24 “Healthy” Foods That Are Actually Not That Great For You

From tricky marketing campaigns to old myths, what Americans have been told about some of our favorite “healthy” foods might not be exactly true.

Admittedly, some of the foods on this list are healthier than others if you eat them in moderation. The tricky part is not everyone is great at such moderation. Above all else, since people have different needs, consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.

1: Flavored Yogurts 

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Plain, unflavored yogurt is a good source of protein, calcium, and probiotics, which can aid digestion. However, flavored yogurts are typically packed with sugar, sometimes well over 20 grams. For reference, the American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than 36 grams of sugar per day and women no more than 25 grams.

2: Dried Fruit

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A few pieces of dried fruit can fit into a healthy diet, but eating handfuls of raisins or dried mango means a lot of excess calories and sugar. Fresh fruit contains a lot of water, which helps fill you up, but dried fruit is easy to overconsume because it’s so low in volume. 

3: Granola Bars

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Granola bars may contain fiber and protein, but they also tend to contain sugar and are often relatively high in calories. They might be healthier than a candy bar, but the nutritional content between granola and candy bars is closer than you think. 

4: Low-Fat Salad Dressing

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Low-fat salad dressing might seem like a good way to cut calories, but beware. Research shows that anything marked “low-fat” is often higher in sugar. 

5: Green Juice

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To make things like spinach and wheatgrass palatable, many green juice companies add more fruit than anyone should consume in a sitting. Although fruit isn’t bad in moderation, the high amount found in many green juices often equates to an exorbitantly high sugar content. 

6: Whole Wheat Bread

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Marketers promote whole wheat bread as a healthy choice, and compared to its white bread counterpart, that may be true. However, many whole wheat breads contain extra sugar to improve their taste. So, if you’re going to go the whole wheat route, choose a variety that doesn’t include added sugar.

7: Veggie Chips

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Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow: Any food in chip form probably isn’t healthy. Thin-sliced veggie chips aren’t giving you much in the way of nutrients despite being made from vegetables. They’re often baked or fried in unhealthy oil as well. 

8: Gluten-Free Snacks

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If you’re celiac or gluten-sensitive, gluten-free snacks are a godsend. However, many Americans mistake gluten-free for healthy, and that’s far from the case. Gluten-free snacks are often lower in protein and fiber than glutinous goods. And, of course, they often come with added sugar.

9: Turkey Bacon 

Bacon in a pan.
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If you’re opting for turkey bacon to avoid the negative health impacts tied to the pork variety, think again. Turkey bacon has fewer calories, but it usually still contains concerning additives, like sodium nitrate, which is linked to cancer in humans.  

10: Canned Soup

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Canned soup brands may market themselves as great weight loss tools, but they’re usually packed with sodium and sugar, making them far from healthy choices. Plus, BPA, which is often found in the can lining, is linked to insulin resistance and obesity. 

11: Rice Cakes

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Plain rice cakes are a low-calorie food that can help stave off hunger, but flavored options quickly lose their healthy potential. With additives like fructose, maltodextrin, and sodium, most flavors are relatively high in sugar and salt. 

12: Coconut Water

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Coconut water may have some nutritional benefits, but many of the flavored varieties are closer to sodas than they are water. Take Vital CoCo’s Peach and Mango flavor, which has 31 grams of sugar per container. 

13: Flavored Oatmeal

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Microwaving flavored oatmeal for breakfast is convenient, but it’s not necessarily healthy. Don’t believe us? Quaker Oats Strawberry and Cream has eight grams of added sugar and 150 grams of sodium per packet. 

14: Sushi

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Some types of sushi are loaded with omega-3s and other nutrients, but many popular sushi rolls are high in saturated fat and low in nutrition. For example, the Philadelphia roll relies on high-calorie cream cheese for its filling, and tempura-based rolls feature deep-fried ingredients. 

15: Baked Chips

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Baked chips are lower in fat and calories than their fried counterparts, but that doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Many brands increase the sodium in baked options to build up their flavor, and you might be tempted to eat more of them because they seem healthier. 

16: Vegetable Oil

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Just because it comes from vegetables doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Researchers believe vegetable oils, which are high in omega-6 fats, may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.  

17: Microwave Popcorn

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While plain popcorn can make a good snack, many varieties of microwave popcorn are loaded with salt and fat. Some flavors even include added sugar. 

18: Soy Milk

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Soy is an endocrine disruptor, which may be cause for concern, especially if you’re giving it to an infant or small child. Store brands of soy milk also tend to come with a lot of sweeteners to make them more enjoyable. 

19: Veggie Burgers

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Choosing a veggie burger because it’s healthier may not be a good idea. Veggie burgers can be highly processed and may contain excessive sodium, artificial colors, sugar, and preservatives. 

20: Egg Substitutes

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Most egg substitutes include egg whites without the yolk, which makes them lower in cholesterol and calories. However, the yolk of the egg is full of vitamin D, choline, and other nutrients that humans need. Plus, research now shows dietary cholesterol doesn’t increase blood cholesterol in most people.  

21: Sports Drinks

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Sports drinks, loaded with sugar and artificial colors, are among the worst beverages you can consume if you’re aiming for good health. Even if you’re sweating like a professional soccer star, there’s no need to down most of these drinks. 

22: Cereal

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Most cereal, even the organic brands, are ultra-processed. A diet high in ultra-processed foods is linked to mental health issues, obesity, and many other health problems. 

23: Almond Milk 

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Almond milk can be a good alternative to dairy if you’re lactose intolerant, but many brands are full of sugar and artificial flavors. They also tend to contain carrageenan, a thickener and stabilizer that can have carcinogenic properties. 

24: Fast Food Salads 

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You might think a salad is a healthier choice if you have to run through a drive-thru for lunch. But often, fast food salads are worse than other items on a fast food menu. The proof is in the burger: McDonald’s Kale Caesar has more fat and calories than a Big Mac. 

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There’s no doubt McDonald’s has left a mark on popular culture. Here are 24 facts about the burger giant you probably didn’t know.  

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