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10 Foods You Think Are Healthy That Really Aren’t

Think you’re eating healthy foods? Think again.

Don’t get it twisted; some unhealthy foods only sound like they’re healthy ….

  1. On the positive side, energy bars have protein and fiber, but most of them are loaded with calories (like, about 280 of ’em). If you’re having one as an occasional meal, 280 calories is fine, but we tend to treat them (and eat them) as snacks. The Fix: If you simply must have an energy bar, shoot for one with 20 grams of protein and no more than 5 to 6 grams of sugar.
  2. I tease a vegetarian friend of mine by calling her a tree-hugging granola eater. Funny thing, though: I’ve never actually seen her eat granola. Good thing. Even the word “granola” sounds as if it’s the very definition of healthy (it does have fiber, protein and potassium), but most granola is often high in fat, sugar and calories. The Fix: Low-fat versions of granola often exchange sugar for fat and have just as many calories as regular versions, so choose granola that uses honey or agave nectar as a sweetener.
  3. My healthy friends seem to suck down smoothies all the time. Little do they know smoothies can pack as many calories as a milkshake. And added sugar can turn some smoothies into thick Kool-Aid (the syrupy kind your aunt made). Case in point: The smallest Jamba Juice Orange Dream Machine has 340 calories and 69 grams of sugar. The Fix: Have an eight-ounce glass of orange juice; it has only 110 calories.
  4. Many frozen veggie burgers are packed with fillers such as gums, yeast extract and cornstarch to give them a legitimate a burger-like texture. Most of the vegetable is in name only. The Fix: Check the label. Make sure the first ingredient listed is vegetables. Choose brands that contain no more than 150 calories, 500 milligrams of sodium and 7 grams of protein.
  5. Bran muffins got their heart-healthy tag in the late 1980s, thanks to the fiber in bran. But a muffin the size of your head in the local coffee shop is more likely a lot of fat and sugar with a tiny amount of bran. The Fix: Assuming you don’t really want a doughnut (some large muffins have more calories and sugar than that sweet treat), make your own and sweeten them with honey and applesauce. Or skip the muffin and have a bowl of bran cereal; make sure it’s a cereal with more than 5 grams of fiber per serving and fewer than 6 grams of sugar per serving.
  6. Frozen yogurt is sugar laden and contains plenty of fat. Some can contain 20 grams of sugar and 15 grams of fat per cup, more than some ice creams. The Fix: A serving of plain vanilla frozen yogurt has 200 calories and 4.5 grams fat. Keep in mind that a serving is only half a cup. And be sure to choose one that contains live cultures.
  7. Sure, veggie chips are made from vegetables. But most of them are still fried—like a potato chip (technically also a veggie chip, since potatoes are vegetables). One serving (about 38 chips) has approximately 150 calories and 9 grams fat. The Fix: Go for baked chips with 110 calories and 1.5 grams fat. Even better: Snack on the raw veggie instead.
  8. Clearly rice cakes are considered healthy only because they are tasteless and hard as cardboard. After all, healthy is synonymous with tasteless and cardboard-like, right? Wrong. Rice cakes tend to be loaded with sugar, which will just set your glycemic index on overload. They don’t really have much nutritional value—no vitamins, no minerals, no fiber. And the flavored versions have a lot of sodium. The Fix: Spread a little bit of peanut butter on top of a rice cake to add heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Or chuck the whole idea and reach for a piece of fresh fruit.
  9. Whole milk has such a bad rap that any reduced-fat version must be better. Except 2% milk really isn’t healthy at all. It is reduced fat from whole milk, but here’s the rub: That percent represents the weight of the milk that’s fat, not the percent of calories from fat. More than one-third of the calories in each glass of 2% milk are mostly saturated fat, the kind that clogs arteries and increases your risk of heart disease. The kind of fat you’re supposed to avoid like skunks on the side of rural highways. The Fix: If you’re older than 2, drop down to 1% or skim milk. Both contain the same amount of protein and calcium as 2%. If the idea of drinking less than 2% milk triggers your gag reflex, look for Skim Plus. It’s fat free, and an extra 3 grams of protein per cup make it thicker.
  10. You can’t go wrong with a spinach wrap, can you? (We mean the wrap itself, not what you put in the wrap.) It’s made from spinach isn’t it? And spinach is loaded with vitamins A and C, both of which have immune-boosting properties. Alas, spinach wraps are usually made from refined white flour dyed green with food coloring. The only real spinach in a wrap might be a pinch of spinach powder. The Fix: Buy some fresh spinach and cook it. One serving (a cup) is 65 calories, 105 less than a spinach wrap.
Related:
Low-Sodium: Broccoli Beef Stir-Fry

+ 4 Foods You Really Should Be Eating

  • Artichokes are fat-free and low in sodium, but rich in vitamin C, fiber, folate and potassium.
  • Beets are high in folate, important if you’re trying to get pregnant. And they are stupid-healthy: One cup is only 60 calories—with no fat—about 40 percent of your daily value for folic acid and 4 grams of fiber.
  • Pomegranate is loaded with fiber and antioxidants, but low in calories.
  • Quinoa is a flavored whole grain chock-full of fiber and protein. In combination, the two help you feel full longer, which can keep you from overeating.

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