11 Unhealthy Foods Disguised As Health Foods

Granola | Unhealthy Foods Masquerading As
Photo Source: Graphic Stock

One of the most important things you can do to help your body function at its best is to avoid unhealthy foods; instead, eat foods that help your body reduce inflammation and provide proper nutrition.

There are many foods that may seem healthy, but if eaten incorrectly or in some cases consumed at all, only provide your body with unnecessary calories, sugar, and unhealthy fats.

These 11 Unhealthy Foods May Surprise You.Click To Tweet

These 11 Unhealthy Foods May Surprise You 


Granola | Unhealthy Foods Masquerading As
Photo Source: Graphic Stock

Even though granola looks healthy, it is usually loaded with sugar and calories. Also, the serving size for granola is usually less than you would imagine, so your bowl of granola may actually equal 2-3 servings and 2-3x the sugar and calories.

A Better Option: Look for granola with whole grains, no artificial ingredients, and 7 grams or less of sugar per serving. Be mindful of the portion size and instead of pouring yourself a bowl of granola, use a small handful on top of plain yogurt or fresh fruit.

An Extra Tip: Sugar is one of the most unhealthy ingredients found in our modern-day diet. Research shows that it likely contributes to many health problems. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to no more than 24 grams per day for women and 36 grams per day for men. 

American Heart Association Sugar Intake Recommendations
Photo Source: American Heart Association

Sugar is one of the most unhealthy ingredients found in our diet. Learn More:Click To Tweet


2Nut and Coconut Milks

Nut and Coconut Milks | Unhealthy Foods Masquerading As
Photo Source; Graphic Stock

Most nut and coconut milks have added sugar. Many companies also use a common food additive called carrageenan to create a creamier texture. Carrageenan can be found in many health foods and is thought to be associated with digestive problems, inflammation, and even autoimmune disease.

A Better Option: Look for unsweetened nut/coconut milks. Avoid all products containing carrageenan.

An Important Note: I did not include rice milk in this article because of recent reports from the FDA that arsenic has been found in many rice products. I do not know enough about this issue at this point to be able to either recommend or discourage the use of rice milk.



Flavored Yogurt | Unhealthy Foods Masquerading As Health Foods
Photo Source: DollarPhotoClub

Recently, yogurt has been advertised as a “must eat” for those trying to eat healthier. Even though flavored yogurts have protein, calcium, and other nutrients, they are far from healthy due to their high sugar content.

A Better Option: Opt for plain, unflavored yogurt and add some fresh fruit or a drizzle of honey for added flavor.


4Multi-Grain and Wheat Bread

Unhealthy Foods Masquerading As
Photo Source: Graphic Stock

Many varieties of multi-grain or wheat bread are made of refined flours (also called bleached, unbleached enriched wheat flour, or all-purpose flour) which are stripped of their nutrients during processing.

“Now that trans fats are largely out of the food supply,” says David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Children’s Hospital in Boston, “refined carbohydrates, including refined grain products, are the single most harmful influence in the American diet today.”

A Better Option: When buying bread, look for the words “whole grain” or “whole wheat” in the ingredient list. These grains are not stripped of their nutrients.

An Extra Tip: When you make the switch to whole grains, take it slow at first and drink extra water to help your body adjust to the increased fiber.


5Sports Drinks

Sports Drinks vs. Water | Unhealthy Foods Masquerading As Health Foods
Photo Source: Graphic Stock

Originally, sports drinks were created for elite athletes. They contain added sugar and electrolytes, which the average person doesn’t need in most situations. Also, some sports drinks are marketed as supplements, which means they are not regulated by the FDA.

A Better Option: Stick to water as your beverage of choice for hydration, unless you have special hydration requirements for your health (i.e. Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). If so, ask your doctor for his/her recommendations.


6Fruit Juice

Fruit Juice | Unhealthy Foods Masquerading As
Photo Source: Graphic Stock

While fruit juice has some vitamins, it also has lots of calories and sugar. Fruit in its whole form has healthy fiber and nutrients that are lost during the manufacturing process.

A Better Option: Instead of drinking store-bought juice, eat fresh fruit or make your own juice using whole fruits and a good juicing blender.



Salads | Unhealthy Foods Masquerading As Health Foods
Photo Source: Graphic Stock

Salads are often loaded with unhealthy foods including cheese and croutons. Also, salad dressings usually contain hidden fats, calories, sugars, and artificial ingredients.

A Better Option: Avoid calorie and fat-loaded extras, as well as creamy dressings. Don’t drown your veggies in dressing; only use enough to add extra flavor.

An Extra Tip: When dining out, always ask for your dressing “on the side” so you are in control of the calories, fat, and sugar you add to your salad.


8Diet Soft Drinks

Diet Soda | Unhealthy Foods Masquerading As
Photo Source: DollarPhotoClub

Diet soda is one of the worst culprits when it comes to unhealthy foods disguised as diet/health foods. It is filled with artificial chemicals and sweeteners and has absolutely no nutritional value.

Research shows diet soft drink users tend to gain weight rather than lose weight. There is also growing research showing a connection with the artificial sweeteners (including Aspartame, Saccharin, and Sucralose) in diet soda and illnesses including autoimmune disease. 

A Better Option: If you are craving a carbonated beverage, opt for sparkling water and if needed, add a small amount of 100% fruit juice for extra flavor.

Diet soda is one of the worst culprits when it comes to unhealthy foods disguised as diet/health foods.Click To Tweet



9Dried Fruit

Dried Fruit | Unhealthy Foods Masquerading As Health Foods
Photo Source: Graphic Stock

Dried fruit seems like a healthy snack, but companies often add sugar to sweeten their products and chemicals like sulfur dioxide to preserve freshness.

A Better Option: Eat unsweetened dried fruit without added chemicals. Also, pay attention to serving size. Fruit shrinks when it dries, so the same amount of calories and sugar comes in a much smaller portion size.



Smoothies | Unhealthy Foods Masquerading As
Photo Source: Graphic Stock

Store-bought smoothies regularly include fruit juice, ice cream, frozen yogurt, or sherbet which add sugar and calories. Also, they often come in disproportionately large sizes which usually equals a high-calorie treat. In the liquid form, fruits and vegetables are usually not as satisfying which may lead you to consume more calories.

A Better Option: Stick with fresh fruit and veggies or make your own smoothies with a blender using healthier ingredients: filtered water, unsweetened nut or coconut milks (without carrageenan), fresh or frozen fruit, fresh spinach, carrots, cucumbers, avocados, beets, dates, fresh mint, unsweetened nut butters, plain yogurt, honey (in limited amounts), flax seeds, chia seeds, unsweetened cocoa powder, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, etc.



Sushi | Unhealthy Foods Masquerading As
Photo Source: Graphic Stock

Sushi rolls have lots of sugar, fat, and calories in part due to the fact that traditional sushi rice is made with sugar. Sushi rolls often contain mayonnaise, cream cheese, and fried ingredients (tempura). Also, fish commonly utilized in sushi, like albacore tuna and swordfish, are among the ocean’s worst for mercury contamination.

A Better Option: Sashimi (fish without rice) is the healthiest option. If you can’t give up sushi rolls, stay away from those with mayonnaise, cream cheese, and/or tempura (also referred to as “crunchy” or “crunch”). Also, some restaurants provide the healthier option of brown rice instead of white rice.

If you are gluten-free, don’t order imitation crab, and opt for gluten-free soy sauce, if available. Also, limit the amount of soy sauce used due to its high sodium content.

Those with a weakened immune system, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, as well as breastfeeding mothers, and parents of young children, should discuss fish/seafood/shellfish intake with their physician and avoid raw or undercooked fish/seafood/shellfish.

Also, consider checking out the Natural Resources Defense Council’s guide to choosing low-mercury sushi fish and order accordingly.



It can be difficult to avoid eating unhealthy foods, especially when the foods you eat are often advertised as health foods. However, you can make a difference in your health by using this list to make modifications in the way you eat the foods you already enjoy and to eliminate those foods that do not provide you with nutritional value.

Interested in consulting Dr. Stenehjem? CLICK HERE to learn more.


Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes ONLY and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis, or treatment by your physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances, or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before taking supplements or making a change to your medications, diet, or exercise regimen. Read our full disclaimer.


© Copyright 2017 Mastering Health and Happiness, PLLC. All Rights Reserved.