It can be so hard to eat “healthy” these days. There’s so much contradicting information—what one person says is healthy, another says is bad for you.
It’s important to know just what makes a food healthy, and what doesn’t. Chances are, the less ingredients in the product, the healthier it is. And the more wholesome the ingredients the better. So foods filled with sugar, saturated oils, and chemicals are not going to do your health any wonders.
That said, here are the top foods that nutritionists would never recommend—even if they somehow snuck into having a rep for being healthy.
Juice is usually filled with tons of sugar (especially watch out for “Juice Cocktail” on the label, but even juice you make yourself isn’t very great for you. “When you juice your fruits and vegetables, you cut the healthy fiber that’s so important for gut health and helps to control blood sugar and keep you feeling full,”says Kim Melton, RD.
You know those chips with the word “Get your dose of veggies!” and “Massive health benefits!” plastered all over the package? Even though they may be colorful, it doesn’t mean they’re good for you. They’re usually just filled with starchy ingredients, fatty oils, and a tiny bit of vegetable (maybe even just the coloring). “In most cases, these snacks are no healthier than potato chips,” says Marisa Moore, RD.
While some granolas are fine for you, “some brands can have 600 calories per cup,” says Lindsey Pine, RD. It’s important to check the nutrition labels; not all granolas are created equal.
“Fat-free” frozen dessertsBreyers
“Be careful with frozen treats that say fat-free, as you’re typically not avoiding the biggest issue of all: sugar,” saysLisa Moskovitz, R.D., CEL of the New York Nutrition Group.
Protein barsClif Bar
Especially meal replacement bars—no bar is going to be substantial enough to replace a meal. Plus, most are filled with different varieties of sugar. “A bar just doesn’t register the same as a meal for me, and I’m hungry again shortly after no matter how many grams of protein or fiber it says are on the label,” says Jess Cording, RD.
At least the sugary kind. Watch out for the flavored ones willed with all sorts of additives. “Look for oatmeal varieties that list the first ingredient as ‘oats,’ contain less than six grams of sugar, and less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving,” Jacquelyn Costa, RD, clinical dietitian at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia.
“Açaí bowls sound and look so healthy, it’s easy to get roped into thinking that they’re good for you,” says Karen Ansel, RD, author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging. “Really, they’re more like dessert.” That’s because they’re filled with all sorts of high-sugar, high-fat foods and way more than what you’re supposed to be eating in fruit (don’t forget, even though that’s natural sugar, it’s still sugar).
“Pretzels are basically made out of sugar,” says Cara Walsh, RD, of Medifast Weight Control Centers of California. “The refined-carb product contains no nutrients that are beneficial for health and aren’t satisfying, hence why so many people tend to overeat them.”
You know that huge “fat-free!” plastered across your cheese or salad dressing? Don’t fall for it. First off, fat doesn’t make you fat, and secondly, it just means they’ve added more chemicals to the product, making it even worse for you. Stick with the real deal, just in moderation. “A little healthy fat with your meal helps you absorb key nutrients like vitamins A, D, E and K, so there’s no reason to go low-fat,” says Ansel.
Vegetarians might love the fact they can still eat “meat” without really eating meat, but nutritionists recommend against products like these. “If you’re a vegetarian or plant-based eater and rely on meatless meals, choose whole protein sources, such as beans, lentils, eggs, dairy, fermented soy, nuts, and seeds most of the time,” says says Lauren Blake, RD at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Say it with us now: Sodium! “The increased sodium intake can cause water retention and bloating,” says Rebecca Lewis, RD, in-house dietitian at HelloFresh.
Just because the pasta is green or red doesn’t mean there’s actually any nutritional value in there. Swap the veggie pasta for actual veggie noodles by spiralizing a zucchini or sweet potato.
Instead ob buying your smoothies preamde in a store, make them yourself so you have full control over what’s going into them. “A 20-ounce commercial smoothie can be upwards of 200 to 1,000 calories, one to 30 grams of fat, and 15 to 100 grams of added sugar,” says Costa.
Bottled coffee or teaHonest Tea
On that same note, bottled coffee or tea can also be packed with unnecessary sugars. So really just stop buying any packaged drink, or at least make sure you’re checking the sugar content before you do!
Companies might market these as “healthy,” and they may look portioned controlled, but beware: These are far from good for you. Besides being packed with sodium, there’s never enough fiber or protein in these meals to fill you up. “As a healthier and more nutritious alternative, cook your favorite heart-healthy recipes in bulk and freeze individual portions for convenience,” says Costa.
Which of these healthy items always throws you for a loop? Which one’s your weakness?