a table covered in sugar, representing foods that are deceptively unhealthy

5 Foods that are Deceptively Unhealthy

Not all health foods are created equal, and in fact, there are lots that are deceptively unhealthy. Whether it’s because they’ve got tons of hidden sugar or they’re more calorie-dense than you might expect, these five foods will derail any hopes for a good diet—and all while you’re blissfully unaware.

  1. Protein Bars

    Protein bars have long been a staple of post-workout meals for weightlifters, but other health-conscious citizens are increasingly beginning to incorporate them into their diets as well. Unfortunately, while they do pack a high-protein punch, they’ll also hit you with a hefty dose of sugar and as well—sometimes more than a good old-fashioned candy bar would! Thankfully, there are several brands on the market that offer low-sugar, low-fat varieties, so pay attention to their specific nutritional values for a healthier protein boost.

  2. Granola

    Granola has been a part of the health food world since the 1960s, but if you’re not careful it can derail your diet quickly. Most prepackaged varieties are brimming with sugar, but even if you’ve chosen a low-sugar brand, you’ve got to be careful because granola is also a high-calorie food. Your best bet is to make your own without tons of extra sugar and limit your intake to no more than about a quarter cup to a half a cup a day.

  3. Almonds

    It’s a bit unfair to lump almonds in with these other health food wannabes because this wonder nut is chock-full of two great nutrients that everyone needs in their diet: fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. However, with great nutrition comes great responsibility. A mere half cup contains a whopping 400 calories! Because people are generally aware of the health benefits of almonds, they mistakenly think that they’re good for you in unlimited quantities, which is why they’re a popular “grazing” food.

    Unfortunately, munching on a handful of almonds here and there throughout the day can put you well over your daily caloric limit. No one’s saying you’ve got to quit almonds cold turkey, but always be aware of how many you’re eating and their calorie implications.

  4. Fruit Juice

    I know what you’re thinking—how in the world can something as healthy as fruit be bad for me? The problem is, there’s a big difference between fruit and fruit juice. While there’s no denying that most fruits are high in sugar, they’re also full of beneficial fiber which helps mitigate their effect on your blood sugar level. Unfortunately, when you opt for just juice, you’re getting a whole bunch of sugar with none of the fiber to keep it in check. In fact, just one glass can have just as much sugar as a can of soda! If you’re craving something sweet, always opt for whole fruit.

  5. Low-Fat Foods

    After a misguided recommendation from U.S. senate committee in the 1970s, many Americans began to cut down on their fat intake because of the perceived link between it and heart disease. Despite the fact that the issue is a bit more complicated than just “fat,” especially concerning saturated and unsaturated fats, this recommendation began an obsession with low-fat foods that continues to this day.

    Fat is a nutrient that gives food a pleasing taste, but if it’s being reduced or eliminated, then something has to take it’s place—in most cases it’s sugar and sodium. When you compare the sugar and salt levels in low-fat foods with the levels in full-fat foods, you’ll be shocked to learn that low-fat foods sometimes contain twice as much!

Last Updated: July 20, 2015