Food can be complicated. Grocery stores aisles are packed with products that are made to entice you, and flaunt alluring health claims, when in fact, the glorified fat-free versions of the foods that you want and love, are actually unhealthy. With so many food choices these days branded with deceiving and misleading marketing claims it can be complicated to know exactly which foods are healthy and unhealthy. And the worst part is that some diet foods or foods marketed as healthy will actually make you gain weight. The foods that you will find below are some of the worst, “healthy” foods, that you should try to avoid, if you're trying to lose weight.
1. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit is widely perceived as a healthy snack, when in reality, it’s one of the worst “healthy” foods that you should try to avoid. Dried fruit contains an extremely high amount of added sugar, calories, and preservatives as opposed to fresh fruit. In addition, removing the water through the dehydration process to make dried fruit causes it to be much less filling, making it easier to overeat. Dried fruit can, however, be great… in moderation.
Recommendation – Don’t rely on making this sugar infused, so-called healthy food a normal staple of your diet. You’ll gain weight quicker, without even knowing it. Eat fresh fruit and get rid of the craisins.
2. Banana Chips
Like most fruit, bananas are actually quite healthy. They contain fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 and other healthy nutrients. But when you fry them and strip them of all there nutrients to make them a crunchy snack of worthlessness, then you should probably just avoid eating banana chips all together. In all honesty, they’re not very good anyway.
Recommendation – eat a real banana. Banana chips are gross.
3. Flavored Yogurt
I like where your heads at. Flavored yogurt from the grocery store seems like the best on-the-go snack to keep you on a healthy diet. I mean it’s yogurt, what could be so bad, right? Wrong! Flavored ordinary yogurt is stuffed with added sugar, preservatives, and food coloring.
(READ MORE on the best greek yogurt for weight loss)
4. Energy Bars
This might be the worst “healthy” food you could include in your diet. Nutrition bars can be the most deceiving, and the most confusing when you’re trying to figure out which one to buy. When you need something quick, they seem like the perfect snack, and they can be. But, you need to pay extra close attention to the ingredients; especially the calories, sugar, and protein content before you buy them. Just because the packaging claims to have 20g of protein and 5 grams of sugar, you need to look at how many calories it has, and where those ingredients come from. Does it include high-fructose corn syrup, or sugar alcohols? And how many of the carbohydrates are actually fiber?
5. Fruit Juice
Fruit juice is a great way to gain unwanted pounds right before bikini season. Fruit juice may taste delicious, but it contains tons of sugar from the fructose as well as added preservatives, to help it last longer. If you’re trying to lose weight, then ditch the juice.
Recommendation - Drink water and add lemon. It’s better than just plain water, and it will promote better hydration with added Vitamin C.
6. Green Drinks
Green drinks are packed with ingredients like kale (which is rich in vitamins K, A, C, and calcium), and spinach (which has vitamin K, manganese, folate, magnesium, and iron). According to Anne Danahy, a nutritionist with Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, green drinks do offer nourishment, however they may also have you packing on unwanted pounds: “Most people don’t realize that fruit and, therefore, fruit juice, is pure sugar,” Danahy says. Not only will all that sugar up your caloric intake, it could also cause your glucose and insulin to skyrocket. So go heavy on the veggies, which have fewer carbs and calories, and add some protein.1
Recommendation - Everything in moderation. A Green Drink is not a meal replacement, it’s meant to be supplemental, to get the vitamins and nutrients your diet may lack.
Cereal may be one of the most delicious, convenient snacks ever created. Cereal is also however, one of the most misleading, “healthy” food products that line the grocery store shelves. Despite healthy marketing claims, most breakfast cereals literally contain no nutritional value. Most are nothing more than thinly disguised boxes of sugar. Cereal is plastered with misleading claims, such as, “heart healthy”, “all natural”, and “made with whole grains.” It’s important to remember, that in the United States, there is no standard definition of the word, “natural” in regards to it’s marketing use. Therefore, even if a product claims to be “natural” it can still contain added sugars, food colorings, and preservatives.
Recommendation - If you want healthy cereal, then eat oatmeal. It’s high in soluble fiber, which slows the absorption process of sugar into your bloodstream and removes cholesterol.
8. Trail Mix
A handful of trail mix, not so bad; one cup of trail mix and 700 calories later, an atrocity. Trail mix is one snack, that you think is healthy, but actually is not. Peanuts, chocolate chips, sunflower seeds, raisins, and a pound of salt, isn’t healthy, it’s deceiving.
Recommendation - If you’re on a road trip and you need a quick snack, grab a healthy nutrition bar, or some jerky. Toss your trail mix out the window. It’s for the birds. Or, make your own trail mix with healthy ingredients like raw almonds, pumpkin seeds, chia, and tart cherry. Just remember the golden rule, everything in moderation.
9. Acaí Bowls
Yes, acai bowls make a beautiful picture on your Instagram feed. But never, ever, should they be a primary food choice in your normal everyday diet. Acaí bowls should be looked at as an occasional treat, similar to ice cream. One Acaí Bowl usually has more than 50g of sugar. That’s four times the amount than a glazed doughnut. The Acaí berry alone however, is legit; full of antioxidants, and fiber. However seeing that it’s native to the Amazon and highly perishable, it probably won’t be showing up at your local food market anytime soon.
Recommendation - Buy unsweetened Acaí powder and mix it with your Greek Yogurt.
10. Rice Cakes
I don’t care what your personal trainer tells you, rice cakes are simple carbs, which have little to no nutritional value. With a glycemic rating of 82, rice cakes convert into sugar quickly, raising your glucose level, and spiking insulin, which converts into more body fat. The problem is that simple carbohydrates aren’t filling, leading to you eating more and more, creating more blood sugar and more body fat
Recommendation – Instead of rice cakes eat a healthy nutritious snack, that will keep you fuller for longer, and that doesn’t taste like cardboard.
Agave is a great alternative as it is a natural sugar made of fructose, and it doesn’t require much processing. That being said, it’s still sugar. Even though it’s a great alternative, don’t make it a regular go-to food item. If you’re going to have sugar, then make it worthwhile and eat some ice cream or a doughnut. Agave is unnecessary and honestly, you don’t need it.
Recommendation – Get rid of the agave, unless you absolutely need a natural sweetener
12. Non-Fat Milk
When cream is skimmed from milk, the remaining fat-free milk, used to be considered a useless byproduct, until “fat-free” became a highly desirable healthy food. Yes, it was the Keystone light of beers. And it gets worse.
Before it’s processed, non-fat milk is blue in color, has a chalky taste, and a watery texture, that doesn’t look like whole milk at all. So, to whiten, and thicken it, in order for it to resemble real milk, powdered milk is added to make it more desirable. But you’d never even know it, since manufacturers are not required by the FDA to place it on their label, and it’s technically still considered, “milk.”
But why stop there. Non-fat milk is one of the worst, “healthy” foods around, because most are manufactured using milk from cows found in factory farms, where they’re kept in confinement and fed a diet that consists of mostly corn, which translates into you, getting a product that is full of antibiotics, hormones, and GMOs.
Recommendation – Drink whole organic milk that comes from grass-fed dairy cows.
13. Whole-Wheat Bread
I like where your heads at, but just because something says whole-wheat, doesn’t mean it’s healthier for you. Honestly, if it’s not straight from the bakery, then the whole wheat bread you’re buying is most likely full of added preservatives and sugars. Whole wheat bread is amazing when it’s made with healthy ingredients
Recommendation – Make sure you look for the words, “whole grain”, and “whole wheat” and avoid whole wheat bread that includes softening agents, or high-fructose corn syrup. Basically, just buy it from the bakery at your local health food store, and stay away from the grocery store aisle.
The problem with crackers is that they’re addicting, and 9 out of 10 times, you’re probably eating something else on that cracker, as opposed to eating it plain. On average, just 4 crackers, hover around 100 calories and 15g of carbs. Before you know it, you’ve eaten a whole meals worth of calories and carbs, when all you wanted to do, was have a snack.
Recommendation - With that nutrition profile, you’re better off just eating freshly baked bread.
15. Light-Salad Dressings
Again, good intentions, sometimes lead to bad food choices. Light-salad dressings can seem enticing, especially when you’re on a diet. Fat-free sounds great, but remember, FAT IS NOT THE ENEMY. Sugar, is what you want to avoid, and with light-salad dressings, added sugar, preservatives, and unwanted calories will make your “healthy” food choice, a not so healthy topping to your salad.
Recommendation - Make your own dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, and added herbs and spices. Pour it over your salad and save yourself from the unwanted pounds.
People have bought into the idea that fat actually makes you fat, for years. It’s not fat that you should fear, it’s sugar, preservatives and food additives, which cause the body to create more body fat and produce inflammation.
The bottom line is that many foods, perceived to be “healthy” are actually bad for you. Creating a well-rounded, healthful diet, that includes quality proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats, is the best way to meet your nutritional goals, without having to use foods that are perceived to be healthy. Read the nutrition labels, and pay attention to the added ingredients. Most of all, don’t look for shortcuts.
Want to learn how to create a healthy diet?
SWOLVERINE is an endurance athlete and active lifestyle brand. Made for the elite athlete, and the strong-willed our products were designed to fuel your athletic performance. We perform when you perform.
- Malamut, Melissa. “The Truth Behind Green Juices.” Boston Magazine, 23 June 2014, www.bostonmagazine.com/health/2014/06/24/green-juices/.