9 Foods You Think are Healthy but Aren't

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9 Foods You Think are Healthy but Aren't

Written by: Sarah Haan, Registered Dietitian

There are many foods in today's supermarkets that aren't as good for you as you might think. Before you bite, get the facts on some of these masters of disguise, but remember: All sorts of foods and drinks can fit into a healthy diet when you enjoy them responsibly and within moderation. Just make sure you're reading labels and not being tricked into thinking the foods you're eating are better for you than they really are.

Vitamin-Enriched Water

Vitamin-enriched waters put two good things together to make healthiest drink ever, right? Sounds good in theory, but vitamin waters contain far more than their name implies. Yes, they can give you your daily dose of nutrients, just like a multivitamin, but it comes with a side of sugar and calories you may not have known you ordered. A single bottle of vitamin-enriched water usually contains 2.5 servings or more when you read the nutrition label. That means you're consuming more than twice the calories and sugar listed on the label when you drink the whole thing. Water it down: Water should be your drink of choice. If you don't like the flavor of plain water, spruce it up without calories by adding lime, lemon or orange wedges to your glass. Save the vitamin and electrolyte-enhanced waters for long, intense workouts that last 90 minutes or more.

Granola

Granola can be deceiving. It appears to be filled with the whole-grain goodness of oats. What's so bad about that? It's what you don't see: all the added fat and sugar that turned those healthful oats into granola. This applies to granola bars, too. They may have a reputation as the optimal snack for healthy eaters, but many are made with added chocolate, sugars, and "chicory root extract," which is mostly inulin, a sugar made from plants that is also a source of soluable fiber. Inulin, which is largely undigestible, adds both sugar and supplemental fiber to make granola look healthier than it is. Get a grip on granola: Not all granolas deserve a bad rap. Read those labels (sugars should not be in the first two ingredients) or make your own so you know what you're eating.

Spinach Wraps & Pasta

Spinach wraps and pastas definitely add a decorative flair to your meal, but that's about it. The actual amount of spinach in these green tortillas and noodles is trivial compared with what you would get if you added your own spinach leaves to your wrap or pasta dish. This super green is added more for color than for nutrition, and most often, the flour used to make the pasta or wrap isn't whole grain, either. Spruce up your spinach: Add fresh spinach leaves to your pasta dish or wrap if you want to benefit from the B vitamins, fiber, iron and calcium found in spinach. Choose whole-grain (not spinach) pastas and wraps for your meals instead.

Broccoli & Cheddar Soup

It may boast the super food "broccoli" in its name, but this creamy concoction is usually less than soup-er for you. Besides a load of full-fat cheddar cheese, what you won't see is all the melted butter and cream this soup contains. All three of these ingredients are high in unhealthy saturated fats. And just because broccoli is in the name doesn't mean you're getting a serving of vegetables when you slurp down this soup. Slim down your soup: Order a cup instead of a bowl, or make it at home using healthier substitutions like evaporated skim milk and less cheese. Don't forget to add a real serving or two of vegetables to your meal; this soup alone won't help you meet your daily quota.

Veggie Chips

Veggie chips seem like they would be a much smarter choice than regular potato chips, but it turns out most brands are about equal in calories, fat and nutrients to regular old chips. Consumer Reports states that the main ingredient for almost all veggie chips are potatoes, merely supplemented with vegetable powder or puree. Veggie chips only contain about 10 fewer calories per serving than your average potato chips. Chuck the chips: Snack on fresh, crunchy veggies for fewer calories and more nutrients than veggie chips.

Muffins

Muffins may look like the perfect breakfast or snack, but in most cases, they're little more than a small cake (i.e. dessert). Not only do they resemble small planets in size, but they are also loaded with calories, unhealthy fats, refined flour and added sugars. Bran muffins can trick you into thinking they are healthful because the word "bran" is in the name, but these monsters can contain 500 calories or more and very little else in the way of nutrition! Blueberry muffins (or other fruity varieties) contain a fraction of a serving of real fruit. Muzzle the muffin top: Share these goodies with a friend and watch your portion sizes. If fruit is what you want, avoid it when it comes in muffin form. You can also make muffins at home and use healthier ingredients to make them more nutritious.

Pretzels

Pretzels, although a better choice than greasy potato chips, provide little more than calories. Yes, you can buy them fat free, but they're also free of any significant amount of vitamins, minerals, fiber or protein. Even pretzels labeled "honey wheat" struggle to pack 1 gram of fiber into 8 twists. If you're crunching on salted pretzels, you could be adding an extra 815 mg of sodium to your diet with each serving. Power up your pretzels: Choose whole-wheat pretzels for more fiber and filling power or pair your twists with some healthy protein (like cheese or peanut butter) to avoid spikes in blood sugar that could leave you feeling hungry and lethargic.

Yogurt-Covered Raisins

Wholesome yogurt + fruity raisins = yogurt-covered raisins. These must be healthy, right? Wrong. While both raisins and yogurt are nutritious foods, this packaged snack is anything but. The "yogurt" on the outside is far from the yogurt you know from the dairy aisle. Mostly sugar, oil and some dry milk and yogurt powder, that "yogurt" coating is often a source of hydrogenated oil (trans fats), which you'd never find in real yogurt. A single serving (1/4 cup) also contains about 130 calories. Skirt this yogurt: Get more nutrition for your calories by choosing real yogurt, with or without added fruit. You'll save fat and calories and avoid the sugar rush of this snack.

Diet Soda

Calorie-free isn't synonymous with healthy. When you'[re downing more than the recommended max of 16 oz of pop per day, you may be doing harm to your body and hurting your healthy lifestyle goals. The carbonated beverage could be displacing much-needed water, which is necessary for hydration, and calcium-rich milk, which provides essential vitamins and minerals. Some sodas could even put you at risk for bone loss. Some research shows that phosphoric acid, found in dark colas, may leach calcium from your bones, increasing your risk of osteoporosis. Ditch the diet: Choose more water, tea and reduced-fat milk, aiming for 64 oz of fluid per day.

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Member Comments on this Slideshow

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GENEALOGYANGEL

7/7/2009 1:59:09 PM

GENEALOGYANGEL's SparkPage
Agrees with what I have read/known about all along. I still do like granola, though -- I just eat less of it, like a sprinkling on top of my whole-grain cereal or yogurt once in a while. I also like the color of spinach pasta mixed in with the whole grain.

IRISHRAVEN

7/7/2009 1:50:33 PM

IRISHRAVEN's SparkPage
Ok SOMEONE has their information pretty messed up. The water recommendation is NOT a myth! Give me a break! If you want to drink sodas just fess up and say so without the silly statements. No one here will judge you for that. Every doctor will tell you to cut sodas and drink nore water. They will also tell you to steer away from jucies made from concentrate, sports drinks and all that other high sugar stuff too. And the slideshow/article does NOT say that ONLY water is acceptable. It also included water and reduced-fat milk, therefore saying that there are other options! Geeez. And POP is NOT mostly cabinated water. It's mostly syrup. Geez. And the reason Pops do not hydrate is because of the caffine in them. Caffine dehydrates the body! It's a proven fact! Not only that, the sugar substitute/artificial sweetners used to make these diets drinks aren't good for you either. There is nothing about they soda slide that is misleading or incorrect. I mean honestly, if you want to drink soda just say so.

AKARTIST1

7/7/2009 1:41:12 PM

I am really thankful for this video/article. I read labels and have drawn the line and refuse to purchase stuff with high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, aspartame, spenda, or sodium nitrates/nitrites in them. I make my own granola; if anyone wants the recipe I will be glad to send it to them. I also make my own homemade cream soups so i don't have to buy the sodium laden soups in the can. Basically the safest place to shop in the grocery store is around the outside aisles and the health foods section.

TORINA1

7/7/2009 1:40:48 PM

MY DOCTOR JUST TOLD ME THIS MORNING TO CUT OUT THE DIET SODA! ) :

IMNJOYABLE

7/7/2009 1:37:43 PM

IMNJOYABLE's SparkPage
This is good to know.

DESIGNER78

7/7/2009 1:21:33 PM

DESIGNER78's SparkPage
very intresting- i didnt know about the spinach pasta and the granola...
havent touched soda in weeks....
the vitamin water- 2.5 servings per bottle- wow!!
missed that one

MCQUEARY

7/7/2009 1:07:25 PM

MCQUEARY's SparkPage
@INTPLIBRARIAN - rationalize much? :-)

Slide #10 should have gone on to explain that the caffeine (a diuretic) and the elevated sodium present in almost all diet sodas, in addition to the phosphoric acid, are what's killing you in diet soda.

Also -- how can a recommendation be a myth? (i.e. a recommendation to drink 64oz of water a day -- which every physician I've ever consulted, 3 in my adult lifetime, have agreed with)

SCOOTCHULA

7/7/2009 1:00:42 PM

Nothing new here, but I'm surprised soy isn't on the list.

CRAZY_CAROLLYNN

7/7/2009 12:48:08 PM

CRAZY_CAROLLYNN's SparkPage
I pretty much knew about most all of those, maybe not all the facts about the yogurt covered raisins having all that tans fat. Thanks to Spark People for the heads up and more reasons we can never ASSUME when it comes to what we put in our mouths.

In just 300 years the majority of all our people have no clue how to farm, harvest, and prepare REAL FOOD. Its actually sort of Alarming how utterly dependent we all are on the food INDUSTRY. And again its distressing how that very same Industry uses manipulation, chicanery, and dishonest marketing ploys to further their profits at our health's expense.

It s just more good reason to pay attention to whom you patronize as well as what you eat.

SANDERSMA

7/7/2009 12:39:44 PM

I ditched the diet! It's been 3 weeks since I've had ANY soda!!!

TRIPLETTS

7/7/2009 12:38:37 PM

THANK YOU FOR SPARK PEOPLE, I CANNOT BEGIN TO TELL YOU HOW MUCH THIS SITE HAS HELPED ME. I HAVE LOST 16 POUNDS IN TWO MONTHS AND DO NOT FEEL DEPRIVED. I SCHEDULE MY SNACKS INTO MY PROGRAM, JUST AS IF THEY WERE MY FOURTH MEAL...I TELL ANYONE WHO WILL LISTEN ABOUT SPARKS AND I TELL THEM, IT IS LIKE HAVING A PERSONAL TRAINER LIVING RIGHT IN MY HOUSE. GOD BLESS THE FOUNDER OS SPARKS, FOR WANTING TO GIVE SOMETHING BACK...I'M ON THE RIGHT TRACK FINALLY!!!!!!NANANATOR

CRAZY4GALE

7/7/2009 12:33:40 PM

CRAZY4GALE's SparkPage
wow some of those surprised me.

GAELLY

7/7/2009 12:26:07 PM

GAELLY's SparkPage
I agree, none of this is a shock and it goes to show that we need to read lables to keep up with our health.

THEATERCHICK18

7/7/2009 12:24:23 PM

THEATERCHICK18's SparkPage
this is a good article, some of those foods I didnt know were actually unhealthy

LISENDAN

7/7/2009 12:12:45 PM

LISENDAN's SparkPage
Thanks for the list. With the vitamin water I would rather put my calories into something I enjoy and stick with a nice cold glass of ice water.

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