Food & Recipes

6 ‘Healthy’ Foods That Are Just As Bad As Dessert

When something is labeled healthy, full of fiber, all-natural, or low in fat, it’s easy to assume this product is good for you and should fit right into your diet.

However, foods like these aren’t so straightforward. Many “healthy” foods are actually junk foods in disguise, and if you’re trying to clean up your diet, it’s time to start ditching these sneaky sources of sugar, salt, and chemicals.

Some of these “health” foods may even be as bad for you as eating a dessert or junk food.

“It’s hard to decipher between a health food or a dessert because even with the best intentions to choose an all natural whole food item, you may not realize that it has just as much sugar as a candy bar,” says Beth Warren, RD. “Consumers have to pay attention to all aspects that make up the food, not simply one.”

Next time you’re not sure the food you’re eating is a nutritional powerhouse or a sneaky source of unhealthy ingredients, consider these six foods that can be just as unhealthy as dessert.

1. Cereal

Many people opt for cereal as their choice of breakfast, but many breakfast cereals are more than 50 percent sugar. They are also often made with refined carbohydrates, meaning they lack any fiber to help power you throughout your day.

This lack of nutrition makes this breakfast option more of a once-in-awhile dessert than a healthy daily choice.

cereal photo
Photo by musicfanatic29

2. Coffee Drinks

Although plain coffee has its numerous health benefits, many specialty coffee drinks, especially flavored ones, are loaded with sugar. “If you begin to laden coffee drinks with added sugars, artificial flavorings and high fat additives, they can quickly become an unhealthy choice,” says Warren.

blended coffee photo
Photo by Vanilla and lace

3. Pretzels

“A lot of people feel pretzels are a healthy choice for a snack,” says Warren. “However, they are typically high in simple carbohydrates and salt — there’s a reason why you can’t just stop at one. The carb count, and even the calories, quickly add up.”

pretzels photo
Photo by anaulin

4. Diet Foods

Products that are labeled low-fat or low-calorie can seem like the healthy option, but that usually isn’t the case. “When fat is taken out of a product, something is substituted in its place to make it tasty, typically in the form of added sugar,” says Warren.

“Added sugars trigger you to consume more of what you are eating. That, combined with the fact that taking fat out of a product leaves you less satisfied, will cause you to consume more at that time and overall in the day.”

low fat photo
Photo by LenDog64

5. Snack Bars

Various snack bars or meal replacement bars can be a hidden culprit for an unhealthy choice, even if they say they’re all-natural.

“Some have loads of sugar, not a lot of protein, and an abundant amount of calories,” says Warren. She recommends choosing a bar that is under 200 calories, 10 grams of sugar or less, and about 3-6 grams protein. For a meal replacement, opt for a bar that is about 200 calories, 10 grams of protein or more, and less 10 grams of sugar.

“Either way, be sure it is made from ingredients you can pronounce and not multiple sources of added sugar, even if they are natural,” says Warren.

protein bar photo
Photo by SodanieChea

6. Gluten-Free Products

“Just because a product is gluten-free doesn’t mean it is a healthful choice, less processed, low in carbohydrate or grain-free,” says Warren.

“In fact, it can sometimes be even more processed with corn, potato starch and other carbohydrate-based ingredients.” Not all gluten-free products are unhealthy, but be sure to check the label for added sugars or other ingredients that take away from its nutritional value.

gluten-free photo
Photo by Cooking Gluten Free