When shopping for healthy foods, it can be difficult to know what items are actually nutritious. Because companies are aware that many consumers are somewhat health-conscious, they tend to label their products with phrases like "low fat" and "multigrain" that allude to dietary benefits. But not all of these products are as nutritious as they claim to be. Here are six so-called "health" foods that actually aren't so healthy after all.
When selecting cereal, many people think that as long as they stay away from obviously sugary brands like Fruit Loops and Coco Puffs they'll be OK. While it's definitely smart to avoid these choices, it turns out that the seemingly healthier options are often not much better. The cereal aisle is usually filled with demurely packaged items labeled "organic," "high in fiber" and "made with whole grains" that make them seem like nutritious choices. In reality, these selections are usually still very high in sugar, and may even contain processed fillers and synthetic ingredients.
If you can't start your day without some crunch, Prevention magazine recommended reading nutritional info and choosing a brand with less than 6 grams of sugar. If you want some extra sweetness, top your bowl off with fresh fruit.
It's easy to get swayed by the idea that items made with fruit and vegetables are inherently healthy. Unfortunately, that's not the case. In fact, many foods packed with produce are also filled with sugar. Fox News explained that this is especially true of juices, which have recently become popular among people looking for tasty, healthy choices. The source reported that while these drinks do contain high levels of nutrients, they also eliminate the fiber that causes you to feel full and keep all the natural sugars. This means that you're consuming a lot of sucrose-fueled calories that won't prevent you from getting hungry.
Making juice at home is a good idea, as you can control the quantity and type of ingredients being used. An even better option is to ditch the juice and eat your fruits and veggies instead. If you're missing a cool, refreshing beverage, try sipping on some calorie-free flavored sparkling water instead.
3. Granola bars
If you've ever been hungry with vending machines as your only source of food, you may have chosen a granola bar as a relatively "healthy" choice in comparison to the rows of chips and candy bars. Don't pat yourself on the back just yet – you may have been better off choosing a Snickers. According to Cooking Light magazine, granola bars generally contain high-fructose corn syrup, saturated fat and added sugar. Many times, a single bar can top 350 calories.
Wondering what to pack as a quick snack instead? The source recommended whipping up some homemade granola with ingredients like nuts and coconut, or nibbling on some cheese and crackers.
Not all yogurts are bad for you, but this is a product that definitely requires some label-reading. If you typically purchase the fruit-on-the-bottom option, it's time to look into other choices. Fox News explained that this type of yogurt has lots of sugar and preservatives that lend it the sweet, syrupy flavor. A standard 6-ounce container of yogurt with fruit on the bottom has 24 grams of sugar and 29 grams of carbs, which is essentially the same as a candy bar.
You're better off buying plain Greek yogurt and adding your own fresh fruit. You'll still get that sweet, creamy taste without all the extra calories.
5. Salad dressings
No matter how many fresh veggies you toss into your carefully constructed salad, topping the meal with an unhealthy dressing can basically cancel out its nutritional benefits. The salad dressing aisle can be hard to navigate, however, because some options that look light and diet-friendly may actually be the complete opposite.
Cooking Light noted that people often assume oil-based dressings are inherently healthy, while cream-based ones are the options to avoid. In fact, clear choices usually contain a slew of ingredients beyond oil and vinegar, like sugar and preservatives. For a healthy alternative to store-bought sauces, mix up a vinaigrette in your own kitchen.
6. 'Gluten-free' and 'vegan' snacks
People often associate dietary restrictions with nutrition, but these two things aren't necessarily connected. Products that are made for people who need to or choose to omit certain ingredients simply don't contain those foods – there's usually nothing exceptionally healthy about them.
Snacks labeled "gluten-free" simply don't contain wheat, which some people are allergic to. Instead, they're baked with flour made from ingredients like rice, which contains the same amount of carbohydrates as standard wheat flour. Being a vegan means you don't eat any animal products, so vegan foods don't have ingredients like eggs and milk that are found in many snacks. However, vegan cupcakes usually contain the same amount of sucrose as regular ones.