Not-So-Healthy ‘Health’ Foods

Just because something is labeled ‘smart’ doesn’t mean it’s an intelligent choice. Arm yourself with knowledge to avoid these sneaky foods:

Just because something is labeled ‘smart’ doesn’t mean it’s an intelligent choice. Arm yourself with knowledge to avoid these sneaky foods:

Protein Bars and Shakes
If you are short on time or you work out a lot, meal replacements loaded with protein may sound like a great idea, but these so-called health food options can quickly turn into diet traps. They are marketed with trendy nutrition names like ‘gluten free,’ ‘organic,’ ‘dairy free,’ ‘low fat,’ and ‘natural,’ but they are a scapegoat for healthy eating. Besides their often-high sugar and fat content, you might end up eating far more protein and calories than you need.

More than any other food, granola has tricked the diet industry into thinking it’s healthy, when really those organic, all-natural whole grain and nut mixes are packed with calories, fat and sugar. Just a quarter-cup serving of granola can easily have upwards of 130 calories, not to mention at least 4 grams of sugar and 5 grams of fat.

Dried Fruit
Dried fruits are great sources of concentrated vitamins, minerals and fiber, but you have to limit your intake because you are also getting very concentrated calories and sugar. Consider prunes, which are dried plums. Plus, when you eat fresh fruit you get the added water content that can help you feel full.

Sushi Rolls
In theory, sushi rolls are almost perfect – protein in the form of seafood (often from healthy fatty acid sources such as salmon and tuna) combined with seaweed, veggies and a small amount of rice. If you ate sushi in the traditional small quantities along with some miso soup, you would actually be doing well for both nutrition and diet.

Caesar Salad Calorie-Bomb
Romaine lettuce, the foundation of Caesar salad, is richer in vitamins and minerals than iceberg lettuce, so that’s a good start. But look past the leaves, and you will see plenty of diet trips, such as high-fat dressing, calorie-rich cheese, and fatty croutons. Just because you ask for dressing on the side when you order your salad doesn’t mean you’re spared all the excess calories adding that a fully-loaded Caesar can top 800 calories. Instead, top your greens with grilled chicken strips and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

High-Calorie Fish Sandwiches
Fish is often touted as a low-calorie superfood but once you fry that fish, slather it in high-calorie tartar sauce, and slap it between two slabs of white bread or a buttered roll, you have more than negated any health benefit you might see. Opt for grilled fish or chicken on an open-face sandwich or a fish taco loaded with salsa and vegetables – hold the sour cream and cheese!

Margarine can be a better choice than butter, particularly for people who are concerned about their heart health. But not all margarines are created equal: Many stick forms contain hidden trans fat, which can be even worse for your heart than the saturated fat in butter. When choosing a stick, go for the brand with the lowest levels of fat and cholesterol. If you are at risk for heart disease, choose a brand that has been fortified with plant stanols and sterols, which can help reduce bad cholesterol levels.

Sugary Fruit Juice
A drink that’s 100 percent fruit juice sounds like a healthy way to check off your daily fruit needs. The problem is, even if you are drinking unadulterated juice (not a juice drink, a diet trap with tons of added sugar and sometimes barely 10 percent real juice), you are missing out on the fiber and the nutrients available only in the whole food, especially fruits with edible peels. In general, experts advise that only a third of the 2.5 cups of fruit you need each day should come from juice. And moderation matters for this health food.

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