Is Your “Healthy” Food Actually Healthy?

Photo by  Brooke Lark  on  Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Most of us want to eat healthily. We want to slim down. Or tone up. Or feel better. We want less-puffy faces in the morning. But “eating healthy” is complicated.

There’s a lot of information out there about foods — including “healthy” foods — that we’re supposed to avoid. And yet, eliminating any food entirely is rarely what our bodies want. (Except for deep-fried bacon-wrapped Snickers bars; I’m pretty sure we can live without them forever.)

Yes, certain seafood contains dangerous levels of mercury, but that simply means we should be more discerning in our fish choices. And yes, white potatoes are what you get when Mother Nature giftwraps a bundle of carbohydrates for you, but those humble spuds still have some important nutrients.

So we’ve pulled together five types of not-so-healthy healthy choices that we think should be phased out of any diet. But remember: treat the list below as guidance, not gospel. And, well, eat less sugar.  


Non-organic strawberries and apples.

Even when budgets make it difficult to buy organic, we should look closely at items we eat almost daily that score high on pesticide content. Strawberries and apples are among these, regularly topping watchdog lists. But don’t abandon these beautiful, delicious, nutritious fruits! Just consider splurging on the organic versions.


Fat-free food (kind of).

It’s been a confusing (and mildly fascinating) few decades for anybody trying to figure out the role fat plays in their diet. Here’s where science sits now: Eating fat is not what makes us fat. Healthy fats are good; they fill us up, they stay with us longer and, in moderation, don’t give us diabetes and weight problems. Fat-free foods often contain additional sugars which, ironically, get converted by our bodies into fat. For example, avocados and nuts? Good! Fat-free cheese? Not so good. Skittles? Never good.


Orange juice.

Speaking of sugar, did you know twelve ounces of orange juice has nearly as much sugar as a can of Coke? Of course, orange juice has some valuable nutrients and Coke doesn’t — but fruit juice in general has recently been called “little more than sugar water.” Instead, drink water and eat a real orange so you can enjoy its fiber, Vitamin C and antioxidants with a fraction of the sugar.


Salad dressing.

You chose the salad! Great start! Oh, but here comes the Reduced Fat Ranch. Sorry, but fat isn’t the biggest concern here. Health and fitness coach Allison Hollinger warns that salad dressings can be loaded with sodium, calories and preservatives — and most people use way too much of it. “Opt for yoghurt dressings or balsamic vinaigrettes,” she tells Coconuts + Salty Kisses, “and keep your portion size down to two tablespoons or less.”


Granola bars.

Back to sugar. I don’t normally rely on talk-show host Stephen Colbert for dietary advice, but he addresses the granola problem pretty accurately:

“That’s the deal with granola,” Colbert says. “If we all keep pretending it’s healthy, we get to eat chocolate chips for breakfast. The only ingredient that should be listed on a salted-caramel-dark-chocolate-honey-walnut granola bar should be ‘denial’.”

In short, with granola (and with all your food, really): Consider the source. Consider the nutritional information. Consider the ingredients, and be wary of sugar.


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