“Healthy” Foods to Avoid: (Don’t Let the Titles Fool You)


Did you know that you are under attack every time you go into your local food store? The enemy is cunning, subtle, and deceptive. And the most dangerous weapon they use are deceptive claims on their food products. That’s right, your enemy and mine- the food manufacturers. Many food products marketed towards those seeking wellness and better health are deceptively camouflaged with titles giving the indication they contribute to health when in fact, the exact opposite is true. Although everyone is different concerning physiological makeups, food sensitivities and metabolisms that respond differently to certain foods, there is one universal rule that applies: be aware of the food industry’s deceptive tactics whenever they peddle food products touted as “healthy”. Below are food products that give the implication of “healthy” that anyone seeking to improve his/her health and wellness should avoid:

Vegetable Oils

Oils such as canola, corn, soybean, cottonseed and safflower fall under the heading of “Vegetable Oils” and can be very misleading to those seeking better health since we automatically associate the word “Vegetable” with health. However, the truth is these oils should not be consumed in large quantities. The problem with these oils is that they contain Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats which when consumed in excess, can be very detrimental to one’s health. In addition, the processing of these oils involves heating and pressing which involve chemicals and toxic solvents.

Alternative: Stick to healthy oils such as olive or almond oils.

Butter Spreads

Many people are under the impression that butter and margarine spreads are a “healthy” alternative to butter. The facts state differently. Many margarine and butter spreads are heavily processed with partially hydrogenated oils and chemicals in a process called hydrogenation in order to make them into “spreads”. Why do the food manufacturers use hydrogenation? Hydrogenation provides two advantages: first, hydrogenation helps alter the texture of foods by making liquid oils more “solid”. Second, this process protects against oxidation and therefore, prolongs shelf life (This is why foods made with partially hydrogenated oils such as such as packaged cupcakes can have a shelf life of nearly 20 years!). Longer shelf life means more $$$ for the food industry. But this spells health trouble for the consumer. Scientists are now starting to recognize that hydrogenated oils like those found in butter spreads propose a greater danger to one’s health than the saturated fats found in real butter. These type of butter substitutes should be avoided.

Alternative- Real butter which is simply milk, cream and salt. Look for the organic varieties. If you prefer, you can also get real butter without salt. If you are a vegan and opt not to use butter as a spread, try using a creamy avocado in its place.

Soy Products

Many believe soy is associated with better health since many advocate soy as a healthy alternative to milk, meat and cheese. One of the misconceptions about eating soy is due once again to the food marketers and how they peddle soy products as “Healthy”. Soy can be a healthy alternative if you consume fermented soy as do people in other countries such as Japan. However, most of the soy products sold in the USA are processed using soy protein isolates, soy oils and soy isoflavones and should be avoided.

Alternative: If you incorporate soy into your diet, consume fermented soy, NOT the high processed soy isolates found in soy products sold here in the United States.

Flavored Soy Milk

Flavored soy milks especially the chocolate brands, are nothing more than glorified chocolate milk. Many people consume soy milk in the belief it is a healthier choice than milk. However, most flavored soy milks are loaded with sugar with one well-known brand of chocolate soy milk containing 21 grams of sugar per serving. This is way too much sugar to be consuming per serving and a very poor return for any benefit of drinking a milk alternative.

Alternative: Try making your own soy, almond or rice milk. There are also many varieties of soy milk available without the added sugars.

Vegetable Chips

Vegetable chips or “veggie chips” are simply “potato chips” with a different name. Once again because of the word “vegetable”, many assume veggie chips are a healthy alternative to potato chips. However, if you examine the ingredients of vegetable chips, many are made only with vegetable puree or vegetable powder with most of the ingredients made from corn flour or potato. In addition, a veggie chip has roughly the same amount of calories as a potato chip – about 150. Because these chips are processed, the vitamins you normally expect to find in vegetables such as A or C are lost.

Alternative- try baking fresh kale cut into chip size pieces and sprinkled with olive oil as a tasty and healthy alternative if you wish to snack on chips.

Heart Healthy Breakfast Foods

Many of these “healthy” breakfast foods are very deceptive with such claims on their labels such as “heart healthy” and “a good source of dietary fiber”. However, many breakfast cereals and oatmeals that make such claims are loaded with sugars, artificial flavorings and colors. One well-known brand has 12 grams of sugar in one of their flavored varieties per serving, with artificial flavoring and colors added.

Alternative: Opt instead for plain steel cut oats flavored with fresh fruit as a heart healthy alternative and good source of dietary fiber.

Granola Bars

Granola bars are simply a euphemism for “candy bars” and are not much better then the Milky Ways or Snickers bars you find in a typical vending machine. Many mistake the word “granola” as a connotation for a healthy alternative to candy bars and sweet snacks. The fact is that many granola bars on the market are loaded with sugars and artificial flavorings. One brand that boasts itself as a “good source of dietary fiber” has the following sugars and sugar products added:

• Brown Sugar
• Sugar
• Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
• Chocolate Liquor
• Invert Sugar
• Corn Syrup Solids
• Molasses

Eating these type of granola products disguised as “healthy” breakfast bars will simply stimulate your appetite for more and encourage you to overeat because of the added sugars and syrups ingested and as a result- presto.. weight gain. A word of caution: even many granola products sold in health food stores are nothing more than sugar loaded junk. Don’t be fooled.

Alternatives: Opt instead for healthy breakfast alternatives such as chia seeds on yogurt with fresh fruit, hemp seeds, shredded coconut or chilled avocado with fresh berries.

Put on the armor of a well informed consumer. We have a serious enemy when it comes to our health-the food marketers. And many of their “healthy” products are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing.


Elizabeth, J. (2015, March 31). 10 Healthy & Satisfying Alternatives To Granola. Retrieved from Mind Bidy Green: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-18063/10-healthy-satisfying-alternatives-to-granola.html

Mercola, D. J. (2004, April 21). Think Soy is Healthy? Here’s Why it’s Not as Good as You Think . Retrieved from Mercola.com: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2004/04/21/soy-health.aspx

R.D., K. G. (2014, April 2). 7 ‘healthy’ foods that are making you fat. Retrieved from Today Helath and Wellness: http://www.today.com/health/7-healthy-foods-are-making-you-fat-2D79417570

James Torro
James A. Torro is a former certified fitness instructor and is currently a nutrition major. He earned his MBA from the University of Scranton and lives in Tampa, Florida with his wife and two children.