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. cval31 says:

    I'm sorry I didnt' see this supposed

  2. Jody says:

    stick to foods in their natural states. pre-packaged ANYTHING carries the risk of too much salt, fat, etc. if your aim is to lose weight, opt for higher protein, higher fiber, very low processed carb eating plan. it's not hard at all to do this!! eating six small meals per day is also a great idea. i've lost 21 pounds in 5 weeks by changing habits that included some of those processed foods and higher fat "healthy" alternatives.

  3. Charlotte says:

    Stephanie, Lara Bars taste great, but high in calories and natural sugar, if you are wacthing your sugar intake, due to diabetes.
    If you're a Weight Watcher, like myself, they are 5 Points Plus value. The same as a meal. I would rather have protein and veggies!!!

  4. Charlotte says:

    Jodi – Great advise. I have lost 60 lbs by using the same guidelines.

  5. Chris says:

    I have started reading all labels in the grocery – found that our local chain produced a stone ground wheat bread with no artificial/no high fructose corn syr., found Wallaby yogurt organic to be all natural & other more natural items – my goal is to eat less processed foods (for me & my family of 5) so salads have been my main course & I have lost a little weight (7lbs so far). I still need that crunch factor – have substituted healthy version pita chips & bear naked granola – Anyway, my grocery bill/budget has not changed, the products are a bit more expensive, but feel like when the kids are snacking they are getting more out of the snack. Baking at home from scratch is a big helper as is shopping around for best produce prices.
    But I have not yet started looking at calorie counting – what is a good calorie amount for a snack, like my yogurt that is natural, real fruit, 150 calories, 3 gr fat, vs the fake Dannon that has 80 calories. SHould I be more concerned with health factor or calorie count?

  6. Catcat54 says:

    DISCIPLINE – DISCIPLINE is key to losing weight, learning to eat smaller portions can be hard, but in the end beneficial. It's very important to read labels – Sugar, Salt, Fat content need to be low, non-existent, or natural – diabetics need to watch the natural, because some foods are high in natural sugars (like pineapple) — Baking your own goods is great IF you have the time and space — those of us that work 40 + hours, possibly 2 to 3 jobs just to get by — do not have the luxury of baking our own goods – we're to busy catching up on the house/yard work.

  7. Lindsey says:

    Now that I've started reading the lables I now see what this article meant by no-fat snacks being just as bad or worse than the original. I found that the lower fat foods are usually better because instead of adding artifical fats they just cut some out.

  8. I was studying some of your articles on this internet site and I believe this internet site is very informative ! Retain putting up.

  9. Laurie says:

    I am now making all my own muffins. So many great recipes and you can make them with yogurt to cut down on butter or oil. Delicious and wonderful, and I know exactly what's going into them. Plus it's fun.

  10. Jean Inghram says:

    This is some great info and was well worth the read. I hope to read more stuff from you in the future that is as well written as this post

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