Five Foods that Sound Healthy But Aren’t

By Katherine Brooking, MS, RD

Do you make your foods choices with health in mind? Buyer beware! Cafes, deli counters and grocery shelves are filled with foods that sound healthy, but really aren’t. Here’s a list of five foods that may be real diet disasters if you’re not shopping carefully.

Prepared salads
Don’t assume that anything with the word “salad” in it must be healthy. Prepared tuna salads, chicken salads and shrimp salads are often loaded with hidden fats and calories due to their high mayonnaise content. While a lot depends on portion sizes and ingredients, an over-stuffed tuna sandwich can contain as many as 700 calories and 40 grams of fat. If you’re ordering out, opt for prepared salads made with low-fat mayonnaise, and keep the portions to about the size of a deck of cards. Better yet, make your own, so you’ll know exactly what’s in it.

Reduced-fat peanut butter
Reduced-fat peanut butter is not necessarily a healthier version of regular peanut butter. Read the labels and see why. Both regular and reduced-fat peanut butter contain about the same amount of calories, but the reduced-fat variety has more sugar. But isn’t it healthy to reduce some fat? Not in this case. Regular peanut butter is a natural source of the “good” monounsaturated fats. Look for a natural peanut butter that contains no added oils. Or find a store where you can grind your own.

In most smoothie shops and coffee bars, smoothies start out to be pretty healthful. Many have a base of blended fruit and low-fat dairy. But disproportionately large serving sizes (the smallest is often 16 oz.), combined with added sugar, ice cream or sherbet, can add up to a high-calorie treat. Some chains serve smoothies that contain up to 500 calories. A smoothie can be a great way to start the day or to refuel after a workout. Just remember to account for the calories when considering what you’re consuming in a day.

Flavored yogurt
Plain yogurt naturally contains about 16 grams of sugar per cup. But if you eat flavored yogurt, you could be downing 15 or more additional grams of sugar, which is like four extra teaspoons. Choose plain, low-fat yogurt and stir in a teaspoon of honey, maple syrup, or all-fruit spread for a hint of sweetness. Or opt for fat-free Greek yogurt, which is lower in sugar than even regular plain yogurt but often has double the protein to keep you satisfied longer.

Granola bars
Granola bars are the perfect pre-workout or between-meal snack, right? Not always. Many energy bars are filled with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), added sugar and artery-clogging saturated fat. Plus, some bars (particularly meal replacement varieties) contain more than 350 calories each – a bit more than “snack size” for most people. It’s a good idea to fuel up with a mix of high quality carbs and protein before an extended workout or hike. Choose wisely: One-quarter cup of trail mix, or 1.5 oz. of low-fat cheese and three to four small whole-grain crackers. Or, make your own healthy granola bars.

Katherine Brooking, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian, an expert contributor to numerous television programs and a writer. Her appearances include The TODAY Show, Live with Regis & Kelly, The Early Show on CBS, Good Morning America Health and many others. She covers health and wellness topics in SELF Magazine, The Washington Post, The New York Times and New York Daily News. For more information, go to

The articles written by guest contributors are the sole responsibility of the individual writers in terms of factual accuracy and opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher of this blog.

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