“Healthy Foods” That May Not Be as Nutritious as We Think

Every few years a new word is added to food labels to make us think we’re buying something healthier than we are. Let’s take a look at some of these [typically] not-so-healthy healthy terms.
Low or Non-Fat
Fat gives food flavor. In order for foods that are “low fat” or “fat-free” to be flavorful, excess sugar and / or salt is often added. For example, a “non-fat” yogurt with fruit on the bottom can contain as much as 12 grams of sugar, equivalent to 3 teaspoons of added sugar. And “fat-free” salad dressing is often loaded with sodium. Most contain around 350 mg of sodium in just 2 tablespoons, which is 15% of our recommended daily allowance. Natural peanut butter should have no more than two ingredients: peanuts and salt. When peanut butter is labeled “reduced fat,” that usually means sugar or high-fructose corn syrup was added.
Dessert-type foods with “sugar-free” on the label may contain artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, acesulfame potassium (ACE-K), and aspartame. These artificial sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter that real sugar, training our taste buds to crave more sweets. The same is true for "sugar-free" gum and mints.
Foods that are labeled “no added sugar” are usually sweetened with fruit juice such as from apples. Take dried cranberries with “no added sugar,” for example. Some are sweetened with apple juice concentrate. A quarter cup can contain 19 grams of sugar from the apples, which is almost 5 teaspoons of sugar. Dried cranberries can often be found in cereal, granola, and baked items.
Veggie Burgers
When trying to reduce the amount of red meat we eat, veggie burgers seem like a good option at home or in restaurants. Most veggie burgers are made with rice, beans, and vegetable oils to hold them together, with little to no vegetables at all. Read labels carefully, and opt for veggie burgers that list vegetables as the first ingredient.
High in Protein
One may assume a label reading “high protein” is great for building muscle and likely low in carbohydrates. But if it comes in a bag or box, it’s likely concentrated protein, which often comes from soy and whey. This isn’t the same as the protein found in meat or eggs. The difference in protein in a “high protein” ice cream or protein shake is a world apart from the protein we get from a chicken breast or omelet.