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10 Unhealthy Foods to Avoid You Thought Were Healthy

Sometimes, very unhealthy foods are posing as healthy foods, and you should know what they are and avoid them.
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Here are 10 Unhealthy Foods to Avoid You Thought Were Healthy

A good diet, rich with healthy foods and the proper nutrients is important for the overall wellness of your body. Unfortunately, however, some of what you may know as healthy foods (due in large part to advertising) are in fact unhealthy foods to avoid, and can pose potential long term risks to your health.  The following is a list of ten foods most people believe are healthy, and our suggested alternative for anyone looking to replace these foods in their diet.

1. Energy Bars

Forget the slick advertising: most energy bars are high fructose corn syrup, sugar, gluten and saturated fat all packed together and working hard to clog your blood vessels. Many people use these bars for an energy boost before a work out session, or as a snack to help keep them focused during the work day.

Substitution: Rather than risk your health, replace these artery clogging bars with healthy snack foods, including fresh fruit and nuts such as raw almonds or cashews. These will provide you with energy, and other important nutrients, without all the processed sugar and fat.

2. Multi-grain and Whole Wheat Breads

Be careful with these breads: many contain enriched flour, made from refined and processed grains, which have essentially been stripped of the nutritional value of whole grains. Many also contain a range of artificial sweeteners, like high fructose corn syrup, to make them sweeter.

Substitution: Sprouted grain breads, or multi-grain breads without enriched flower and artificial sweeteners give you all the nutritional and energy benefits of whole grain. Pay attention to the ingredients, and stay away from the pretenders.

3. Pre-made Smoothies

Though delicious, many commercially prepare smoothies use fruit juice as the main ingredient. This packs in calories, but abandons the nutritional benefit of raw fruit, such as fiber. Many smoothies also have added sugar, sherbet and / or ice cream to enhance the flavor, which only drives up the calorie count.

Substitution: It’s generally both more cost effective and healthier to prepare your own smoothies. Many great recipes exist that include more nutritious, and still delicious, ingredients. For example, low-fat milk, yogurt, fresh fruit and healthy seeds such as flax and chia make for great tasting and healthy smoothies.

4. Agave Nectar

Agave Nectar and a measuring cup - Unhealthy Foods to Avoid

(Photo by: Alana Amsterdam, CC2)

This is a popular sugar substitute and a popular item in health food store. However, agave nectar contains up to 70-80% fructose, which is more than high fructose corn syrup, which generally contains around 50 – 55% fructose.  Excessive fructose intake can mess with healthy functioning of your liver, and promotes obesity.

Substitution: Instead of agave, use natural honey, which is also an immunity booster, antioxidant and contains anti-bacterial properties. Other alternatives for natural sweetening include dates and grade A, natural maple syrup.

5. Granola

Granola has long been considered the premiere healthy food to start the day, but recent studies have revealed that granola falls short of this glorified title. A lot of granola is packed with added sugars, which can cause and aggravate inflammation in addition to packing in the calories.  Granola also contains very little fiber content.

Substitution: Steel cut oatmeal is a great alternative, which has high-fiber content that is also soluble and helps stabilize blood pressure. In addition, steel cut oats contain low glucose levels, making them great for diabetics.
If you can’t give up your granola, consider limiting it to a ¼ cup serving size, and pairing it with low-fat yogurt and fresh fruit.

6. Pre-made Salads

Restaurant Salad, loaded with dressing and bacon bits - Unhealthy Foods To Avoid

(Photo by: Alpha, CC2)

Most salads bought from the store or served at restaurants have a surprisingly high calorie count, owing to unnecessary added ingredients. This includes dressings packed with extra sugar, and fillers such as bacon bits, and processed cheese. While the greens in the salads are generally healthy, these add-ins have no nutritional value and only add calories.

Substitution: Instead of sugared, high calorie dressings, a sprinkle of olive oil, or apple cider vinegar are a good alternative. Both of these have many nutritional benefits, such as helping your body detoxify, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and aiding your body with natural weight loss.

7. Fat-free Foods

“Fat-free” has become a phrase widely accepted as synonymous with “healthy.” The reality, however, is that fat-free foods contain sodium and a lot of sugar-content, which is added to sweeten the foods once the fat is removed. Removing fat also involves chemical processing, which can removed the natural nutritional benefits of the food.

Substitution: Instead of avoiding foods healthy foods laced with natural fat, such as avocados, eggs, cheese and nuts, focus instead on portions, and be aware of how much of these foods you are consuming.

8. Skim Milk

During the processing of skim milk, significant amounts of nutrients such as protein and calcium are lost. For this reason, skim milk is usually fortified with synthetic vitamins. Many times, skim milk is also packed with sugar or other sweeteners, which only adds unnecessary calories.

Substitution: For milk with a reduced calorie-count and sugar content, there are several alternatives such as unsweetened almond, coconut and hemp milk. These milks also do not include artificial additives.

9. Trail Mix and Dried Fruit

Delicious, yes, but also packed with sugar. Most trail mix has processed, sugar enhanced chocolate, and dried fruit covered in extra, you guessed it, sugar! Additionally, the nuts in most trail mix have been roasted in vegetable oil and salted, adding trans-fats and sapping them of nutritional value.

Substitution: Make your own trail mix, with fresh, raw nuts (full of protein and fiber) and dried fruit with no added sugar. It still tastes great, and is much healthier for you.

10. Frozen and Flavored Yogurts

Red Velvet Cake Frozen Yogurt in a cup - Unhealthy Foods to Avoid

(Photo by: Louis R, CC2)

While yogurt contains bacteria whose action is good for the body, most frozen and flavored yogurts also contain high-fructose corn syrup and are packed with added sugars, and this sugar converts into fat once it hits your body.

Substitution: Greek yogurt is a great substitute to frozen and flavored yogurts, as it contains more protein and is a natural booster for the immune system. If you’re in the mood to add a little flavor to your yogurt, add fresh fruit, seeds and nuts of your choice to the plain yogurt.

A good diet, consisting of healthy and nutritious foods, is an integral part of both physical and mental wellness. It’s important to research what you’re eating, know the unhealthy foods to avoid, and pay attention to what is being added to foods that otherwise may be healthy. Good nutrition isn’t hard, but it does require some work.

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