12 “Healthy” Foods That Are Actually Bad For You

You’re on a mission to be healthier, so you’ve decided to make better choices when it comes to your diet. You choose popcorn over chips, settle for yogurt instead of ice-cream, and replace your fizzy sodas with energy drinks.

Unfortunately, many of these “healthy” foods are loaded with undesirable ingredients such as artificial flavourings, added sugars, sodium and fats.

healthy foods that aren't really healthy

There are a staggering number of unhealthy foods out there masquerading as healthy alternatives, often branded with labels like “low-fat”, “sugar-free”, and “all natural”.

Healthy Foods That Aren’t Really Healthy

It’s easy to be fooled by misleading labels, but reading nutrition facts carefully and understanding what ingredients go into making these foods can help you identify whether they’re good for you or not.

Watch out for these seemingly healthy foods that aren’t really healthy. They’re probably not a lot better than the unhealthy ones you’re trying to avoid.

1. Sushi

Sushi makes for a great high-protein meal, and without a doubt, it wins over greasy pizzas, burgers and fries. But too much sushi and you’re in for a carb overload—unless you’re eating only sashimi. To lower your calorie intake from white rice, ask for it to be substituted with brown rice instead.

Many sushi rolls are loaded with unhealthy condiments and toppings like mayonnaise and cream cheese. Avoid these rolls as well as deep fried menu items like tempura.

You might also be ingesting a dangerous dose of mercury if you eat sushi often. Fish like tuna, sea bass and swordfish are known to rank highest in mercury contamination. It’s worth looking at a guide on choosing low-mercury sushi fish before your next sushi dinner.

2. Salad Dressing

Salad is always a good choice, but you may be negating its benefits if you toss it with unhealthy salad dressings. Many salad dressings have a long list of ingredients—most of which are unhealthy and hardly necessary. Apart from sugar and sodium, salad dressings can be loaded with preservatives and other harmful additives. You’ll be better off drizzling olive oil and balsamic vinegar on your leafy greens.

3. Multi-Grain and Wheat Breads

Labels like “100% wheat” and “multi-grain” may sound reassuring but often they’re just a marketing gimmick. Instead of being made with heart-healthy whole grains, most of these breads are typically made with refined flour. Refined wheat poses many health risks, and by eating these varieties you’re not benefiting from the nutritional value of whole grains.

So how can you be sure you’re getting whole-grain bread? You should scan the nutrition facts labels cautiously, and check if the ingredient list contains whole-grain flour—not refined flour. Opt for brands with a “100% whole grain” or “100% whole wheat” label on it.

4. Energy Bars

You may think energy bars are the perfect pre-workout snack, but that’s not always true. Store-bought energy bars are loaded with unhealthy ingredients like sugar and fructose corn syrup. Some bars can contain up to 350 calories each! Before a workout, you should fuel up with a mix of high quality carbs and protein. You could also make your own healthy granola bars without the added sugar.

5. Instant Oatmeal

Oatmeal is touted as one of the healthiest breakfast foods, and without a doubt, it is. Oatmeal is a healthy whole-grain food that provides energy and many other health benefits. However, instant oatmeal is a completely different story. Instant varieties of oatmeal are essentially refined carbs that don’t fill you up, are low in fibre and protein, and contain an unhealthy amount of sugar. These brands also contain additional flavourings, and those calories add up. Opt for plain steel cut oats and whole oats that contain at least four grams of fibre and five grams of protein per serving.

6. Popcorn

There’s a wide variety of microwave popcorn brands on supermarket shelves you can choose from. More often than not, commercial brands of microwave popcorn are loaded with high levels of sodium and the chemical diacetyl (found in the butter flavoring), which is a known toxin.

It’s fine to grab some popcorn when you’re binge-watching movies, but we strongly advise against making it a regular snack. A better choice would be to buy your own kernels and pop them yourself. Add healthy seasonings like cayenne pepper, oregano, and other herbs and spices.

healthy foods that aren't really healthy

7. Sports Drinks

If your daily workout consists of a brisk walk or house chores, you’re better off skipping the sports drink. Yes, many varieties of sports drinks are packed with essential electrolytes such as potassium and sodium which need to be replenished after a gruelling workout or endurance training, but you really don’t need a sports drink before or after light to moderate activity.

Many sports drinks are packed with almost two-thirds the sugar of fizzy sodas. Many contain high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and food colorings—none of which are good for health. Stick with coconut water or plain water to hydrate after a workout.

8. Flavoured Yogurt

Yogurt is good for health but you should stay away from the flavoured varieties. Most flavoured yogurts contain sugar, corn syrup, aspartame and other sweeteners, but are still marketed as health foods. You should compare flavoured yogurt to plain Greek yogurt to understand how they differ in nutritional content. Stick to plain, fat-free Greek yogurt. Flavor it with fruit or honey.

9. Frozen Dinners

Pre-cooked, store-bought frozen dinners may be convenient for nights when you’re feeling too lazy to cook, but nutritionally speaking, these meals don’t stack up. They’re loaded with sodium, preservatives and not enough vegetables. Large portions equal a higher calorie count and more fat, so you’re better off sticking to homemade dinners that you can freeze yourself.

10. Canned Soup

Canned soups are a filling lunch or dinner option, but they’re definitely not worth the sodium overload. Most canned soups contain 400 mg or more of sodium in one cup. A diet high in sodium can increase your blood pressure, cause bloating, and make you feel very sluggish. Stick to homemade soup instead.

11. Pretzels

Pretzels contain less fat than potato chips, and are often thought of as a healthier alternative to crisps. But most store-bought varieties of pretzels are made with refined flour—bringing down their nutritional value to basically nothing.

The white flour rapidly converts to sugar in your bloodstream. This causes a spike in your blood sugar, making you feel hungrier. This may be why pretzels hardly fill you up. Opt for whole-wheat pretzels instead.

12. Milk

They say milk is good for you—that it strengthens your bones, prevents osteoporosis, and boosts overall health. But the science really doesn’t hold up. Recent research shows that unless you’re a baby calf, cow’s milk isn’t good for you.

The USDA recommends you drink three servings of milk a day—that’s 444 calories for you.  Cow’s milk is also loaded with significant amounts of bovine estrogen and progesterone.

Dairy milk is unfit for human consumption, but that doesn’t mean you need to forgo milk completely. Fortified soy milk, almond, coconut and rice milk are all great options that offer a variety of nutrients.

Rumana Dsouza

Rumana D’Souza is the social media and content coordinator for Prizm Media and Kudolife. She has found her life’s calling in writing about health and wellness, and believes she can make the world a touch healthier – one blog post at a time.

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