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30 Foods That Aren't as Healthy as You Think

Granola

Prepackaged varieties come with way too much sugar to be healthy, and they're often packed with additional calories, which completely ruins the whole point of your “healthy” snack.

There are some options in stores that are healthier than others, but these can even have added sugars and additives that can sabotage your healthy lifestyle. When it comes down to it, if you want your granola to be anything other than a sugary, gut-busting mess, you're going to have to go the DIY route. 

Yogurt

While yogurt is touted as a wonderful, healthy, nutritious snack, that doesn’t mean all varieties are great for you. In general, the tastier it is, the less healthy it becomes. For example, those kinds with fruit on the bottom have much more sugar than is healthy because the fruit is soaked in its own sweet mixture.

It may be best to get plain yogurt and add your own fruit and sweeteners so you know how much you're getting.  Going this way could also make the snack a little more nutritious! 

Protein Bars

While you may get a high dose of protein in these, you’ll also get a whopping dose of sugar in most brands. The ingredients that get added in are a big part of how healthy or unhealthy these actually turn out to be.

If you’re choosing bars soaked in chocolate, you’re getting your protein at a high cost. Luckily, not every product doubles as a candy bar. Look at the nutrition labels and not just the claims on the front of the box to make an informed decision. 

Almonds

Yes, almonds are full of fiber and fatty acids, but they’re also full of calories: over 600 in one cup. If you snack on them throughout the day, they can quickly put you past your caloric limit, so watch your serving size.

It goes without saying that almonds coated in chocolate, sugar, or salt can add even more calories and a number of other unhealthy ingredients.  If you need a salty snack, pistachios are a much healthier option. 

Fruit Juice

Fruit juice does not equal fruit any more than peanut butter equals peanuts. Unless you’re choosing a brand that lists the ingredients as fruit and fruit only, you’re probably taking in a whopping amount of refined sugar.

Additionally, the process to get juice usually strips out the all-important fiber that balances those naturally occurring sugars in fruit. Eating fruit is a much better choice as the fiber can help process the sugar a bit better. 

Low-Fat Food

Eating low-fat has always seemed like the choice, but it's important to read the label of every food you buy. Low-fat foods come with their own problems. Some of them add sugar or salt in order to make the product taste better. 

Sugar isn't calculated into "fat" so a product can be called "low-fat" even if it has a ton of sugar -- take Twizzlers for example. This doesn't even take into account that fat is necessary for a healthy, well-balanced diet. 

Sugar-Free Food

Not all sugar-free foods are an unwise choice, but many of these substitute sugar for aspartame, neotame, or a similar non-sugar sweetener to keep the taste without the carbohydrates. While some of these sweeteners are safe, especially natural ones, the chemical sweeteners can cause more harm than they’re worth.

For example, as aspartame is digested, it builds up in the body, and can cause everything from gastrointestinal problems to migraines, not to mention messing with the metabolism, leading to, ironically, weight gain. Do your research before choosing your artificial sugars. 

Bran Muffins

When you think bran, you think healthy, right? Not necessarily. Even if you’re opting for a bran muffin instead of a croissant or a donut, chances are it's still roughly the size of a softball.

This means it’s probably at least two servings worth of muffin, and most are packed with sugar and butter as well. It may be better than a double-chocolate, chocolate chip muffin, but it’s still not a healthy choice, unless you only eat part of it, or make it at home, at a normal muffin size.

Banana Chips

Just because it has a fruit in the name doesn’t make it healthy. Banana chips are deep-fried, which makes them high in saturated fats and calories, as opposed to their freshly peeled counterparts. Both of these things mean higher cholesterol and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

Additionally, the frying process strips bananas of many of their vitamins and minerals. If you can’t settle for just a good ole' fashioned banana, try baking or dehydrating slices instead. 

Gluten-Free Foods

If you have a gluten allergy, then this doesn’t apply to you. However, if you’re eating gluten-free foods because you think they are healthier, you’re fooling yourself. Most gluten-free products aren’t going to have the whole grains other options provide. They’re highly refined, and in the end, they usually don’t have as many antioxidants or as much fiber as those brands you’ve been shunning.

Compare your labels, and realize gluten isn’t always bad for you. Conversely, if you’re dead set against gluten, you can make your bread at home. When the recipe calls for gluten, just leave it out. The worst thing that happens is that your loaf won’t be quite as shapely as it might have been. 

Veggie Chips

Packaged veggie chips or straws aren't a great choice either, unfortunately.  They're just as bad as regular chips. A single ounce of veggie chips can have 130 calories and 7 grams of fat, which is less than an ounce of potato chips.

As if that weren't enough, veggie chips can also have 16 g of carbs and a whopping 230 mg of sodium, which is more than the same amount of potato chips.

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Rice Cakes

Rice cakes were popular for a while for two reasons: they're low in fat and calories. While that may seem like a good thing, the snack is also lacking in nutrients. 

Rice cakes are also simple carbs and rank high on the glycemic index meaning it’ll raise your blood sugar quickly. You’ll get a rush of energy but will leave you hungry within a few hours.

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Protein Shakes

Protein shakes are often designed to be a meal replacement, and while this is great for some, they can be a terrible choice for others. What we mean is that they're more like milkshakes than you may want. 

Depending on the brand, some shakes are loaded with sugar, and the sugar-free versions can cause weight gain thanks to artificial sweeteners. Making your own is much healthier since you can control all of the ingredients.

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Popcorn

Popcorn can be low in calories, but that microwave stuff isn't as good as popping it on your own. Pre-popped and microwaveable popcorn are loaded with trans fats and salt. Eating even a small amount can put your health at risk, so what can you do?

If you can’t live without popcorn, popping your own is super easy – all you need is kernels and oil. Throw some of the good stuff in a pot with a teaspoon of oil and wait for it to start popping! You can also add whatever flavoring you want. 

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Soy Milk

Soy milk suffers from the same issue as shakes – too much sugar. Regular milk has sugar, but it’s in the form of lactose. Soy milk uses added sugar to match the natural sweetness of milk.

Chocolate soy milk can have up to 19 g sugar in a single cup. Unsweetened soy milk is an option with as little as one gram of sugar, but may not be appealing to those used to sweetened soy milk.

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Frozen Meals

Frozen meals are convenient, but they’re far from healthy – even the ones that are described as healthy! Most frozen dinners and snacks are loaded with preservatives and sodium. On top of that, they could have ingredients that are banned in other countries like azodicarbonamide. 

 

Tests found that azodicarbonamide could cause asthma among other issues. The best way to avoid this is to make your own meals and freeze them for reheating. You'll know 100% what's in your food, and that's always a good thing. 

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Skim Milk

It’s a common idea that skim milk is better for you. While it is lower in calories and fat, it’s not necessarily better. Studies published in Circulation, a medical journal, stated that drinking whole milk lowers your risk of getting diabetes by 6%.

 

Another analyzed over 18,000 women and found that those that drank high-fat dairy products lowered their risk of being overweight by 8%. Whole milk should be consumed in moderation, but it's far better for you than the low-fat, skim stuff. 

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Pretzels

Pretzels are low in calories and delicious, but they’re incredibly high in sodium. Sodium can increase your blood pressure and even cause you to retain fluid. That retained fluid makes it harder for your heart to pump.

As if that weren't enough, most pretzels are made of white flour and can cause blood sugar spikes pretty easily. You could make your own pretzels using whole wheat, but eating them in moderation may be the better option. 

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Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is often considered much healthier than any other oil alternative, but it’s not as good as everyone makes it out to be. It still has a few drawbacks that should be taken into account when used.

A single tablespoon of coconut oil has over 115 calories and 12 grams of saturated fat. It’s low in monounsaturated fat and shows antibacterial properties, but it’s definitely a food you should only eat occasionally.

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Agave Nectar

For a while there, Americans were led to believe that some sugar sources are better than others. While this could be true, that doesn't mean you can eat a large amount of the products that were deemed "healthier." One of those things is agave nectar. It's considered better than sugar, but let's take a closer look. 

According to the nutritional facts, agave is actually higher in fructose when compared to other sugars. When consumed in high amounts, fructose can lead to insulin resistance and could chronically elevate blood sugar.

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Canned Soups

Many companies suggest that eating canned soup will help you be a healthier person. In reality, some brands have a ton of sugar – as much as 22 grams. They also have a ton of sodium that can increase blood pressure.

Canned soup is definitely better than eating a cheeseburger, but if you're comparing it to a salad, it's not as good for your body. Eating it in moderation is good for on-the-go, but making your own soup is cheaper and better in the long run.

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Turkey Bacon

Is turkey bacon better than regular bacon? Yes, yes it is, but that doesn't mean it's healthy overall. Ever wonder why turkey bacon looks so much like regular bacon? The answer is that it's full of artificial colors, sodium, saturated fat, and nitrates.

All of these ingredients increase your risk of digestive cancers. It’s not the best news for those of us that are addicted to delicious bacon. Some of these ingredients are even banned in other countries due to the risks involved!

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Coconut Water

Coconut water claims that you can naturally hydrate with a healthy water alternative. Well, it turns out that nothing is healthier than water. If you read the label, it actually has a ton of sugar.

By looking at the nutritional facts, you can see that regular, plain coconut water has a ton of sugar. However, if you choose any flavored brand, you can get as much sugar as a candy bar. It isn’t exactly healthy to be drinking a ton of sugar.

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Flavored Oatmeal

Making a bowl of packaged, flavored oatmeal is easy, but it has a boatload of sugar. Just one package of Quaker Maple and Brown Sugar Oatmeal has 12 grams of sugar in it. Depending on the flavors, you can get a little less or a little more, but in general, the sugar content isn't great. 

You can decrease the amount of sugar by making your own oatmeal and choosing exactly how much sugar you eat. Overnight oats are extremely easy, and you can add whatever you want, so you don't have to stick with apples and cinnamon for a week straight. 

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Egg Substitutes

Egg substitutes may tout the “healthy” rumor, but most are full of egg whites. Egg whites have almost no nutritional value. Meanwhile, egg yolks are a great source of protein, amino acids, B6, B12, riboflavin, and choline.

These vitamins and minerals can help regular blood sugar levels and possibly lower your risk of heart disease. Even if eggs have been called unhealthy over the years, most experts believe that they have more good than bad, making them a much better option than substitutes. 

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Margarine

This one may not be a huge surprise to newer generations, but it may be a shock to older people. Margarine was considered healthier than butter once upon a time, but that time isn’t any longer.

That was before there was much research on trans fats. Margarine has quite a bit of trans fats, which can increase your risk of heart disease and high cholesterol. Turns out plain ol' butter is the better option, although it should still be consumed in moderation. 

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Cereal

Cereal is delicious to eat in the morning, but you have to be careful what you buy. Many brands are loaded with sugar. It’s easy to tell a box of Lucky Charms is bad for you, but even some whole grain cereals have extra sugar to make them taste better.

Before you grab a box, check the nutritional facts to make sure you’re not falling into a sugar trap. Some brands may seem healthy but are hiding tons of sugar. Don't worry! The brands with less sugar are still delicious. 

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Vegetable Pasta

Just to be clear, we’re talking about pasta that claims it had vegetables in it – not vegetables that have been turned into pasta, like zucchini. Zucchinis are an exceptionally healthy replacement for any pasta. Vegetable pasta, however, is different.

Instead of using actual vegetables to make it the nice orange or green color, it actually is dyed using pigments or juice from the vegetables to give them color. It adds little nutritional value, so it’s basically like eating plain white pasta.

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Fast Food Salads

This one is a shock to many people who are trying to eat healthy while on-the-go or living a busy lifestyle. Fast food salads may seem like a quality choice when you're grabbing a bite to eat, but they're actually just as bad as everything else on the menu. 

Fast food salads can have added sugar and even have more calories than other items on the menu. One McDonalds Caesar salad has more calories and fat than a Big Mac. This doesn't go for every fast food salad, but it's good to remember that vegetables don't always equal healthier. 

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Couscous

Couscous is an ancient grain that's better for you, right? Supposedly it's been consumed for centuries. We hate to break it to you, but couscous isn’t actually a grain. It’s small balls of semolina.

Semolina is the same thing as white pasta, so couscous is actually just pasta in a different shape. Whole wheat couscous is better for you, but the healthiest option is whole grains.

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