Is It Healthy? 27 Unhealthy Foods Disguised as Healthy

Do you know the difference between foods that are healthy and foods that are just faking it? Are the healthy foods in your cabinets actually unhealthy foods that have been masquerading for so long that it’s just understood that they are good for you, without anyone ever having questioned the packaging? Use this list to clean out your cabinets and ask yourself “Is It Healthy?” even if you think that you know it is.


trail mix

trail mix

While trail mix seems like the perfect combination on protein, carbohydrates, and fiber, store bought varieties also include unnecessary sugars and sodium making them an unhealthy choice. If you want the benefits of trail mix without the unhealthy additives try making it at home with nuts, seeds, pieces of dark chocolate and dehydrated fruit (self-dehydrated).



Since an average container of hummus contains roughly 700 calories, and the unhealthy dipping options can range from corn chips to pita bread this snack has the possibility of being one of the most unhealthy foods you indulge in. Your best bet, when it comes to hummus, is to pre-portion out your one serving of two table spoons and pick healthy food, like celery and carrots for dippers.


granola bar

Most granola based products actually contain far more sugar, and trans fat than fiber, making them unhealthy food choices. The portion sizes of granola are also incredibly small leading most people to over serve themselves. Eating a bowl of granola for breakfast (without milk) can add up to almost 600 calories, high in sugar and low in fiber. Granola bars will often have even more calories, sugar, and fat due to the extra added ingredients that they contain.



In theory sushi is a great healthy food option loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, unfortunately in reality the nutrients just don’t add up. Although these fresh and raw ingredients should be a great choice, restaurant sushi is generally made with too much rice, and occasionally fried additives. As if that isn’t enough sushi rolls are also often served with heavy sauces.

frozen yogurt


Craving ice cream but want to keep your calories from fat content down? No problem, just grab some frozen yogurt, that’s good for you right? Not necessarily. It’s true that it has less saturated fat, but when it comes to calories and sugar contents, the two are fairly similar. For a healthy frozen treat, opt instead for a homemade frozen smoothie, loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables.

dried fruit

dried fruit

Store bought dried fruit contains enough sucrose to be considered a major source of carbohydrates, regardless of what the natural carbohydrate rating is of the original fruit. Since the natural fructose breaks down and loses its flavor over time, the dried fruit would quickly lose it’s flavor as well if this extra sucrose wasn’t added. If you love dried fruit and just can’t get enough, consider investing in a dehydrator and drying fresh fruit yourself for a healthier alternative.



White potatoes have a high glycemic index and send your blood sugar through spikes and valleys that can reek havoc on your blood pressure. The way in which they are prepared can also add fat, sodium, and calories to them whether they’re fried, mashed, or baked, toppings and additives go a long way in packing this side dish with more calories than the main course. For a healthier option choose sweet potatoes baked or mashed.

nut butters

nut butter

Nuts such as peanuts, cashews, and walnuts naturally contain healthy fats, making them wonderful options for both weight control and heart health. Most nut butters on the other hand are made with sugar, and trans and/or saturated fat, converting a naturally healthy food unto an unhealthy spread.

caesar salad

caesar salad

You might be surprised to learn that a bed of lettuce isn’t always a healthy choice. It is especially unhealthy when it is accompanied by a thick calorie laden caesar dressing, parmesan cheese, and carb loaded croutons. You’re better off with a traditional house salad, with oil and vinegar for a dressing.



Plain, unflavored yogurt provides a few nutritional benefits, but once you start adding in the flavorings, toppings, corn syrup, and sugars suddenly you’ve got yourself a calorie ridden snack that will spike your blood sugar right before sending your energy levels into a tailspin. Instead of buying packaged flavored options, choose plain yogurt and add a little excitement to it yourself with fresh fruits or nuts.

canned vegetables

canned veggy

You may think that it doesn’t matter whether your vegetables are fresh, canned, or frozen, as long as you’re eating your vegetables, everything should be fine, right? Wrong. Canned vegetables are loaded with unnecessary sodium and sugar to help with preservation. These additives make your once healthy decision an unhealthy one very quickly. Frozen vegetables are a better choice if you aren’t likely to get around to eating that broccoli or corn anytime soon. The vegetables will stay healthy and preserved just as well in a freezer as a can, and the nutrients will be much higher in frozen options.

fruit juice
fruit juice

I bet you thought that a glass of orange or apple juice with breakfast was perfectly healthy, didn’t you? Well, it isn’t. In fact it’s rather unhealthy when you consider the fact that even 100% fruit juice with no additives, eliminates the healthy fiber content from the original fruit and leaves behind only the natural sugars from the fruit. And if you’re drinking fruit juice from concentrate, there’s a good chance that there isn’t even any real fruit in your glass, just sugar and chemicals.

veggie burgers

veggie burger

Processed veggie burgers are about as healthy as any other processed burger. Store bought varieties are frequently loaded with more fillers and breading than actual vegetables, making them a less than desirable dietary option. Instead try making your own veggie burgers at home.

breakfast cereal


Breakfast cereals tend to host a ton of fancy writing on the packaging to make consumers believe that the product they are about to buy, and eat is good for them, but the truth about what’s inside the box is a little different than these labels claim. Cereals as a general rule are simply processed grains that have been fortified with synthetic multivitamins and minerals. Unfortunately the vitamins that are added cannot compare to the benefits provided by the same vitamins found naturally in other food sources. All that aside, the sugar content of most breakfast cereals is astoundingly high.


multigrain bar

whole grain

What you’re looking for when it comes to bread is the “Whole Grain” label, buying anything else often means buying refined or bleached grains that contain far less fiber and cause an unhealthy spike in blood sugar.

energy bar

power bar

Did you know that these processed goodies often contain more sugar and calories than chocolate candy bars? The protein or fiber that they boost, is quickly canceled out when you factor in the unhealthy ingredients used to make these chemically fortified snack bars.

salad dressing

salad dressing

Manufactured salad dressings are wildly popular, because they taste delicious, and add dimension and flavor to the otherwise fairly bland healthy food option of salad. These salad dressings, however, also add many unhealthy ingredients to your otherwise completely healthy meal, including: sugar, oils, trans fats, and artificial flavorings and chemicals. Skip the added calories and opt for homemade salad dressings or vinegar and oil instead.



Making a smoothie at home with fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds can be one of the healthiest snacks, however most people don’t take the time to make their own smoothies and instead opt for the store bought variety. These pre-made smoothies have unnecessary sugars and syrups added to heighten flavors and boost color appearances, all the while reducing the healthy benefits.

gluten free

gluten free

Gluten is a protein that some people have difficulty digesting, so while gluten free products are extremely healthy for these people, for the majority of the population they are useless and actually unhealthy foods. Gluten free pastas, breads, and snacks are made with less nutrient dense foods than regular pastas to avoid the gluten protein that is naturally found in whole grains.

instant oatmeal


The problem with instant oatmeal is that almost every variety is flavored which means that sugars and sodium have been added to the packaging to make it taste more appealing. While it does help sweeten the taste, these added ingredients reduce the health factor of this potentially healthy breakfast option.

bran muffins

bran muffin

Bran Muffins – A bran muffin, despite it’s healthy whole grain bran ingredient, is still just a muffin packed with sugar, flour, and fat. Overloaded with calories, these muffins can be worse for you than doughnuts.



Many wraps contain more sodium and saturated fats than two slices of whole grain bread, because unlike whole grain breads, these wraps are made from refined flours and hydrogenated oils. Even spinach wraps actually have far less of the green veggie, and much more refined sugar than you might think. A healthier option is to make your sandwiches with whole grain breads, lean proteins, and plenty of fresh vegetables.



This snack choice is nutritionally void with unhealthy ingredients such as flour and pounds of salt crystals. Sodium content aside, pretzels are still not a healthy choice as they are usually made with refined or bleached wheat products. And yet, because they have lower calorie and fat counts than chips they are often hailed for being a healthy food.



Margarine is not food. It is a chemical compound that was created to replace butter, when it was widely believed that saturated fats linked directly to heart diseases. In reality tests have shown that heart diseases are actually more prevalent in those who eat margarine instead of butter. So skip the chemicals and opt for natural butter for a healthier food choice.

sports drink

sports drink

Sports drinks are made to rehydrate athletes during and after their physical exertions. They are made with salts and sugars to refortify these lost compounds during periods of intense sweating. Although staying hydrated is incredibly important, the average person will be better off doing so with plain water.

fat free

fat free foods

The theory here is that saturated fats are bad for you and that removing (or limiting) these fats from your diet is beneficial. Unfortunately when fat is removed from food, something needs to be added to make that food still taste good. More often than not, that additive is sugar, which actually does far more damage to your health than saturated fats do.


microwave popcorn

Diacetyl is a product found in microwave popcorn that helps give it it’s nice buttery flavor. While this chemical is safe to eat it is rather dangerous to inhale, and can be inhaled during the microwaving process. Aside from this harmful chemical, microwave popcorn also contains more sugar, fat, and salt than stovetop popped popcorn kernels.

Meal Prep Encyclopedia


Brennan, Daniel, MD. “Slideshow: Make Your Own Trail Mix.” WebMD. October 18, 2015. Accessed February 09, 2016.

Hoyt, Alia. “Canned Veggies: Are They Healthy?” WebMD. Accessed February 09, 2016.

Magee, Elaine, MPH, RD. “Nutty About Peanut Butter.” WebMD. March 23, 2007. Accessed February 09, 2016.

“Weight Loss.” Snacks: How They Fit into Your Weight-loss Plan. March 28, 2015. Accessed February 09, 2016.

“Fitness.” Sports Drinks: Better than Water? September 4, 2014. Accessed February 09, 2016.

“Not-So-Healthy ‘Health’ Foods.” WebMD. 2005. Accessed February 09, 2016.

Zelman, Kathleen M., MPH, RD, LD. “Oatmeal: Nutrition, Benefits, Types, Toppings.” WebMD. July 22, 2014. Accessed February 09, 2016.

Zeratsky, Katherine, R.D., L.D. “Nutrition and Healthy Eating.” Butter vs. Margarine: Which Is Better for My Heart? May 14, 2015. Accessed February 09, 2016.

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