17 “Healthy” Food and Drinks That Are NOT Healthy

There are so many food and drinks out there marketed as “healthy” when they are actually no better than donuts and soda. These food and drinks are actually way worse than known junk food, because you will eat more of them thinking they are fine and healthy.

Below are the top “healthy” food and drinks that aren’t healthy:

1. Skim milk

Skim milk means it fat-free and has had all of the fat removed. Always be weary of food or drink that is labeled fat-free, because that generally means something else (usually sugar and artificial flavorings) has been added to make it taste better. One cup of skim milk may have 11 grams of sugar – about half as much sugar as you should have in one day!

Fix it: Instead of skim milk, go for nut milk like almond milk.

2. Granola

Granola is one of the worst offenders because the serving size is super small and so it is easy to eat double the serving or more in one sitting without even realizing. Granola is loaded in sugar and should be avoided – yes, even if “healthy” sugar was used including honey and maple syrup. Once sugar is in your body, it doesn’t matter where it came from.

3. Protein bars

About 99% of protein bars are nothing more than candy bars. Always read nutrition labels on the back of the bar because clever marketing can make any bar seem healthy. Read about how to choose a healthy protein bar here.

4. Sports drinks

All of those drinks that are marketed for sports and endurance, are nothing more than artificial food coloring mixed with sugar and some salt. Instead go for water, or natural electrolytes such as with coconut water.

5. Margarine

Margarine is loaded with highly inflammatory trans fats and should be avoided at all costs. Instead go for the real stuff! Use grass-fed butter – not only does it taste better but it is much better for you.

6. Low-fat salad dressing

As discussed above, always be weary of any food that is labeled low-fat or fat-free. Assume that if a salad dressing is labeled low-fat, it has had sugar or other processed additives added to it. Read here about what to use instead of traditional salad dressing.

7. Whole wheat bread

Wheat is not what it used to be (read more about that here). Wheat is highly inflammatory and not much better than regular white bread – if any better at all.

8. Juice

Unless this is a vegetable juice, this juice is not doing you any favors. Instead make a smoothie at home (avoid the bottled kind – more on this below) which will still have parts of the fruit and vegetable fibers that will help to keep you full and blunt the effect of any sugars that might be present in it.

9. Rice cakes

Rice cakes generally have a high glycemic index, meaning they favor a spike in blood sugar and insulin production. So even though rice cakes may be lower calorie, they may rev your appetite and put your body in a fat-storing state.

10. Instant oatmeal

The only oatmeal you should eat should be steel-cut or Irish oatmeal – something that takes longer than 5 minutes to cook or heat up. The worst oatmeal is the prepackaged flavored oatmeal that has been loaded with sugar and other artificial ingredients.

11. Dried fruit

Dried fruit is often loaded in sugar. Instead go for dehydrated fruit and always check the nutrition label to make sure sugar hasn’t been added back to it.

12. Granola bars

This goes along with protein bars. Granola bars are often nothing more than a sugary treat marketed as being healthy. I’ve never come across a granola bar I would recommend.

13. Frozen yogurt

Individuals will often think that frozen yogurt is healthy because it has the name yogurt in it. Well, unfortunately frozen yogurt will often have just as much fat and sugar as regular yogurt and is not making you any healthier.

14. Trail mix

The nuts in trail mix are fine, what makes trail mix unhealthy is the dried fruit (see above) and the chocolates or other little candies they throw in there. Instead, grab a handful of almonds which will keep you more full without the added sugar.

15. Wraps

Wraps are deceiving because they seem to be lighter than using sandwich bread, but they may have just as many carbs and usually have lower fiber compared to just regular bread. Unless the wrap says low-carb or high-fiber, assume the wrap is no better than sandwich bread.

16. Acai bowls

These colorful bowls are all over the place now and are super deceiving because they are actually loaded with sugar and low in fiber. Have you ever looked at the nutrition facts of these bowls? The sugar is around 40 grams which is almost double the amount of total sugar you should have in one day – yikes! Instead of having an acai bowl for a meal, share one as a dessert.

17. Cereal

About 99% of the cereals out there are highly processed and loaded with sugar and inflammatory ingredients such as gluten. Eating a bowl of sugar in the morning is just setting yourself up for mood swings and hunger the rest of the day. Skip the cereal and cook up some eggs instead!

18. Bottled smoothies

You see these at just about every grocery store and convenience stand. They are marketed as being a healthy drink when actually they have the same amount of sugar (or more!) as soda. Any vitamins or other nutrient claims on the bottle are canceled out by the amount of sugar and processing that goes into it.

Fix it: Instead, make your own smoothie at home! I recommend using an unsweetened nut milk as the base, frozen berries, and some veggies – check out our Instagram @themindfultechlab to get more smoothie ideas.

Main takeaways…

The worst is to think you are eating healthy, only to find out that you actually are not – I’ve been there with all of the above so I know how it feels – but it’s better to know sooner rather than later 🙂

About the author: Sarah-Kate Rems is an Ivy League trained Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner licensed in California with an expertise in women’s health and preventative healthcare. She considers nutrition and exercise to be the basis of well-being and is a strong advocate for daily physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet. Sarah-Kate is also a co-founder of The Mindful Tech Lab.

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