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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4/1/2012 10:04:22 PM

JWHITEHEAD1972's SparkPage
Thank you for the tips! I'm a terrible soda drinker. I always drink diet, caffiene free but I need to work on drinking more water!


4/1/2012 8:31:51 PM

I also don't see any problem with yoghurt coated raisins or pretzels, as long as you know the food value and consciously include the proper amount in your diet. Yes, the yoghurt coated raisins are more in the candy than fruit category because of the extra sugar, just as chocolate coated raisins would be. Duh. That doesn't mean you can't eat them, just log them properly. You can even mix them with plain raisins. As candy goes, they're better than Skittles.

Likewise with pretzels - don't toss them out because somebody here has decided they are "unhealthy". They're just grain. No worse than a piece of bread or a cracker. You can get them salt free or brush off the salt if you're salt sensitive. You can even get them whole grain or made from other types of wheat (I like spelt pretzels myself) or non-wheat grains (I also have some gluten-free pretzels). Just log them and don't worry so much. If you eat a variety of foods and the appropriate amounts for your situation, you'll be fine.


4/1/2012 8:13:43 PM

Thanks for sharing this.


4/1/2012 7:56:26 PM

I don't like the taste of the non-sucrose sweeteners (except for xylitol, which I use for oral health reasons and it tastes like sugar to me). I have my own water filter (including reverse osmosis as well as charcoal) and chill the water. If I want flavor - I just add an ounce of a flavored drink or juice. Many sodas actually taste better highly diluted, especially root beer.

The right veggie chips are quite tasty (taro root, for instance) and also have 3 times the fiber of potato chips for the same calories. So if you're looking for fiber as well as a different taste - check out the good ones such as Terra chips. Also nice for people rotating foods, as I do sometimes for allergies. I used to get the mixed bags of terra chips and separate them into the differrent kinds for that purpose.

Granola is also quite tasty if you get the right kind and avoid anything with inulin, chicory root extract, polydextrose etc. in the label - they are just trying to artificially bump up the fiber content and your innards may suffer as a result. Just don't eat it by the cupful! Treat it as a snack. Way back in the 1970s, I worked for a guy who just would put some granola on top of less calorific cereal. So really, people, granola has been well known as calorie dense since it got popular. That's why very active people like it.

And spinach pasta (if you get the right kind) is quite tasty. Never thought of considering it as a vegetable... But spinach does add a lot of taste for just a little bit, in addition to making it colorful. If you put spinach into casseroles, it really should be chopped very fine or else the texture is yuck for many people (especially kids). Although I like it in pea soup. Likewise for broccoli in casseroles - chop it up very fine and avoid the inedible stalks that cheap frozen broccoli is full of. Brussels sprouts likewise in casseroles for kids and grownups who think they don't like it. If they like mustard, they really will like the other mustardy veggies if prepared right. Brussel sprouts are also great as finger food - just eat one leaf at a time until you get to the equally tasty core. My brussels sprouts hardly ever make it into the casserole as a result. The worst way to serve it is whole, expecting the kiddies to manage it that way with a fork (as in all the "stay at the table until you eat your brussels sprouts" scenes in sitcoms). I don't even like eating them that way, and I like them.


4/1/2012 6:41:22 PM

"aspartame is well known to cause brain tumours". Really? This old wives tale is still out there??? Show me the proper scientific study! Check out the article on here about artificial sweeteners.


4/1/2012 5:59:10 PM

I avoid most of the things on this list and when I need a snack, I try to make it as healthy as possible. As for the soup, I would think its unhealthy due because its a cream-based soup. The vitamin water I avoid because its basically a gimmick to get people to drink water and I don't buy my water from the store, but instead get it from out of the tap. If you live in an area that has good water available, use it; you're already paying for it through your taxes.


4/1/2012 5:52:59 PM

CECELW's SparkPage
I had no idea vitamin water in it. The contents say 0 sugar. Must be nutrasweet or something


4/1/2012 4:58:08 PM

i was told diet sprite is much better than diet cola. the dark color contains sugar. but i guess water is the best bet. thanks, i enjoyed reading all that


4/1/2012 4:39:34 PM

PDANNYK's SparkPage
You know, we are supposed to have a cabinet member and a whole department of people in Washington there to protect us against unhealthy foods. If the FDA and dept of health and welfare were to crack down on this "come-on" advertising like they do with some drugs about 1/2 of the "healthy" food products woulld not be on the shelf to con us into being fatter and more unhealthy!!! There should be a law on labeling correctly and truthfully!!!. There are 2 products in particular that need to be banned and they are high fructose corn syrup and chemical artificial sweetners! THey are probably killing more people than DDT did!!!!


4/1/2012 3:38:10 PM

TRUANGEL1's SparkPage


4/1/2012 3:14:48 PM

TONYVAND1's SparkPage
Thank you for the research and the good advise.


4/1/2012 1:55:46 PM

Being diabetic, it's good to know, although I've instinctively stayed away from these things anyway.I never drink sodas, and stay far, far away from most packaged foods. (not saying I always did :-0, but I'm definitely working the whole foods as much as possible now)


4/1/2012 1:46:20 PM

This is an eye opener! I guess we need to be avid label-readers.


4/1/2012 12:55:49 PM

-VICKI-'s SparkPage
I'm sitting here eating granola as I'm reading this, and yesterday bought the ingredients to make Broccoli & Cheese soup this week.


4/1/2012 12:03:27 PM

GINA180847's SparkPage
Reading this was excellent and confirmed a lot of things I always suspected. Thank you!!

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