Junk food in disguise: 6 “health” foods fooling you

Knowing what foods are good for you and which foods aren’t good for you can be a challenge. Studies seem to contradict each other, and misinformation is everywhere. To add fuel to the fire, some food companies work hard to disguise their food as a healthy choice, whether it is or not.

When it comes to food, don’t be fooled by false health claims. From counseling people on health and nutrition, we’ve found that there are six foods in particular that have managed to gain a reputation as “health” foods, when in fact they often aren’t. Be wary of these six foods that often don’t include the health benefits they claim.

  1. Smoothies

    Drinking fruit that’s been blended into a sweet, liquefied concoction may sound more refreshing than chomping on a whole piece of fruit. The reason why most fruit smoothies are so delicious is because they may contain added sugars in the form of fruit, juice, frozen yogurt, agave, honey or dates. Some recipes add nut butters, seeds and coconut, which pack in a lot of calories for a drink. Make your own healthier smoothie with one serving of fruit (try freezing it for extra creaminess), unsweetened almond milk or low-fat milk, greens, and vanilla extract or cinnamon for natural sweetness.

  2. Nutrition or protein bars

    Most protein bars lining the grocery aisles are glorified candy bars injected with whey or soy protein. Some are upwards of 350 calories with of a lot of fat and sugar, consumed in about three bites. If you’re looking for a high-protein snack, try a glass of low-fat milk or a handful of nuts and dried fruits.

  3. Granola

    Granola has somehow managed to make its mark in the health food industry. But this crunchy cereal is almost always loaded with calories and sugar. One cup of granola can contain a whopping 600 calories. Check the label before you buy and try adding fresh fruit to your granola. The added fiber will fill you up faster.

  4. Wraps

    Wraps look thinner than bread or bagels, but they can actually equate to eating four small slices of bread. Whole wheat or not, ordering your sandwich as a wrap isn’t your best choice, especially for people watching their weight or blood sugars. Spinach wraps are no better. Less than two percent of these wraps are made up of spinach.

  5. Gluten-free products

    Gluten-free diets are meant for people with celiac disease or who have sensitivity to gluten. Most gluten-free foods are higher in calories, lower in nutrients and heavily processed.

  6. Veggie and fruit “chips”

    Banana chips may look like a smart choice, but their calorie count, fat and sugar content is nothing to brag about. And there’s not a lot of veggie in “veggie chips.”

There’s no need to swear off any of these foods for good. Lots of foods can fit into a healthy eating plan when you enjoy them in moderation. Just be sure to read labels so you know what you’re eating and aren’t fooled by advertising claims. And remember, the healthiest foods don’t come in packages.

Caldwell Shackelford Photo3

By Ann Caldwell and Maureen Shackelford, nutritionists and registered dietitians at Anne Arundel Medical Center. To reach them call 443-481-5555.

Originally published Sept. 6, 2016. Last updated Feb. 14, 2020.

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