So-Called Healthy Foods You Really Shouldn’t Be Touching

February 22, 2013  |  
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The food industry is always trying to take advantage of the millions of people taking to a healthier lifestyle, slapping misleading labels on packages and publishing reports about their product’s health benefits, while hiding the overpowering detriments. But don’t be fooled. These “healthy” foods have no place in your diet.

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Agave Nectar

Praised as a healthy alternative to sugar, honey and artificial sweeteners, Agave Nectar actually contains more fructose than high-fructose corn syrup and is a more processed food than regular sugar. Switch back to regular old honey, but try a raw variety.

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Microwave Popcorn

You’re told it’s healthy because it’s a whole grain, plus you choose the un-buttered, un-salted variety. But scientists have discovered that, when microwaved, these bags may leak chemicals linked to cancer into the food. Pop your corn the old fashioned way with an air popper or pan.

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Canned tomatoes

You love to stock up on canned veggies for those weeks you have no time to hit up the grocery store, so you still “technically” have some produce. But cans are lined with a plastic resin loaded with BPA—you know that thing you’ve been trying so hard to avoid in your BPA-free water bottles. You’re at higher risk with canned tomatoes, because the acid in this fruit breaks down the plastic lining. If you can’t get them fresh, look for tomatoes in glass jars.

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Butter substitutes

Sure you’re giving up some fat, but you’re trading it in for cheap veggie oils, artificial flavors and colors, preservatives and loads of salt. To add insult to injury many of these still contain trans fat. So go ahead; indulge in real butter. Just limit your intake of it.

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Olestra

Found in many processed foods and infamous for causing horrendous “butt leakage,” this ingredient claims to be a calorie-less fat. But studies have found it may actually cause weight gain, interfering with your body’s ability to process what it eats in a normal way. Solution? Stop eating Potato Chips altogether. You shouldn’t be in the first place!

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Multi-grain bread

Labels like multi-grain, 7-grain and wheat sound like a good choice but some brands are no better than white bread, made with refined grains instead of the real thing. Read the label. If the first flour listed is “refined,” “bleached” or “unbleached enriched wheat flour,” you’re not getting authentic whole-grain bread.

"AvocadoSalad PF"

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“Salads”

Tuna salad, chicken salad, ham salad…Don’t let the word “salad” fool you. Many prepared salads contain large servings of mayonnaise. When adding these to lettuce, keep the portion to the size of a deck of cards, or make sure they’re made with low fat mayonnaise.

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Low-Fat Peanut Butter

The fat might be reduced, but the calories aren’t. Regular and low-fat peanut butter usually boast the same amount of calories, but the low-fat variety comes with more sugar. Look: you want the fat in regular peanut butter. That’s the natural, good, monounsaturated variety. Just keep your serving size small, from 1 to 2 tablespoons, and you’ll keep the calories down.

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Deli Turkey

Ignore the label “fresh” or “oven-roasted.” Most packaged turkey is loaded with sodium. One serving size of some brands provides 1/3rd of your daily recommended sodium. Head over to the deli counter and have the attendant slice you turkey right off the freshly roasted one on the spit.

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Restaurant baked potatoes

A baked potato by itself is a healthy choice, offering Vitamin C, potassium and fiber. But most restaurants tamper with their baked potato, scooping out the filling and mixing it with butter, sour cream and salt before stuffing it back into the skin, making it look natural. Before ordering yours, ask if this is their process. If it is, then just go for regular boiled potatoes, with the skins on.

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Veggie patties

Don’t feel so smug over your friend eating a regular, meat cheeseburger. Your veggie patty—especially if you got it at a restaurant—could be filled with gums, yeast extract and cornstarch to give it that “real burger” look, taste and feel. And to make room for those fillers, veggies are sacrificed, making your nutrition content plummet. Ask your server if the patty is a full veggie patty, and when shopping for your own be sure vegetables are the first things listed on the ingredient list.

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Fruit and nut mixes

A great energy snack, filled with fiber, Vitamin C, healthy fats and proteins, even these mixes have their landmines. Most of the fruits are coated with sugar and the nuts with salt. Look for mixes with all natural fruit, un-salted peanuts and no fatty add-in’s like chocolate chips.

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Frozen yogurt

You feel good because you’re not technically eating ice cream, but frozen yogurt doesn’t contain any of the health benefits of regular yogurt, like the active cultures that strengthen your digestive system. And they often have added artificial flavors and chemicals to make up for the ditched dairy. Solution? Keep your serving size small, and stick to the plain variety, topped with fruit.

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Smoothies

This is a tasty way to get your servings of fruit for the day, but that tasty part is the problem. The frozen fruits often used in smoothies are pre-coated with sugar. Most smoothie shops add sugar-loaded juice into the blender. Then you have the ice cream or frozen yogurt (and we already know the trouble with that) and you’re consuming tons of extra calories, fat and sugar just to have some fruit. Our advice: learn to eat fruit the good old-fashioned way. With your hands, sans straw.

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  • MsMinah1908

    Make your smoothies at home!! I take fresh strawberries, cut them up, and freeze. A cup or less of apple juice, fat free yogurt, spinach (you can’t taste it) and a couple of packets of splenda…You have a yummy delicious smoothie. Plus, you know exactly what goes into it.

  • ade972

    Very informative article. I am a vegetarian myself and I would eat a hamburger before I eat a veggie pattie lol! Indeed my decision to become a vegetarian came from the desire to eat healthier foods and most processed food, vegan/vegetarian or not, are not healthy because full of additives. I do not eat/drink anything that says low/reduced on it because to me it means “altered” and therefore unnatural. As you pointed out, moderation is the key.

  • FromUR2UB

    I love smoothies. For a while, I was making them by cutting up fresh fruit, freezing it, then running it through the blender with 100% fruit juice. Still fattening. At least they were the way I was drinking them because I liked a big glass…everyday. That was my dessert. Ended up having to leave them alone.

    • Janae

      I say leave the juice out and use ice instead. Works for me. Also, there are lot of very healthy juices you can buy from the organic markets to substitute the regular sugary ones. They’re expensive, but worth it.

  • Jolene

    Then what health foods do you expect that we eat?

    • Janae

      The thing is, all of these are good for you if you buy the authentic versions. It’s like buying frozen vegetables by a major brand versus going to the small organic/fresh market store and picking up real veggies grown by small farmers.