At first glance, the average supermarket seems like a great place to find healthy, diet-friendly foods. After all, virtually every shelf is filled with low-fat, reduced sugar, and half-calorie alternatives to everything from milk and cheese to pizza, granola bars, and peanut butter. But a closer look at nutrition labels paints a much different picture than you might expect. Consider the following scenarios where ''healthy” might not actually mean healthy:
Fat-free or sugar-free snacks
You probably think you’re doing your waistline a favor by opting for fat-free ice cream or sugar-free cookies instead of the standard versions of these treats, but in far too many cases you’re merely trading one bad ingredient for another. When you see ''fat-free” on a label, chances are you’re getting more sugar and artificial chemicals to make up for the lost taste and texture of the missing fat. A ''sugar-free” label, meanwhile, is usually nothing more than manufacturer code for more fat and other fillers. Either way, these types of foods should not be a prominent feature of any healthy diet.
Other misleading substitutions
Thanks to aggressive marketing by the food industry and false information spread by fad diets, many people have come to accept certain food substitutions as ''healthy.” Turkey burgers instead of ground beef patties. Bran muffins instead of chocolate chip. Fruit smoothies as whole meal replacements. The examples are endless—and they’re almost always misleading.
The truth of the matter is that ground turkey, due to the inclusion of skin and other impurities, may contain up to three times the saturated fat of lean ground beef and just as many calories. Bran muffins are often just as packed with sugars and empty carbs as other muffin varieties. With many fruit smoothies from national chains weighing in at a whopping 500 calories or more, you’d be better off (and get more satisfaction) from eating a regular meal composed of solid food. As a dieter, it’s important to beware of these and other not-so-healthy swaps that are taken for granted.
Genuinely healthy foods
The best way to ensure you get all the nutrients you need in the healthiest form possible is to eat all natural foods that have received minimal processing in their journey to your table. Sticking to the perimeter aisles of grocery stores, visiting the local farmers market for fresh produce, or starting your own vegetable garden are just a few strategies to help you incorporate more natural foods into your daily diet and overall lifestyle.
Now that you know our picks for unhealthy ''health” foods, we want to hear about yours. What are some deceptive or misleading diet foods that you’ve banished from your kitchen for good? What are some delicious and natural swaps that you’ve discovered? Let us know in the comments!