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10 "healthy" foods that aren’t really healthy...

It's easy to mistake healthy food for ones that are actually doing the opposite of what you want!

It’s amazing how many brands claim confidently that their product is “healthy”. In fact, if it’s labeled “diet” it’s quite often the opposite. It may be less in sugar, but a lot higher in other artificial substances that substitute that sweet taste. But it’s not just “diet” food you have to be wary of either…

Below you’ll find 10 of the most popular “healthy food” items you might find on your grocery list. We’ve taken the time to really read the label and properly assessed their nutritional value. Is your go-to healthy snack really that good for you?

1. Protein Bars

Energy and protein bars may look like they’re a great healthy snack on the go or after a work out. They’ve got chunks of fruit, nuts, rolled oats, and maybe even some dark chocolate - yum!

However, lots of protein bars contain as much sugar as a candy bar! So you're only getting a few grams of protein hidden in high sugar and trans fat content (usually from high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils) - not good!

Try to source your protein from whole foods only like eggs, meat, fish, legumes, and beans.

2. Vegetable Chips

Now here’s where the labels get sneaky. More often than not, veggie chips are actually just potato chips loaded with starch and cornflour, with some vegetable flavored powder sprinkled in for that invitingly vibrant coloring. They’re often salted heavily too, and then fried to mimic regular chips.

Make sure the vegetables are listed first on the ingredient list of vegetable chips, then you know the primary content is an actual vegetable.

3. Low-Fat Salad Dressing

Low-fat dressings tend to substitute the fat with added sugar, salt, corn syrup, and all other kinds of additives. It’s time to stress the fat is not the enemy!

We need fat to help us absorb vitamins A, E, D, and K into our body which are vital for our skin and general health - how many skincare products have you seen adorned with Vitamin E advertising?

The best bet with dressings is to make your own so you know exactly what’s going in there! Spruce up your greens with fresh herbs, spices, and olive oil. Delicious!

4. Nut Butters

Now, not all nut butters are bad. A spoonful of almond or peanut butter can be a simple and effective way to add protein and healthy fats into your diet - and they taste great!

But some nut butters, even when branded as natural, can contain added sugars or trans fats. Trans fats are harmful fats that increase bad cholesterol in the body.

When buying, make sure the only ingredient listed is the nut, because then you know it’s actually natural – but make sure to moderate your portion size here. A single tablespoon of nut butter can contain around 100 calories!

5. Hummus

Hummus from the store is usually laced with lots of salt and trans fat. Some types of hummus can contain more salt than four packets of salted chips! Find a recipe and make your own - it’s actually easier and quicker than you think!

6. Popcorn

This go-to snack has shed it’s movie-only reputation and now dominates the healthy snack aisles! But this is where moderation is key - if you eat a big bag of salted popcorn in one sitting, you’re going to be overloading the body with sodium. High doses of sodium can lead to high blood pressure, so make sure you’re controlling how much corn you’re popping.

7. Yogurt Parfait

Many fruit layered yogurts contain a lot of sugar, and many don’t really contain any fruit. Try an unsweetened full-fat yogurt, like an organic live dairy yogurt, or coconut/almond based yogurt and top with some fresh fruit.

8. Juices & Smoothies

An easy way to get in your five-a-day, right? Wrong - those cold-pressed fruit juices are packed with sugar. Juices also strip the fiber from fruits and vegetables and we need fiber because it protects us against the effects of fructose (sugar) due to its slower absorption.

Homemade smoothies are a much more wholesome choice because they keep the fiber intact which helps us feel fuller for longer. Ideally, your smoothie should only contain one serving of fruit and the rest should be made up of vegetables.

9. Multigrain Bread

Multigrain breads simply indicate that the bread contains multiple grains. Unfortunately, that means they might have been processed to the point that they’re pretty much the opposite of natural!

Refined grains are heavily processed. The germ, which contains the vitamins, fiber, and minerals, and the bran will have been removed. This means all that’s left is basic carbohydrates, which spike your blood sugar. In turn, that leaves you at risk of unwanted weight gain if you’re eating this kind of bread.

So, look for breads that are whole: whole rye, whole wheat, whole oats. This shows that the bread has been processed less, meaning it’s more natural, so better for you.

10. Gluten-Free labeled foods

Gluten provides the chew. Whether that be in pasta, a muffin, or bread.

Unfortunately, many gluten-free treats are filled with just as many empty calories as their gluten-containing competitors to make up for the loss of texture and flavour.

Manufacturers will just include other fillers like sugar, trans fats, and other chemicals. If you have coeliac disease, of course, gluten-free products can be life-saving - literally! But natural is always best. Reach for an apple, a handful of nuts, or a hard-boiled egg instead of a gluten-free biscuit. We all know we’re just tricking ourselves into thinking we’ve made a better choice!

Final Thoughts

Everything in moderation. If you ban yourself from a muffin completely, all you’re going to think about is how much you want a muffin. Your body really is your temple, so treat it how you want it to be treated - naturally, organically and wholesomely to really feel a difference in yourself and your health.

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MEET THE AUTHOR

Sarah Milton

A passionate content writer, with a specific interest in the science behind hair care. Having created content for several years, I’ve grown my knowledge exponentially in the science behind hair growth, quality and texture, and what ingredients our tresses need to thrive. When not in the office, I’m walking my dog along the beach or invested in a brilliant television drama.