We’re continuously barraged with information about what the healthiest food choices are – and some items have achieved an almost mythic status as being ‘superfoods, ‘ or an essential part of a healthy diet. But how healthy are some of the things we all know are good for you?

There is a lot of wrong information being circulated when it comes to what is a genuinely healthy food choice. Social media and ads are not meant to offer accurate information, as much as to adjust your perceptions, so you buy their product.

Even the product labels we rely on frequently provide misleading information because many terms such as all-natural and whole-grain, can be very loosely interpreted by food manufacturers.

Here is a list of the 20 food items we most commonly considered good for us, which are not.

1) Is Your Light Salad Dressing Making You Fat?

We all know that eating more green leafy vegetables is a great way to get the critical minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy and maintain a healthy weight. But, if you’re wondering why your diet plan isn’t working even though you’ve included salads with every meal, maybe you should consider your salad dressing.

While it’s easy to recognize the little ‘extras’ that will sabotage your salad, like adding; fruits, nuts, and sweet vinaigrettes, that light salad dressing you’re using could be just as bad. Many light salad dressings replace fatty ingredients with salt and sugar guaranteed to pile on the pounds.

2) Granola Bars are High in Fat and Sugar

How granola was ever considered a healthy addition to any diet is beyond me. Of course, there are many varieties of granola. Some are mostly oats, others are more sugar-packed, but the bottom line is; not only is granola not especially nourishing (its primarily empty carbs) but due to its sugar content; a surprisingly small amount of it can fatten you up as quickly as the same amount of Cheerios. The high sugar content in most granola also means that you’ll probably feel hungry again soon afterwards. Encouraging you to eat more calories than you should to reach a healthy weight.

3) Dried Fruit is almost as Bad as Candy

While we can all agree that fruit mostly composed of sugar and that dried fruit is, by extension, a concentrated source of fruit sugar – that’s not the worst of it. Fruit, dried or fresh, contains a type of sugar called fructose. Fructose is a type of sugar that your body has no idea what to do with – your liver can’t break it down for immediate use, so almost all the fructose you eat is immediately converted into stored fat.

This doesn’t mean that you should stop eating fruit altogether, but you must be aware that it’s far easier to over-indulge on dried fruit than fresh. Fresh fruit is much more filling and takes longer to eat, giving your body the chance to feel satiated sooner. Dried fruit is more compact, and your feedback system will take a lot longer to tell you to stop.

4) Instant Flavored Oatmeal

It sounds like the healthiest choice for a quick breakfast before heading out the door, but that packet of flavored oatmeal is just the source of a fast sugar high that will leave you starving for another fix just a couple of hours down the road.

Most flavored, instant oatmeal brands are packed to the gills with added sugars (typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup) which can play havoc with your metabolism and add inches where you least want to see them.

5) Fruit Juices aren’t Healthy

Fruit is good for you, right? Maybe not.

A whole, fresh fruit includes loads of fiber that fills you up and reduces the amount of fructose that you consume in one sitting. Fruit juice is different; the juicing process removes the appetite suppressing and otherwise healthy fruit fiber from the mix. One 64 oz container of orange juice contains the sugar of 18 oranges. If you crave the flavor of fruit – stick to the fresh stuff.

6) Skim Milk isn’t Healthier than Whole Milk

This is one of the worst food myths out there. Initially demonized by the misguided war on fat, we were all told to replace full-fat milk with watery skim. Skim milk is a sugar-rich drink that has all the healthy, appetite suppressing fat removed from it.

More recent research shows that people that consume healthy fats are much better able to achieve and maintain a healthier weight. People who drank whole or 2% milk felt fuller sooner, resulting in less binge eating to compensate for the lack of fullness from drinking skim milk.

7) Tortilla (Corn) Chips aren’t a Vegetable

This is a case of guilt by association; the reasoning goes this way:

  • Vegetables are good for you
  • Corn is a vegetable
  • Corn chips are made with corn
  • Corn chips are good for your health

No. It definitely doesn’t work that way. In the first instance, while corn is indeed a vegetable, it isn’t a healthy one. Archeologists can date when a population began to consume corn by looking at the health of the teeth they left behind. A community with high corn consumption always shows lots of dental cavities. Why? Because of sugar.

Corn contains lots of sugar and very little else. Now add the sugars and salt from being processed into your typical supermarket brand corn chips, and you have another way to pack on water and fat weight while encouraging diabetes.

8) Low-Fat Muffins are a Health Horror

Low fat in anything processed is a guarantee that the manufacturer packed as much sugar as possible in the item to make it taste less like cardboard. Whether it’s high fructose corn syrup or honest to goodness white sugar, that tasty little snack is a ticket to metabolic disorders, heart disease, cancer, and unwanted weight gain.

9) Gluten-Free Products

Celiac disease and gluten intolerance is a growing problem for reasons that deserve an article al their own, but the takeaway right now is that gluten-free doesn’t mean low-calorie, healthy, or even particularly good for you. These items can be eaten by people who don’t tolerate dietary gluten, and that’s the extent of it. Gluten-free foods are just as liable to contain large quantities of sodium, sugars, preservatives, and other chemicals as any other ‘non-gluten free’ item. Just because an item has no gluten does not mean it’s automatically healthier for you.

10) Spinach Pastas

It’s green, so it must be healthier, right? Wrong!

Spinach noodles don’t contain a sufficiently large amount of spinach to qualify as even one serving of green leafy veggies after eating a plateful. What makes this product more insidious is that people end up much more than they should, believing it’s healthier than conventional pasta. Just remember that spinach noodles aren’t much more than green noodles and you should be fine.

11) Reduced Fat Peanut Butter

This is another food that fell victim to the so-called war on fat. Natural peanut butter is a healthy food packed with protein and healthy fats. Reduced fat peanut butter, like skim milk, is a sugar-packed product that won’t fill you up, creates attention numbing sugar spikes and dips, and encourages binge eating as your body waits for a fat mediated signal to stop eating that never comes.

12) Veggie Chips are Not Vegetables!

This is the same line of reasoning that misleads folks about tortilla chips; just because it has ‘veggie’ in the name does not mean it’s as healthy as fresh vegetables. Veggie chips can contain dehydrated vegetable powder and loads of chemicals, preservatives, sugar, and salt (minus the fiber and nutrients) that does not make them a substitute for the real thing.

13) Protein Bars

Not all protein bars are sugar and preservative-packed close cousins of the ordinary candy bar – but, most are. I can safely say that if you bother to read the nutritional info on many of them, you’ll be in for a shock. Most protein bars are highly processed and include a plethora of artificial ingredients and non-nutritional fillers. The bottom line is; if a protein bar has more than 8 grams of sugar, it’s just a candy bar with added protein and not a healthy food.

14) Misleadingly Named Snacks

This is the most insidious entry into this list.

There are a plethora of snack items misleadingly named to give an impression of wholesomeness and health when they’re essentially nothing more than misnamed junk food.

Let’s start with SnackWell’s offerings: Two Chocolate Mint Devil’s Food Cookie Cakes clock in at an incredible: 120 calories, 0 grams fat (0 g saturated fat), 60 mg sodium, 28 grams of carbs (0 grams fiber, 18 grams sugar), and a measly 2 grams of protein.

Next is Good Thins – supposedly a healthier version of the famous Wheat Thins brand: 23 pieces contain a whopping 22 grams of carbs and 190 mg of sodium. The main ingredients in Good Thins are; potato flour, cornstarch and vegetable oil. Potato chips are better for you than Good Thins – at least with potato chips you’re not also eating pure corn starch!

Finally we have Baked Lays Potato Chips. While most of us would assume baking to be better than frying (because of cancer causing acrylamide), it’s definitely not the case when we’re considering chips. According to the ingredients label on a package of Baked Lays Potato Chips they start with dried potatoes and corn starch and then add sugar, corn oil, and corn sugar (high fructose corn syrup). Doesn’t sound so healthy now, does it?

In Closing Just Be Honest With Yourself When Snacking

What does that mean, you say? Well think about what it is that makes up the snack that you are having. Your own knowledge of what your eating and what effect that has on your daily calorie intake is your best weapon against over eating or eating poorly. You know that fruits can have an excessive amount of sugar in the. You know that any kinda snack chip that is full of carbohydrates is going to basically convert to fat unless your doing exercise to burn them off. If you’ve eaten big meals for lunch and dinner accept that fact and skip the pre-bedtime snack. If you’ve been on the go all day and know you haven’t gotten in your minimum carbs maybe that is the day to have a nice bowl of ice cream. Just apply the common sense that you have to snacking and you’ll be much better off then trusting the person trying to sell you their snacks.

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George Citroner

GW Citroner is a Hudson Valley, NY based writer whose work has appeared in over 20 publications and on an incredible range of Health & Wellness topics.

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