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 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 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, 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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10/28/2014 11:59:42 AM

Liked this- how about an RD comment re coconut fat?


10/28/2014 4:53:02 AM

Why would anyone think that ANY of those food and drinks were healthy. People are not that stupid.


10/2/2014 12:14:37 PM

I would like if some things were better explained, altho a lot of this is a good reminder.
Muffins - for instance - I use a lot of good recipes right off of Spark and I plan them into my Nutrition plan. I think Spark does give us a lot of good alternative recipes and that could be more acknowledged in this.


7/27/2014 5:42:40 AM

The absolute healthiest food is food which remains in it's natural state - i.e: uncooked, or not heated past 112 degrees - otherwise it's just dead food, and who wants, or needs to eat dead food. Frankly, it's irrelevant if flour is white, brown, wholemeal or otherwise - we shouldn't consume it - it's not part of our historical nutrition, and white flour, in particular, used to be used to make wallpaper paste - think what it's doing to your insides!! Sugar is sugar whatever form it comes in, and substitutes like Aspartame should be avoided like the plague - the safest natural raw sugar substitute is stevia - not the white, which has obviously been treated, but he untreated, which looks a brownish colour. So basically, any foods containing flour and sugar should be off the menu.


7/27/2014 5:12:57 AM

LEANMEAN2's SparkPage
These are so good to know. Thanks


5/25/2013 3:40:21 PM

KENWANNE2013's SparkPage
I knew most of these ... but was shocked maybe even devastated that yoghurt raisins aren't healthy :-( I'm not a great lover of fruit, so have been consuming yoghurt covered raisins as a substitute.


4/17/2013 3:53:50 PM

I was aware of most of these.

I love pretzels, It's a shame it essentially has no food value. I will still eat them; but I'll eat them less often. What a shame. :={


4/3/2013 3:13:27 PM

Really kind of shocked at the backlash people are feeling towards a lot of these slides (especially pretzels and diet soda), and the misnomer of "everything in moderation." ALL of the foods listed here are highly processed - as in, developed in a lab and designed to make you want it and NEVER be satiated by it: read "The Extraordinary Science of Junk Food" published in the NY Times 3/13. It takes THIRTY SIX glasses of water to rebalance your body's pH to it's proper alkaline state from ONE can of diet soda: "Hungry For Change." The sheer amount of real world (and documented) links between processed food and obesity, cancer, depression, heart disease, and most "1st world" disease is absolutely staggering: Google "Gerson Therapy," watch "Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead," or read any number of articles by Chef Jamie Oliver (if you have access to TED Talks, look his up - it's incredible!)

Granted, I had to nearly be killed by processed food and a poor nutritional diet (yes, I do mean that quite literally), before my eyes finally were opened by this simple truth: while everything in moderation makes us feel better when we screw up, would you still believe that if we swapped "pretzels" for "one tablespoon of formaldehyde"? Think that's over the top? That's what your body converts diet soda into, in your brain. Before you cry, "That's all hype! If it happens, it's only in such small amounts that it can't be considered dangerous!" Oh, really? What happens if you put a tablespoon of formaldehyde into a jar every day for ten years? Yeah, you're going to build up a hell of a lot of poison - and that's what's happening in your body every single time you drink a soda.

Everything in moderation, sure, but for me? Hold the toxins, please.


3/20/2013 10:40:44 AM

I already knew about all of these. I am shocked about the comments about soda. Soda is a chemical and I have a brother who developed diabetes from drinking soda ( I mean that is all he would ever drink). Diabetes does not run in our family. I know that fresh fruits and vegetables with raw nuts are the best foods to eat but I get bored with that. I guess that is why I love cook books.


3/19/2013 2:20:15 PM

Here are my problems with the diet soda slide:

1. The claim that it may displace water. Hello! soda - diet or not - is almost all water. It's providing fluid, even if it's not the "optimal" form of fluid intake. Caffeinated versions may (and I'll get to this in a second) contribute a little bit to dehydration (and are often counter-indicated for people with blood pressure issues), but there are plenty of caffeine free diet sodas around, so this claim is a lotta bunk.

2. Almost every sentence on the slide contains "may" or "could". Unlike the other eight foods, there is nothing - nada, zip, zero, zilch - on this slide that is concrete against diet soda consumption. One recent study I read even admitted it found no solid link between diet soda and weight gain or other health problems (remember - correlation is not causation!) and that it didn't correct for other changes in diet during the course of the study, though that didn't prevent the article I was reading from running with the "it may cause" lines.

I drink way more water than I do diet soda, but the anti-diet soda spiel is really starting to get on my nerves.


3/19/2013 1:30:17 PM

No surprise that vitamin water and diet soda aren't good for you. They're not much different in comparison to sports drinks and regular soda. Same goes for broccoli and cheese soup. It's a cheese soup, enough said. Most of the things on here are no brainers, they are processed junk. No matter how healthy they may sound, they are just snacks, most even are void of flavor or are unfilling. I'd rather eat a 200 calorie candy bar and feel satisfied for 4 hours than to eat a 100 calorie granola bar and feel hungry in 15 minutes.


3/19/2013 1:04:22 PM

ELISELA2011's SparkPage
I miss the veggie chips that were discontinued and made with pumpkin puree and corn as the main ingredients, those actually had a serving of pumpkin in them! I'm trying to figure out how to make a homemade version, the flavor I loved was tomato ranch and I now make a pumpkin tomato chicken buttermilk soup based on that flavor.


3/19/2013 1:02:13 PM

Pretzels surprised me. I knew they were better than chips and added salt but the lack of fiber is a let down. Thanks for the info.


10/30/2012 2:31:39 PM

NGREGOR's SparkPage
Most of this is known either intellectually or through basic common sense, but articles like this are always good reminders that there are somethings considered healthy that really are not.


10/14/2012 5:47:49 AM

I learned a long time ago to read, read, read labels ... Thanks!

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