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July 9, 2019 • Healthy Eating & Nutrition

Foods You Think Are Healthy But Are Not

The food industry has mastered labeling their products in such a way that we are tempted to eat just about anything. Many so-called “health foods” are nothing more than nutritionally defunct, empty calories masquerading as the good guys you want them to be.

Man choosing healthy food. Abstract image with wooden puppet

What follows are the most notorious “health food imposters.”

  • Flavored yogurt products: Although these “healthy favorites” provide some calcium, B vitamins, and essential amino acids, they are loaded with added sugar – in many cases more than is typically found in a standard dessert.  “Yogurt” products, through slick packaging and clever marketing have very successfully garnered what is referred to as the “health halo effect” – meaning consumers naturally assume any product with “yogurt” on its label is wholesome and good for you.  The only truly healthy yogurt is low-fat plain.  If you prefer it sweetened, combine with some berries or cut up fruit or add a teaspoon or two of maple syrup or honey.
  • Bagels:  The standard fat-free bagel is a nutritional disaster – providing a whopping dose of nutrient-depleted refined carbs (white flour) that give rise to a truly toxic flash flood of glucose in your arteries.  Look for smaller-sized, 100% whole wheat varieties and spread with a little peanut butter or reduced fat cream cheese to add sensory pleasure and slow down its glycemic response. Your arteries and your waistline will thank you!
  • Pretzels:  Standard pretzel packages scream “fat-free and natural,” but don’t be duped. This popular snack food is nothing more than 100% refined white flour (the exact same thing as sugar in your body) combined with a whopping dose of sodium.  Instead, choose from the growing selection of whole grain or multigrain, crunchy snacks like Stacy’s multigrain pita chips or my personal favorite, Food Should Taste Good whole grain tortilla chips.  Even regular potato chips (trans fat-free of course) would be a better choice, as they provide significantly more fiber and nutrients, and will not spike your blood glucose level like the infamous white flour (naked starch) that pretzels are made from.
  • Bran Muffins: Unless you make your own, forget these no-icing cupcakes.  The standard store-bought (or Starbucks) bran muffin is loaded with white flour, sugar, vegetable oil, additives difficult to pronounce along with a touch of added bran.  Don’t let that wholesome, rich, brown color fool you.  Like sodas, it typically comes from added caramel coloring.


  • Fruit Juice: Although it can provide some nutrients and a touch of fiber, the standard fruit juiced is loaded with calories and sugar (some have more than soda!).  Remember that liquid calories do not suppress your appetite as effectively as solid food calories.  It’s much better for both health and body weight to eat a piece or two of real fruit and drink water instead.
  • Meal Replacement/Energy Bars: While some are a bit more wholesome than others, (15 vs. 40 or so ingredients) these popular, modern-day favorite are the ultimate in 100% pure factory-made, processed foods.  In my book, they are not food, but food-like artifacts that are generally high in sugar and/or unhealthy fats.  Have a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit as a real, healthy alternative.
  • Infused Waters: Like yogurt, “water” has the health-halo effect and the beverage industry is currently exploiting it to the max.  Water infused with all sorts of supposedly healthy extras, like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and herbs are the fastest growing beverage products.  Most of them are nothing more than sugar-fortified drinks like their first cousins, soda with a smidge of a few added vitamins.  There is zero evidence that extracting nutrients from their native context (foods) and adding them to water has any health benefit (and may even have risks).  If you use these products, you are paying several 100 times more than you would for tap water (which is more rigorously monitored than bottled water). By the way, pure water is the only beverage that provides 100% of what we need and why we have to drink to stay alive – namely H20.



For expert guidance on choosing the best foods at the grocery store, check out my grocery shopping guides! Simply click here.