9 "Healthy" Foods to Skip

by in Healthy Tips, May 13, 2009

The word “healthy” can get tricky. Lots of foods get labeled good-for-you or may seem low-cal, but they’re anything but. Here are 9 of the biggest offenders.

Full of fruits and veggies, a smoothie can be a dieter’s delight…sometimes. The main problem is the BIG containers. A 32-ounce Aloha Pineapple smoothie from Jamba Juice maxes out at 570 calories per serving; the same size Cherry Picker smoothie from Smoothie King comes in at 660 calories. That’s too much for a small snack or even a main meal. Mix in sweetened yogurt or sherbets and your calories from sugar and fat go up more. Not all smoothies are bad and there are lighter options available — check menus carefully and stick to the smallest sizes. Best option of all: make your own.

Some salads — especially at restaurants — come topped with mega-calorie, high-fat ingredients (heavy dressings, cheese, croutons and even fried chicken). For example, a Southwestern Cobb Salad from Chili’s has 1,080 calories and 71 grams of fat. McDonald’s Premium Caesar Salad with Crispy Chicken (and dressing) has 520 calories and 35 grams of fat. Look out for words like “crispy” and “creamy”. Ask the waiter to put dressing or cheese on the side.

Even if it’s “whole grain” or “full of bran,” many muffins are super-sized, sugary messes. A simple Blueberry Muffin from Dunkin Donuts has more than 500 calories, 16 grams of fat and 51 grams of sugar! Low-fat ones aren’t always better — a Blueberry-Apricot one from Starbuck’s has almost 400 calories and 47 grams of sugar. If you need a grab-and-go breakfast, opt for an English muffin or even half a bagel with a light spread. Bake your own bran muffins and keep them in the freezer (up to a month).

Fat-Free Cookies
Fat-free cookies and snack cakes may be lower in fat than the original versions, but it almost always means they’re higher in sugar and have just as many calories. Plus, manufacturer’s often replace the fat with preservatives and other food additives to make them taste more like the “real thing.” And “fat-free” isn’t a green light to eat the whole package — keep portions of all baked goods small.

Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter
Many of my clients think they’re saving calories by using this in their PB&J. It’s actually higher in sugar than the regular version and still contains hydrogenated oils (bad for your waistline and your heart). Stick to 1-tablespoon servings of an all-natural peanut butter. Peanuts may be fatty, but they’re healthy fats.

100-Calorie Packs
What good is a 100-calorie pack if you eat 3 at a time? Many foods in these packs are low in nutrients and high in sugar, which leaves you hungry after eating them. You’re paying extra for the additional packaging, too. Buy in bulk and make your own pre-portioned packets of trail mix, popcorn and whole-wheat pretzels.

Sure, many granola mixes contain whole grains, dried fruit, nuts and seeds — all healthy foods. In some combos, however, they’re calorie and fat overloads (1 cup can have almost 600 calories!). Keep portions small, and mix granola with a lower-calorie, whole-grain cereal. Some granolas and boxed cereals marketed as “healthy” have loads of added sugar. Read labels and if sugar in the top 3 ingredients, move on. Nature’s Path makes some that I love.

Enhanced Waters & Sports Drinks
Just because “vitamin” is in the name doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Infused waters and other enhanced drinks are loaded with synthetic vitamins and sugar (more than 8 teaspoons per bottle!). Even the low-cal versions coming out now are just as sweet thanks to a combo of sugar and artificial sweeteners. As for sports drinks, they do contain electrolytes and combat dehydration, but they also come with calories (a 32-ounce bottle has 200). Don’t sabotage a workout by downing liquid calories while you exercise. These drinks are for serious athletes (think: at least an hour of strenuous exercise 6-7 days a week). Opt for water — add a splash of lemon juice for a kick.

Low-Fat Salty Snacks
Choosing pretzels, soy crisps or baked chips over greasy potato chips is smart, but it’s not a license to snack endlessly. These snacks have empty calories and little-to-no fiber, which leaves you hungry. Eat them occasionally (yes, everyone likes a little crunch sometimes) and watch portions. Or combine them with something more satisfying — and nutritious — like fruit, nuts or a low-fat yogurt.

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Comments (48)

  1. Robin says:

    Everything in the 9 healthy to skip is all common sense information, Thanks for the reminder.

  2. julo says:

    Thankfully Jamba Juice has the smaller 16oz option for all their smoothies. My problem when I go there is that I want the macha green tea smoothie, which has no fruit, and thus, defeats the purpose of going there in the first place. I just avoid it and eat some fruit over greek yogurt instead.

    They really get you with those salads! When I go out to restaurants, I always try to do my homework first. I try to stick to places that have their nutrition information posted online, and then decide what I'll order before I go there. Unfortunately, while I love that Chilis posts their info online, I haven't been back there since reading how bad the food there is for me. Sure, they have guiltless options, but they also sound tasteless! California just passed a law that says restaurant chains have to post how many calories are in their meals, and as a result some restaurants are overhauling their menus to get the calorie counts down. I sure hope it catches on!

  3. Napalm says:

    This whole article is total nonsense. I don't know where these people learned to be nurtritionists, but they fail. 600-700 calories is too much for a meal?! Seriously, consider this.. You're supposed to eat 3 meals a day. You *need* 1500 calories a day, JUST TO MAINTAIN AUTONOMIC FUNCTIONS (Breathing, heartbeat, etc) … 700 calories x 3 = 2100 calories, giving you 600 calories to cover things like walking and talking… I don't know what these people are trying to accomplish, aside from making people too tired to because they're malnourished.

    • Chick says:

      They were talking about trying to lose weight…. I eat about 700 calories a day. If I ate 6-7oo per meal, I'd probably be a fat slob!

    • jfo says:

      nope. not quite. you're actually supposed to eat 5 – 6 smaller meals per day, from 250 to about 400 calories each. do you do the 700 calorie meals? are you carrying extra fat around your belly? ever wonder why?

  4. Lisa says:

    First of all, 3 meals a day is not what's recommended. If you are truly concerned with your health and trying to diet, the biggest thing to suggest if 5 small meals with some snacks if you need them. I don't know where YOU got YOUR information, but you, Napalm, are wrong. A smoothie filled with sugar and icecream is giving your body ZERO nutrients and will do nothing but turn that sugar right into fat. 600 calories is way too much for a meal if you are dieting and any nutritionist would say so. I'm sure the person who wrote this article knows EXACTLY what they are talking about.

  5. moe says:

    i agree with Robin

  6. Tamara says:

    "You *need* 1500 calories a day, JUST TO MAINTAIN AUTONOMIC FUNCTIONS " only if you're tall, male, and young. Women on average have BMRs of 1200 and men 1300. And I don't know very many people who burn 600 calories just by "walking and talking"; it takes a mile's worth of moderate walking to burn only 100. Most people really shouldn't eat 700 calorie meals unless they swear off snacks throughout the day, which means they go five to six hours without refueling and end up lacking energy and overeating.

  7. Kassie says:

    Napalm, what are you on? I’m sorry, but you are WAY off! 700 for a meal will only make you gain weight (unless u are training for the olympics). I don’t know what false-info website you got your ‘facts’ from, but the people who write these articles are trained in their profession to provide the best, most accurate information to help this country get healthier. It’s people like you who throw things way out of proportion who are making this country fat and obese.

  8. diane says:

    @Napalm and Tamara, those numbers are just guidelines. If I was to eat 1500 calories a day I would be overweight – I am a very small boned and statured person – my calorie intake is approximately 1200 per day. You need to see what your body requires. For me going over by 600 calories would be bad however my husband who is over 6 feet tall – and thin needs about 2500 calories a day to stay healthy. We need to judge what our bodies need. As for snacking – as I tell my children – try to make only one snack a day "junk food" – the rest of the time, they are snacking on carrots, apples and other fruit and nuts in moderation.

  9. Liz says:

    I am very much into healthy alternatives, but you have to be smart with what is misleadingly labeled as healthy. I use to buy low calorie/fat free margarine, yogurt, and all sorts of things until I read what is actually in the ingredients. Most yogurts, including big named products such as Yoplait that advertise their product is healthy, contain dangerous chemical sweeteners and preservatives such as aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin and genetically modified food starch and organisms. Even bread that is not organic has high fructose corn syrup and tons of other chemicals, which is why I bake my own goods. I'd rather just use full fat butter and other good ingredients sparingly if not at all in my diet, then to use fake products that actually deteriorate my body instead of giving me health benefits! All things in moderation is how I like to feed my family, including my calorie intake, but that does not include preservatives! P.S. Diane is exactly right- everyone has their own nutrition needs, and if you have a higher metabolism and are active than you need to eat more calories, and if you have a slower one, then eat less.

  10. cval31 says:

    What about products like Ideal which is suppose to be found in fruits and vegetables? I that any good?

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