What types of foods are surprisingly unhealthy

30 surprisingly unhealthy foods

It's no secret that a lot of the "healthy" foods that are disguised on supermarket shelves are actually food in disguise (ahem, OJ), but there are some hidden so deep that they've probably gotten into your pantry without even thinking about it. They flaunt their misleading health yards as if it is nothing - meanwhile, they are laden with added sugar and other naughty ingredients that are total treats for the body.

Hate for breaking it, but nutritionists think these 30 staples should be on your list.

Flavored instant oatmeal

Flavored instant oatmeal (think: maple brown sugar or apple cinnamon) are often high in sugar and sodium. “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,” says Jacquelyn Costa, R.D., clinical dietitian at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia. Or choose steel cut or rolled oats and flavor them with your own cinnamon, nutmeg and fresh fruit.

Vegetable pies

The differences between veggie-fortified and regular noodles are so nutritionally insignificant that exchanging for the other doesn't have much of an impact on your health, says Emily Rubin, R.D., clinical dietitian at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. The legitimate, healthier alternative: Swap your pasta for spiral vegetables or spaghetti squash.


This one really hurts. "Pretzels are essentially made up of sugar," says Cara Walsh, R.D., of Medifast Weight Control Centers in California. "The refined carbohydrate product does not contain nutrients that are beneficial to health and are unsatisfactory, which is why so many people tend to overeat."

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Vegetable chips

A deep-fried chip is a deep-fried chip, regardless of whether it is made from beets or potatoes. "The harmful ingredient is not (necessarily) the thing that is fried, but the saturated fats and trans fats that are used in the frying process," said Adrienne Youdim, M.D., nutritionist at the Beverly Hills Nutrition Center. Plus, most vegetarian chips have potatoes listed as their first ingredient and contain the same amount of calories as regular potato chips, adds Rubin. Try baking your own veggie chips of kale, carrots, or zucchini instead to cut back on the fat and sodium and pack in more nutrients.

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Pre-made smoothies

Pre-made smoothies are often made with fruit juice as a base, which makes them high in sugar and high in calories, says Costa. "A 20-ounce commercial smoothie can contain between 200 and 1,000 calories, one to 30 grams of fat, and 15 to 100 grams of sugar," she says. Instead, make your own smoothies using frozen fruits and vegetables, low-fat milk, yogurt, and powdered protein.

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Low fat peanut butter

Buying fat-free or low-fat peanut butter to shed pounds will save your money - they have roughly the same amount of calories as regular peanut butter with tons of added sugar to make up for the missing fat, says Lauren Blake, RD of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Look for a natural peanut butter with an ingredient list that doesn't have any added oils, cane sugar, or trans fats.

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"Diet" frozen meals

Frozen meals, marketed as low-calorie and with an emphasis on portion control, often have fewer than 300 calories per starter and lack of veggies and whole grains, so you'll be hungry again in no time, says Costa. These products also tend to be loaded with sodium to keep freshness. "As a healthier, more nutritious alternative, cook your favorite heart-healthy diet recipes in bulk and freeze individual servings for convenience," says Costa.

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Beef dried meat

Sure, this delicious snack will give you convenient access to protein on the run, but most jerkies are loaded with sodium to help preserve the meat. "The increased sodium intake can cause water retention and gas," says Rebecca Lewis, R.D., in-house dietitian at HelloFresh. Lewis recommends opting for low-sodium turkey instead. “It's just as delicious without all the salt,” she says.

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Counterfeit meat products

Vegetarian "meat" products are often filled with a variety of questionable ingredients, such as processed soy protein, canola oil, caramel coloring, and xanthan gum. "If you are a vegetarian or plant-based eater and rely on meat-free meals, most often choose whole protein sources like beans, lentils, eggs, dairy products, fermented soy, nuts and seeds," suggests Blake.

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Fat-free salad dressing

Fat-free = healthy, right? Not so. "Salads are full of green plants that contain fat-soluble vitamins, essential minerals, and antioxidants that help protect our bodies from disease," says Blake. If you don't have healthy fats here, your body won't be able to completely absorb these great nutrients from the salad, says Blake.

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Bottled coffee and tea

While they can be convenient, coffee and tea are often filled with sugar or sugar substitutes before bottling. "I never buy them because the calories and sugar can easily be packed in without realizing it," says Brigitte Zeitlin, R.D., owner of BZ Nutrition in New York City. Instead, brew your own mug at home, add ice and take it with you in a to-go mug.

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Light mayo

True, light mayo has about half the calories and fat of the whole-food versions. But like other light products, when the fat is cut, sugar and other additives are often added to balance the taste. "A little healthy fat with your meal helps you absorb key nutrients like Vitamins A, D, E, and K, so there's no need to go low-fat," says Karen Ansel, R.D., author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging.

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Fat-free cheese

Full-fat cheese packaged on saturated fat, which most nutritionists recommend limiting. But since cheese is also high in protein and calcium, is fat-free the perfect compromise? Not as much. "For the most part, fat-free cheese tastes like gum," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D., creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author ofRead it before you eat it."It doesn't melt well and it lacks the creamy mouthfeel of the real deal." Instead, satisfy your cheese cravings with a serving as a snack paired with fruit or whole grain crackers.

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Diet sodas

Sure, swapping full-fledged sodas for the diet stuff saves calories and sugar. But "Zero calories doesn't mean zero effects on your body," says Christy Brissette, R.D., President of 80 Twenty Nutrition.

Sugar substitutes can cause bloating and gas, and some studies have even found that drinking soda can promote overeating and lead to weight gain, as well as increasing the risk of osteoporosis and possibly even type 2 diabetes.

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Acai bowls

"Açaí bowls sound and look so healthy it's easy to think they're good for you," says Ansel. "Really, they're more like dessert." Most bowls explode with calories, thanks to a staggering combination of ingredients like granola, nut butter, coconut, and a lot more fruit than you need in one sitting. Instead, design your own healthy breakfast bowl by combining low-fat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with a single serving of your favorite fruit and a tablespoon of chopped walnuts.

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Protein bars

Like many processed foods, packaged protein bars are often filled with various forms of sugar (beet syrup, brown rice syrup, cane syrup), excess fats (palm kernel oil, sunflower oil), and artificial colors and flavors. Also, protein bars sometimes contain gas-causing compounds, such as sucralose (a sugar substitute) and chicory root (a fiber additive).

"I've found that a bar isn't a meal for me, and I'm hungry again shortly after, no matter how many grams of protein or fiber there are on the label," says Jess Cording, RD. When you're still on a post Waiting for workout protein bars, Brissette suggests looking for a "clean label" listing real food ingredients, not ones you can't see.

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Protein biscuits

While it looks like "protein" cookies are a healthier way to zap a sugar cravings, they really are only processed, baked goods that are fortified with vitamins and proteins that are no better for you than regular cookies.

If you're craving a cookie, says Lisa Moskovitz, R. D., CEO of New York Nutrition Group, it's better to limit yourself to a real once a week a few times. When you need more protein in your diet, have a serving of a naturally rich source like yogurt, eggs, nuts, beans, fish, or chicken.

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The cereal you can usually find at the store is high in calories, fat, and sugar. "While granola can be part of an overall healthy diet, check the label," says Lindsey Pine, R.D. "Some brands can have 600 calories per cup." She recommends choosing one with less than 150 calories, six grams of sugar, and two grams of saturated fat per 1/4 cup serving.

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Coconut oil

Many nutritionists say coconut oil is not the "healthy food" it cracked because it is full of saturated fat. "Despite the headlines claiming saturated fat isn't bad for you, the majority of research still weighs in in favor of choosing unsaturated fats and limiting saturated fats," says Jessica Levinson, R.D., culinary nutrition expert and author of 52-Week Meal Planner.

"When it comes to the health benefits of coconut oil, the jury still isn't there," says Ansel. "If you like a little in cookies or muffins for flavor instead of butter, that's fine, but don't choose it because it's supposed to be better for you." Otherwise, monounsaturated fats, such as avocado, canola and olive oils remain healthier.

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Whipped cream

What's in a can of whipped cream? Ingredients That Nourish Nutritionists' skin: high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors. “Pretty gross,” says Pine. "I recommend eating real whipped cream over the fake stuff." Keep your servings down to a tablespoon or two - or opt for a dollop of Greek yogurt on top of your berries or cakes.

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Flavored yogurt

Yogurt is an easy way to get more gastric probiotic bacteria along with calcium, protein, and vitamin D. But avoiding flavored varieties since many are packed with so much sugar, they can also be dessert, says Robin Foroutan, RD, a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Also better untouched: Artificially sweetened “light” yoghurts, which can cause flatulence and gas. Instead, you can refine natural yoghurt with cinnamon, vanilla extract or fresh berries.

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Canned soup

Sure, canned soups are an easy way to stock up on veggies - and most of us don't get enough. But they often areveryrich in sodium. "Most things that come in a can aren't nearly as nutritious as when you eat them fresh," says Moskovitz. Either choose a low-sodium can or make your own soup at home with the rainbow of vegetables - carrots, sweet potatoes, ginger, tomatoes, spinach, celery, artichoke hearts - with protein boosters like chicken, lentils or Greek yogurt in a low-sodium supply.

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Ready-made trail mix

Go nuts for nuts - just not all of the other ingredients in most pre-made trail mixes, like dried and sweetened cranberries and high-sugar milk chocolate. Many store-bought mixes also package sugar, salts, and oils, adds Moskovitz. "Look for nut mixes that have only nuts as ingredients, or make your own mix at home by combining raw nuts in a baggy," she suggests - then stick to a serving size of just a few tablespoons for calories to keep in check.

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Although naturally fermented foods are great for your digestion and overall health, kombucha is mostly fermented yeast. "Because so many people actually have excess yeast in their digestive tract, drinking kombucha regularly is like putting gas on a fire because it can worsen the imbalance," says Foroutan. Instead, choose foods that are naturally fermented with bacteria such as sauerkraut, cucumber, kimchi, and kefir.

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Pre-made “olive oil” salad dressings

Shelf-stable, ready-made salad dressings don't necessarily do your body a favor. "They're usually made with preservatives you don't need," says Brissette. Even dressing that is "with olive oil" often does not check: When you actually read the ingredients label, olive oil usually appears low on the list after other oils like canola or soybean oil, notes Lara Clevenger, RD Mix instead A homemade vinaigrette with extra-virgin olive oil, avocado or walnut oil with balsamic or apple cider vinegar and a hint of Dijon mustard.

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Fat free for yo

Recognize a topic here? "Be careful with frozen treats that are fat-free as you usually won't avoid the biggest problem of all: sugar," says Moskovitz. In half a cup of frozen yogurt, you save about half the calories (80 versus 140 or so), but the fat-free stuff can have more than 20 grams of sugar compared to about 14 grams in regular ice cream ... plus it just doesn't taste that good. Womp. Just a small portion of this ice cream - you deserve it.

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Gluten free snacks

While naturally gluten-free foods like fruits, vegetables, quinoa, rice, corn, and potatoes are definitely good for you, many gluten-free packaged foods are as high in calories as any other processed food, such as sodium, sugar, and saturated fat. “Most of the gluten-free flours used to make these products contain less nutrients and fiber than the whole grain version. Plus nutrients can be stripped off during processing, ”says Kim Melton, R.D.

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Agave nectar

Have you replaced honey with agave and think it's healthier? Think again Most agave syrups are highly processed and look more like high fructose corn syrup. Agave nectar goes straight to the liver when it is absorbed, which is why it does not increase blood sugar. But large amounts can actually tax the liver, so it's not the best type of sweetener, ”says Foroutan. You are better off with honey or a light pinch of sugar.

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Veggie sticks and straws

Many so-called “veggie sticks” get their color from a small amount of spinach or carrot powder - which means they don't add much to your daily #VegetableGoals. "For the most part, these snacks aren't healthier than potato chips," says Marisa Moore, R.D. Watch out for sneaky ingredients like excess sodium and sunflower oil - a common ingredient in plain old potato chips.

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Juice ... even green juice

Even if the label contains 100 percent juice or no added sugar, "juice itself is a concentrated form of sugar," says Zeitlin. In fact, an 8 ounce glass of OJ adds up to a whopping 22 grams of sugar versus 13 grams in a single fruit.

"When you juice your fruits and vegetables, you cut the healthy fiber, which is important for intestinal health and helps control blood sugar and feel full," adds Melton. Make your own smoothie at home - or better yet, munch on a piece of fruit or a homemade salad. "It's less expensive and a much healthier choice," says Melton.

You should definitely eat 15 complex carbohydrates