4 foods and drinks that seem healthy but aren't

09.16.14 |

How healthy are your food and drink choices?

Some meal options are confusing and tricky. They appear healthy, the packaging looks and sounds healthy, and the label might even contain some buzzwords like “electrolytes,” “packed with protein,” or “four servings of fruit/vegetables.”

These terms are sometimes used to make otherwise unhealthy foods and drinks seem healthy and appealing. Unfortunately, this strategy works, and people oftentimes blindly pick up a package of food on the strength of this terminology alone, unknowingly filling their body with unwanted fats and sugars in the process.

Today, I’d like to identify four of these problem foods and drinks so you can make smarter, more informed choices the next time you’re out and about.

 1. Sports drinks

You’ve probably seen an advertisement for sports drinks involving a notable pro athlete in desperate need of a little extra push. He or she will take a sip and hit a new gear, pushing his or her team toward victory.

These drinks, however, are usually packed with unnecessary sugars, containing both natural sugar and high fructose corn syrup to achieve their sweet, enjoyable taste. This rockets up the sugar content to over 20 grams per serving, making it an awful choice for any health-minded individual.

The electrolytes are beneficial for a body in motion, so if you want the same effects without all the extra sugar, look for an alternate version of your favorite sports drink. Gatorade markets its lower sugar, healthier line as “G2,” while Powerade offers “Powerade Zero,” a no-sugar alternative to the traditional Powerade line.

If you want to be really safe, though, choose the safest alternative of all: water.

2. Packaged or Restaurant Salads

A salad has to be healthy, right? Wrong!

If you buy a packaged salad at a convenient store or if you opt for the salad at your favorite restaurant, you might not be getting exactly what you think. These salads are usually loaded with preservatives and chemicals to keep the vegetables fresh for extended periods of time.

In addition, the various toppings that make a restaurant salad so tasty pack in calories and leave you eating far more than intended. For instance, a boneless buffalo chicken salad from a popular restaurant chain contains 1,020 calories, while a quesadilla explosion salad from the same place clocks in at 1,430 calories.

When choosing a salad out, make sure you read exactly what’s in the salad, and ask for fat-free or oil-based dressing, like a vinaigrette. A salad should work for you, not against you!

 3. Smoothies

Not all smoothies are bad, but if you’re paying someone to make it for you, chances are, you’re getting more than just fruit and juice.

While smoothies can provide a quick and tasty boost when you’re on the go, they’re sometimes filled with extra sugar and syrups to ensure their sweet, savory taste. Even more, the fruit juice used by many smoothie chains is from concentrate, meaning that it, too, can be loaded with high-fructose corn syrup and unnecessary calories.

Add in ingredients like whipped cream, chocolate powders, and ice cream, and your favorite smoothie might be hurting your health more than you realize!

To combat this, use a blender at home to make your own smoothies. Here, you can choose exactly what goes in, ensuring that what comes out is a healthier, tastier treat!

4. Energy or Protein Bars

Like the other items on this list, not all energy or protein bars are bad for you. I regularly eat Medifast bars when I’m traveling or when I need a quick pick-me-up at home, and they work great for me.

However, common supermarket choices in this department are jam-packed with sugars, preservatives, and calories, making what should be just a small snack a full meal and then some.

The best way to tell what you’re getting here is to read the nutrition label. Is it high in sugars and calories? Do you see terms like “high-fructose corn syrup” or “Glucose-fructose”? If so, you can probably do better! Look for a naturally sweetened alternative and enjoy the same benefits without any of the repercussions.