The quest to maintain a well-balanced diet can be confusing — especially when labels are marketed as healthy (just take the KIND bar controversy, for example). Next time you’re trying to make the best choices at the grocery store, remember these eight foods, which can mask themselves as healthy yet sabotage weight-loss goals. And, when in doubt, scrutinize the labels or make your own versions at home.
While granola might seem like a healthy choice with ingredients like rolled oats, nuts and dried fruit, the danger lies in the sugar levels and portion sizes. Make sure to check the nutrition labels and opt for the brand with the fewest grams of sugar. Then, stick to the portion size suggestion — it’s far too easy to overindulge if you’re not careful. Or try this recipe for homemade granola.
Similar to granola, many nut butters (even ones that claim to be “natural”) have added sugar or trans fat. When you’re reaching for the protein-rich spread at the grocery store, remember the number 1 rule that it should just contain one ingredient: nuts. You can also always make your own and customize it to your liking.
Store-bought salad dressings are often full of added sugars and preservatives, and their high calorie count can cancel out that healthy salad you made for dinner. This is one we think you should always skip at the store and instead, mix up for yourself. You can start with these three simple salad dressing recipes. Or, when in doubt, put some olive oil, lemon juice, dijon mustard and salt in a Mason jar and shake. It’s tasty and simple.
There are smoothies that are great for you — a properly portioned one that contains only real fruit and veggies — and there are ones full of unnecessary additives. Popular chains often use ice cream or sugar-packed yogurt as a base, which makes the calorie count jump quickly. Be sure to ask for the entire list of ingredients when you’re ordering or, better yet, make your own version at home.
When you’re purchasing snacks that are altered to be gluten-free, you’re stripping away a lot of what provides texture and taste. Something has to make up for that loss and it’s usually sugar or chemicals. If you’re genuinely gluten-intolerant, then these will still be a better option, but if you’re not, they’re not as healthy as they seem.
Some energy bars can be healthy and a great option when that’s all you’ve got time for. But when the grocery store has more brands than you can count, it’s time to check the label. Many protein bars are full of sugar and trans fat, so you’re better off eating whole foods after a workout. When you’re in a pinch, look for a short ingredient list full of words you actually know and can pronounce.
Another tricky product with far too many options in the grocery store aisle is bread. Most whole-wheat bread isn’t actually whole wheat. The package should explicitly say “100% whole-wheat,” otherwise it’s probably just white bread with a very small amount of wheat flour. When you’re looking at the label, make sure sugar or sugar alternatives like corn syrup are not one of the first few ingredients.
Unfortunately, veggie chips are not much better than eating a regular potato chip. The actual vegetables used in cooking are minimal and processed, meaning there’s not much nutritional value left over. Instead, opt for real vegetables to serve with your dips or sandwiches.