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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10/9/2012 1:55:23 PM

The slide about the vitamin water(s) is a bit misleading. First, you can find a vitamin water with stevia (Vitamin Water Zero) that has zero calories AND is actually good for you. As an avid outdoorsman, and an exercise nut, one thing I am acutely aware of is the harm drinking TOO MUCH water can do you, expecially under circumstances where you are in the heat. Hyponatremia occurs when you drink too much water and you dilute the serum sodium concentration in your body to the point your muscles cramp and cause as much problems as net loss of electrolytes. Living and working outside in the heat of Texas summer as I do, I can drink too much water, thinking I am doing myself good, when in fact, I need to be recharging my electrolytes as well. What I wind up doing is diluting them to the point where I put myself in physical danger. DRINKING LOTS OF WATER is NOT necessarily the answer to every problem. Staying hydrated means more than just drinking water. Sometimes those vitamin waters DO have an importance, and for those who are sweating excessively with activity, drinking JUST water can cause problems. I do speak from hard earned experience. Please research this topic if you want to find out more information...hyponatremia.


5/5/2012 1:12:24 PM

1GROVES2, did you miss the preface that said "All sorts of foods and drinks can fit into a healthy diet when you enjoy them responsibly and within moderation."? Sounds like you have the moderation thing under control, many of us do not.
I think this was a good article. Some of us who have been in SP for awhile, already knew alot of this. But still a few surprises for me, such as the facts on veggie chips (they're made from potatoes??) and spinach pasta.
I still believe SP endorses Healthy Lifestyle vs. "diet", and this article helps one make dietary choices to promote good health.


4/27/2012 11:41:13 AM

NOLAZYBUTT110's SparkPage
sometimes I think its all wrong what ever is right, because )AOL and all advertisement is bias! You cant trust anything you read on any Liberal News websites! Take it with a grain of sugar because they said sugar is not good for you either, but know this, you cant digets anything without sugar, because you need sugar to make your body disgest foods.... and sugar is in most carbohydrate foods, without it, water could not stay in your body nor stomach and you could not digest anything let alone have a bowel movement; all need sugar to hold and attracts water! Man they sure can go overboard about a lot of crap. Just eat in moderation, all things are good unless its too processed; processed foods lose a lot of nutrition!


4/17/2012 11:02:56 AM

1GROVES2's SparkPage
I eat .5 oz of pretzels (that is 50 calories!!!!) nearly everyday with my sandwich I pack for lunch,!....the whole lunch is around 200 calories, Anything in moderation should be allowed. I thought SP was for healthy life style, then I read this nonsense and realize it really is just the same as any other DIET!!


4/14/2012 9:44:53 AM

REGSHAR's SparkPage
None of this is surprising, but it's too bad everyone believes diet soda is the best thing going, especially the "0". So many things to choose from and so many things that aren't good for you.


4/10/2012 10:43:07 AM

So glad that I have learned early on to stay away from all of the choices listed here. Keep letting us know as the food list grows!


4/10/2012 9:17:40 AM

LATINMUSE84's SparkPage
I knew about most of these. Too bad about the veggie chips, I just bought a big bag, thinking it would be a good substitute for those cravings when watching movies.


4/9/2012 9:04:05 AM

Granola and "yogurt" covered raisons...those are the two that I was not aware of...and I love "yogurt" covered PRETZELS but I only have them sparatically so... Everything in moderation...that's my take!


4/5/2012 9:20:24 AM

Knew this, but keep up the good work, I like to learn somehting new each day.


4/3/2012 2:38:14 PM

This was a surprise for me in a lot of areas. Have to re-think my choices I see. Maybe eat more Special K Cracker chips instead of pretzels. Got to have something to go with my beer. =)


4/3/2012 1:47:54 PM

In a seemingly permanent battle with Candida, I am an expert on ingredients and nutritional labels. I must examine all ingredients in everything I eat and usually find pleasant substitutes, though most processed foods are out of bounds. Lifewater is a great guilt-free 0 calorie soda substitute that is sweetened with erythritol and stevia, plant-based sweeteners. Blue Diamond crackers are low in fat and high in nutrients and pleasure. Homemade hummus is a healthy snack staple. My advice is to get a good crock pot and pressure cooker (they are safer now) and stick to the outer rim of the supermarket.


4/3/2012 11:30:41 AM

TAMGAR12's SparkPage
Wow! Now that's some good info to know. I really thought I was doing good by eating veggie chips, granola and pretzels!


4/3/2012 11:25:12 AM

JUSTYNA7's SparkPage
Dried cranberries when I read the nutrition label surprised me. Nothing good in them at all. Just calories. No fiber, No vitamins.


4/2/2012 4:57:46 PM

I never realized that the spinach pasta wasn't all that healthy. I think "spinach" and it must be good for you. I need to take a better look at those food labels on the package of wraps and boxes of pasta. Thank you for sharing this info.


4/2/2012 3:59:51 PM

MOONCHILD8's SparkPage
I do not use any of the foods on this list. Thank you for the tip! Linda aka Moonchild8

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