of trans fats, which can lead to obesity and raise your bad cholesterol levels. Additionally, some margarines have free radicals and preservatives that can harm your health. A healthier option is to cook with olive oil, avocado oil or coconut oil. For toast, swap the margarine for avocado or a nut butter.
Understanding what snacks to avoid and those in which you can indulge can help you stay on track with your diet and optimize your health. Take it a step further with the FiT iQ test, which can help you find out which dietary vices you’re more prone to and what type of diet makes the most sense for your body’s needs.