Ten "Healthy" Foods to Avoid

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In the commercial-filled world of the food industry, eating right is not easy. Food companies target consumers with flashy advertisements and magic fixes. Unless you are paying attention, it is easy to fill your grocery cart with the wrong things.

There are many foods that sound ‘healthy’. However, most of these foods are just marketed that way. Let’s look at ten such foods.

1. Bran muffins

Bran muffins are sold as the perfect to-go breakfast: a healthy alternate to fast food. But while bran itself is a healthy whole grain source of fiber, a muffin baked with heaps of sugar, flour, and fat is not. Muffins sold commercially are huge in size and can have more calories and sugar than a doughnut.

2. Boxed Cereal

Cereal is the breakfast choice in many households. Unfortunately most boxed cereals are processed, have too much sugar, and not enough fiber. Even the high fiber cereals are high in sugar and filled with processed fibers. Kids’ cereals are worse as they have too many artificial chemicals in the forms of flavors and colors.

3. Energy drinks

Energy drinks and vitamin waters are marketed as the perfect way to get that boost of energy during a busy day. These drinks are mostly enhanced with B vitamins which are water soluble. This means that most of those vitamins literally go down the toilet! Some of these drinks may also contain harmful chemicals and artificial colors. Save money and just drink regular water instead.

4. Granola bars

Sold as healthy breakfast and snack choices, granola bars contain more sugar and calories than certain candy bars. Protein bars are all full of processed chemicals.

5. Low calorie bread

Low calorie or lite breads are marketed as a healthy alternate to regular breads. However, if you look at the ingredients, lite breads are also made with the same enriched bleached flour as regular white breads.

6. Pretzels

Pretzels have been touted as a healthy snack because they are lower in calories and fat than potato chips. However all pretzels are made with white flour, salt and other ingredients such as added corn syrup.

7. Reduced-fat peanut butter

If you read the list of ingredients on reduced-fat peanut butter, you will see that they add more sugar to make up for the lack of fat. Peanut butter can also be a hidden source of trans-fats as hydrogenated fats are often used as preservatives.

8. Trail Mix

Commercial trail mixes often consist of other fillers such as candy or “yogurt”-covered raisins or fried sesame sticks. Moreover, these trail mixes are coated with hydrogenated fats to increase shelf life.

9. Veggie Pasta

Don’t let the color fool you. The amount of veggies in these pastas is minimal. Most often dry vegetable powders or food colors are added to make you believe that you are actually eating ‘a full serving of vegetables’. 

10. Yogurt

Flavored yogurts can pack as much sugar as dessert, and can have artificial flavors and colors. Lite or low calorie yogurts can have artificial sweeteners and added processed fibers.

When you look at an item in the grocery store, do not read the front of the package. The little red dress or the happy smiling cartoon figures are there just to lure you. You probably don’t even need to look at the nutrition facts label all the time. Instead, pay attention to the list of ingredients. Think about what goes into making that product. That is what you will be putting in your body.

Parul Kharod, MS,RD, LDN, WakeMed Hospital, WakeMed Cary Celiac Support Group Director