With so many "healthy" food options being marketed these days, it's hard to tell what's truly healthy from what's not. Since a big part of developing a healthy lifestyle is learning how to distinguish legitimately healthy foods from their sugar- and sodium-rich imposters, here's a list of six of the worst offenders. Companies may try to brand their product as healthy, but a closer look at the nutritional information will reveal otherwise.
1. Store-Bought Smoothies and Juices
Despite what smoothie and juice companies would have you believe, drinking most commercially sold smoothies is not the same thing as eating raw fruits. Additional ingredients like whole milk, peanut butter and ice cream add unnecessary sugar and calories. If you're craving a smoothie or juice, choose a smaller all-fruit smoothie or even better, blend your own at home.
Read more: 12 Slimming Soups
2. Protein Bars
Sure, they're super convenient before, after or even during your workout. And these bars may be rich in protein and other nutrients, but they can also be full of sugar and calories. If you compare the nutritional information between some protein bars and a candy bar with nuts you'll find that they have comparable amounts of protein, sugar and calories. Avoid bars with names that sound like desserts, especially if they're low in protein.
3. Canned Soup
With so many low-calorie and low-fat options, canned soups might seem like a good idea. Not to mention they're fast and easy lunch options. But many canned soups, even those with reduced sodium, contain at least 1,000 milligrams of sodium per can — almost half of the daily recommended value. Consume these in moderation or avoid them all together if you have high blood pressure. Instead, why not try a homemade version? You can make a large pot on Sunday and have soup throughout the week!
Read more: 5 Ways to Make Your Own Energy Bars
4. Frozen Yogurt
By itself, a reasonable serving of plain frozen yogurt is a great alternative to ice cream. But people run into problems when they stop worrying about portion sizes. Just know that the recommended serving size is a half a cup (much smaller than the bowl you'll be served in). To keep your fro-yo on the healthy side, replace toppings like cookie dough and chocolate chips with fruit and nuts. And keep in mind, at the end of the day, frozen yogurt should be regarded as a treat — it still contains plenty of sugar!
5. Store-Bought Trail Mix
Trail mix is another potentially healthy food ruined by added ingredients like salt and sugar. Yogurt-covered raisins or pretzels and candy pieces have no place in health foods. Make your own trail mix at home to control which ingredients you're adding. Nuts, raisins and a bit of dark chocolate are all good choices.
Read more: The Best and Worst Frozen Foods
6. Microwave Diet Meals
Like canned soup, "healthy" frozen meals are full of sodium, as well as low in nutrients and not always filling. Instead of these salty meals, try cooking large meals when you have time. Divide the meals into reasonable portion sizes that you can heat up throughout the week, and you'll never be stuck without a healthy option.
What Do YOU Think?
What do you look for when you do your grocery shopping or meal planning for the week? What foods do you consider healthy or unhealthy? Are there other foods advertised as "health foods" that you would add to this list? Share your thoughts, suggestions and questions in the comments section below!