It’s happened to all of us at one time or another. We browse the aisles of our grocery store, attempting to find healthy options and then falling for the ones that simply say “natural,” “low-fat,” “fat-free,” or “good source of protein.” Why wouldn’t we? Those packages certainly know how to trick us, and to retaliate, we’ve put together a list of “healthy” foods that should actually be avoided, or at least consumed in smaller portions:
Bottled Green Juices
When you hear, think, or say “green juice,” do you automatically feel four pounds lighter? I know I do, but is it as healthy as it seems? The bottled green juices that you find at most stores, including brands Naked Juice and Bolthouse Farms, have low sodium and high potassium content, but a whole lot of sugar! Between 30 and 50 grams, you might as well drink a can of regular Coca-Cola.
Instead, make green juice at home! Some people use juicers, but a regular everyday blender will get the job done and more. Focus on herbs and green vegetables (like kale, mint, basil, parsley, spinach, celery, romaine lettuce, and Swiss chard) than fruits, which is where most of the sugar in store-bought juice comes from. And when it comes to benefits, research tells us that fresh, homemade, vegetable-dominant green juice can improve cholesterol, facilitate weight loss, increase energy levels, and strengthen immunity.
We eat protein bars because, like the name suggests, we believe we’re consuming high fiber and protein. While it depends on the kind, some protein bars are healthy and some have as many calories as a candy bar. Fit Nation Magazine has a list of unhealthy protein bars that we should never eat, and they include (but are not limited to) Kashi GoLean Dipped Peanut Butter and Chocolate, PowerBar Harvest Energy Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, and Pure Protein S’mores Bar.
Instead of going for any flavor or brand, count the ingredients first! If the protein bar has 4 to 5 ingredients or less, perfect. Any more than that, no good. Other suggestions we have are to keep an eye out for sugar, consider the ratio of carbs to protein, avoid soy, and per Jillian Michaels, choose the ones between 300 and 400 calories as a meal replacement and 220 calories as a snack.
If vegetables act as the dominant ingredient of a snack, it’s only right to think it’s a smarter choice than a regular snack. Yes, you’re consuming necessary nutrients like iron, potassium, and vitamins E, K, and C, but you’re also consuming a good amount of fat and sodium. Keri Glassman, R.D., tells TODAY Health & Wellness that “most of these chips are high in fat, calories, and sodium. An ounce of veggie chips has 150 calories—the same as potato chips! Potato chips only have a gram or two more fat.”
Instead, reach for a smaller portion or ditch the store-bought chips altogether and make your own healthy batch at home! What’s so great is that you can pick almost any vegetable, such as kale, garlic, taro, sweet potato, parsnips, carrots, and beets. Depending on what you choose, the process can be as simple as arranging thin, chip-like pieces on a baking dish, topping them with a little bit of oil, and baking until crispy.
“Would you like to top your yogurt and berries with granola?” asks the bakery cashier. “Of course!” I say as I think of all the added nutrients and healthiness I’ll be getting. Well, it looks like I thought wrong. Granola can be loaded with fat, sugar, and calories from when healthful oats turn into granola. To get an idea of what I mean, Fitness Magazine states that “one cup contains up to 560 calories and 28 grams of fat before you add milk.”
Instead of grabbing any type of granola off the shelf, read the labels first. Going the store-bought route will require you to look for fewer calories and sugar sources, pronounceable ingredients, and certain oils like organic coconut oil and extra-virgin olive oil. You can also make granola at home, complete with natural ingredients that transform the unhealthy version into a healthy and delicious snack! For an easy homemade granola recipe, click here to view Elizabeth Rider’s take on its healthy goodness.
Frozen Diet Meals
Sure, frozen diet meals are undoubtedly convenient, low in calories, and accurately portioned, but they’re also loaded with unnecessary sodium, trans fat, sugar, and preservatives! Don’t forget about the lack of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which doesn’t help us reach our daily nutritional requirements. That’s why meals with cream, sauces like teriyaki and sweet and sour, and meat like sausage and pepperoni are definite no-nos.
Instead, reach for the meals with 250 to 300 calories, a low count of sodium, and at least 1 cup of vegetables—but if you can ditch them altogether, that’d be much better. We suggest making your own frozen dinners at home by cooking large portions and freezing healthy, single-servings for the days when you’re too busy or tired to cook. What’s great is that the choice is yours! We hope that these five suggestions have helped and even encouraged you to explore more “healthy” foods that should really be placed in the junk food aisle. And if you have some in mind, we’d love it if you could share them in the comment section below. Let’s continue living a healthy and holistic lifestyle!
Allyson Miller is a bookworm, history nerd and outdoor enthusiast who loves writing creative and informational content for SBT in Rock Hill, SC. Depending on the day, you can find her with her nose in historical documents, shopping for trendy exercise outfits or trying new cooking recipes. Allyson dreams that one day, engineers will figure out a way to build roller coasters sans the incline, ridding her of coasterphobia.