8 Healthy-Sounding Foods That Aren’t
Don’t get blinded by the health halo of these seemingly healthy foods that really aren’t.
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Fat-Free Salad Dressing
It sounds virtuous, but fat-free salad dressing is a health-food don’t. If you check the ingredient list you’ll see that this product is essentially sugar water, with flavor added. Do yourself a favor and whip up a quick vinaigrette. The oil will help it taste better, be more satisfying, and help you absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in salad greens and other vegetables.
Cream of Wheat
You could do worse, when it comes to cereal. Straight-up Cream of Wheat is fortified with vitamins and minerals and has no added sugar. But Cream of Wheat also is short on fiber (just 1 gram per serving), meaning it’s not going to fill you up. And if you choose the flavored instant packets, you’ll be getting a helping of added sugars, partially hydrogenated fats and caramel color (which sounds benign, but is linked to cancer in large quantities). The same goes for flavored instant oatmeal packets, so for the healthiest hot cereal, stick to oatmeal or mixed grains that give you more fiber, and flavor it yourself (you’ll control the amount of sugar and avoid all those unhealthy additives).
Water with Added Vitamins and Minerals
This drink really has a health glow, offering all the hydration and virtuousness of regular water with the added bonus of vitamins and minerals. But fortifying water with vitamins and minerals doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a noncarbonated soft drink. Although the nutrition facts label claims a serving is 8 ounces, the drink is packaged in 20-ounce bottles that certainly look like they’re intended as an individual serving, which means you have to multiply all that handy nutrition info by 2.5. Suddenly that 50-calorie beverage has 125 calories (and 8 teaspoons of sugar!). Plus, some of those vitamins are fat-soluble, so you’re not going to absorb them from a fat-free, high-sugar drink. If you want a watered-down soda, go ahead. But if you just want a healthy beverage, stick to water, or mix together seltzer and juice for a juice spritzer.
Low-Calorie Sandwich Thins
Sandwich Thins may offer a breadlike vehicle for your sandwich filling, but they really can’t count as bread. Real bread has a short, easy-to-understand ingredient list: flour (preferably whole grain), yeast, salt. Sandwich Thins (and many other packaged breads) contain lots of extra fillers, making them a more processed, not truly whole-grain choice. If you’re trying to save calories in your sandwich, just skip the second slice of bread and make an open-faced sandwich. Or if you’re buying a loaf that you can get sliced, ask for extra-thin slices.
Egg substitutes are ready-made, egg white-based replacements for whole, beaten eggs. Stripping out the egg yolk takes away the saturated fat and cholesterol found in eggs, but it also removes many of the eggs’ nutrients, including fat-soluble vitamins, such as A and D. To replace the loss, egg substitutes are fortified with extra vitamins, and they also include flavoring, color and additives to lend texture. If you’re concerned about your cholesterol, use an extra egg white or two and one whole egg — an egg yolk a day (or every other day) is safe to eat, adds natural flavor and nutrition, and is a whole food.
Bars Fortified with Antioxidants and Fiber
You know fiber and antioxidants are good for you, so this must be a healthy choice, right? Unfortunately, no. These bars get antioxidants from vitamin E — not quite the same as the variety of antioxidants you’d get in fruits and vegetables. Plus, the fiber that gets added in food products like this is simply insoluble fiber, the kind that helps your digestion, but not your heart health. These two additives can’t take away from the fact that this chocolate-covered bar is laced with sugars (including high-fructose corn syrup), partially hydrogenated oil (which contain trans fat), food dye and other additives. Craving a bar? Look for a nut- and fruit-based one like Kind Bars or Lara Bars that have a short, whole foods-based ingredient list, and get your fiber and antioxidants through whole foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans are a good place to start).
Wraps just sound lighter than sandwiches, don’t they? And the wrap is so thin! But here’s the deal with wraps: They’re made, first of all, with a white flour tortilla. And a large 12- to 14-inch flour tortilla often packs up to 360 calories and a third of your daily sodium limit. And then, although you could fill that wrap with really healthy items (like hummus and vegetables), you can also get fried (“crispy”) chicken, tons of cheese and creamy dressings — all of which take that healthy-sounding wrap into a calorie-bomb zone. One more note on wraps: You might think you’re making the healthier choice by choosing a spinach or wheat wrap, but typically these options pack no more nutrition than the regular white wrap. And spinach wraps often contain artificial color and flavoring.
Greek Yogurt (Whole Milk)
Greek yogurt has gotten a lot of play recently with people praising its thick, creamy texture and high protein content. That’s all great, as long as you stick to low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt. If you don’t see those key words on the label, then you could be looking at a product that provides 75 percent of your daily limit of saturated fat and a meal’s worth of calories (290 per cup in one brand). If you’re looking to gain weight or don’t care about saturated fat, then that might not be a problem, but if you’re just looking for a healthy snack or breakfast item, make sure you buy the low-fat or fat-free version.