10 Foods People Used to Think Were Healthy
Take these foods off your binge list.
OK, it’s no surprise that Cheeseburger Onion Rings aren’t a nutritional powerhouse. But that’s why we only indulge once in a while. With other foods, the health benefits (or lack thereof) aren’t so obvious. In fact, researchers are discovering that some of our healthy go-to’s aren’t doing our bodies as much good as we thought.
We talked with Sandra J. Arevalo, RDN, who uncovered the foods we should eat only in moderation.
Deli cold cuts are highly processed, meaning they can contain cancer-causing nitrates to help preserve them, as well as loads of sodium that can raise your blood pressure and increase your chances of heart disease and stroke. When you’re at the deli case, look for low-sodium and nitrate-free options. Better bet: Pick up a fresh rotisserie chicken or make your own roast beef to put on sandwiches instead.
A great source of fiber, popcorn is a healthy snack—if you skip drowning it in butter and salt. So, best to make it yourself so you can control the ingredients. Arevalo says microwavable popcorn can be overloaded with sodium and fat. When you make it, choose a heart-healthy oil with a high smoke point, like canola oil.
Did we ever think these were “healthy”? There’s a reason they make you feel like you’ve just had electricity shot right into your heart—they’re not only full of caffeine, but also sugar. Says Arevalo, “They can raise your blood pressure and heart rate” and are “simply not healthy.” In fact, we found out energy drinks can cause serious liver problems. Instead, try the healthiest coffee you can drink.
While cheese is rich in calcium and excellent for your bones, as well as being a good source of protein and vitamins A and B-12, Arevalo reminds us that yes, cheese is also rich in saturated fat and calories. You don’t need to banish it, but simply eat it in moderation. A cheese plate every now and then? Fancy. (See this cheese board tutorial to build a killer one.) But cheese-smothered everything? Your body won’t thank you for that.
You may think digging into a can of fruit cocktail counts as healthy eating, but once again, if you look at the ingredient list, many times you might be consuming about as much added sugar as you are fruit. If you want a healthy snack on the go, opt for fruit canned in juice, not syrup. Or simply buy your favorite ingredients and make your own fresh fruit cocktail.
Even if you think you’re reaching for one of the healthier options, tread carefully. “Most breakfast cereals claim to be healthy because they are loaded with vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber,” says Arevalo. “These claims are true, but many cereals are also very high in sugar.” Example: Raisin Bran has 18 grams of sugar per serving. Try to choose a cereal with 8 grams or less of sugar per 3/4-cup serving. Here are five healthiest cereals you can eat.
Iced tea can be a great beverage choice, especially green tea, which is full of disease-fighting antioxidants. But before you grab the pre-made stuff, turn that bottle around and check out the ingredient list. Even bottled green teas are “often very high in sugar and contain very few antioxidants because these are lost in the production of the tea,” says Arevalo. If you’d rather make your own, here’s our step-by-step guide for cold-brew tea.
Whole Wheat Bread
True, most breads labeled as whole wheat are better for you than enriched white bread—the latter strips away the nutrients and fiber to create a less grainy version. But breads labeled as “whole wheat” often just have some whole wheat added (and sometimes molasses to give it that darker “healthy” look). That just means you’re probably eating mostly refined grains. Look for breads labeled as “100% whole wheat” or “100% whole grain” to make sure you’re getting the real deal.
“Many people consider them vegetables and indeed they are,” says Arevalo. But she cautions against including potatoes—especially French fries—as the only vegetable in your meal. It’s important to fill your plate with non-starchy vegetables, too, like broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes to get all the nutrients our bodies need. Try these eight healthy ways to eat potatoes.
“Similar to potatoes, corn is a starchy, high-calorie vegetable,” says Arevalo. It’s loaded with fiber and naturally gluten-free, but should be eaten in combination with other vegetables for a balanced diet. If you serve corn on the cob at a meal, add steamed kale or a spinach salad to get important nutrients from dark green veggies like vitamins C, K, A and folate. Dark green veggies are easier to add than you’d think.