Not all junk food is created equal. A slice of pizza isn't the same as an entire pizza, in the same way an Oreo isn't the same amount of calories as an Oreo and salted caramel milkshake. Sometimes though, it doesn't take greasy potato chips or a fast food burger to be unhealthy.
Sometimes, junk food is wrapped up in packaging covered with health buzzwords, and injected with enough fruits and vegetables to make us think we're eating something nutritious when the reality is far different. How do we make sure we know the difference?
Nutritionists and doctors have revealed the unhealthiest "health" foods out there that you should either quit kidding yourself about, or drop from your diet entirely. From granola bars to packaged veggie burgers and the always Instagram-friendly acai bowls, behold the 11 healthy foods that are surprisingly unhealthy.
1. Granola bars
Chocolate, sugar, syrup and sweetened granola. None of these sound all that healthy, do they? Dr Christopher Calapi, an osteopathic physician, says: "Nearly all granola brands add sugar and oil during the cooking process. Some are loaded with seeds, nuts, and dried fruit, which up the fat content."
Unless you're eating plain Greek yogurt, most commercially-bought yoghurts are loaded with sugar, and contain very little-to-no protein. LA-based nutritionist Jennifer Cassetta says: "Even yoghurts that claim to strengthen gut health will do the opposite because of the added sugars." Make sure to read the label of your products.
Wraps usually sound healthy, but in reality, you're eating a lot more carbs (and therefore calories) thanks to the tortillas' often enormous size when unwrapped. Compared to a regular wholegrain sandwich, there's a significant difference.
Jennifer Cassetta recommends staying away from them, especially since the wraps themselves are more processed than regular bread. Processed in this sense means added ingredients that you don't want or need, like sodium or trans fats.
4. Bottled fruit smoothies
Bottled, organic smoothies may look and taste like healthy food, but that couldn't be further from the truth. More often than not, these bottled go-tos are loaded with added sugar. On top of that, when fruit is in juice-form, a lot of the natural nutrients (like fiber) are stripped away. Clinical nutritionist Becky Kerkenbush suggests making your own smoothies rather than buying them. It's cheaper than you think and you can put whatever you want in them.
She says: "use spices instead of syrup/honey/agave for flavor. Include green leafy vegetables to boost fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Use plain yogurt instead of flavored yogurt for added protein and calcium without the added sugar."
5. Veggie chips
A lot of this healthy alternative's nutritious reputation just come from good marketing and packaging, not to mention the fact that a vegetable can be turned into a tasty potato chip (which it really can't). Kerkenbush says "veggie chips are not equal to eating raw vegetables."
She continues: "once the veggies are processed into chips, many of the vitamins and plant nutrients are destroyed. These snacks are about the same in terms of fat and calories as regular potato chips."
She suggests making your own veggie chips by thinly slicing vegetables and roasting them in the oven.
6. Acai bowls
Lift your jaw from the ground, as the reason behind this one is a lot more obvious than you think. Cassetta says "The ingredients themselves can be healthy on their own: acai puree, fruit, and granola, but when combined it can lead to an overload of sugar in one meal,"
The bowls will "cause a spike in blood sugar and insulin levels that later cause a crash and can lead to weight gain." Watch your portions, people.
7. Packaged veggie burgers
How can a burger made of vegetables instead of fatty beef be unhealthy for you? Processing, is the answer. Dr Christopher Calapi explains that "many store-bought veggie patties are made from highly processed soy or vegetable protein, which comes from soy and/or wheat, not vegetables."
Like with the potato chips, you'd be better off making these at home and experience much greater health benefits.
8. Gluten-free packaged foods
Unless you clinically cannot eat gluten, jumping on the gluten-free product trend may be worse for you than eating the originals. Nutritionist Jamie Logie says "to replace gluten or wheat, even more, inferior ingredients are used such as rice, potato, and tapioca starch."
"There's very little nutritional value, and you end up being hungrier in the long run. Also, these products use as much, or more, sugar than their gluten-containing alternatives, and tend to have many artificial ingredients." They're also quite expensive, so ultimately they're a loss all-round.
9. Dried fruit
Dr Candice Seti, a weight loss therapist, says: "Oftentimes dried fruit has added sugar, but even if it doesn't, it is still a concentrated source of sugar naturally. While these sugars are from the fruit themselves instead of being added, the large amounts can still add up to way too much sugar hitting your system, causing blood sugar spikes and crashes." Keep the raisins to a small handful.
10. Sports drinks
It's by no means new information that sports drinks can be really unhealthy for you. If you're not an athlete or exercising for extended lengths of time (especially in the extreme heat), it would be best to stay away from them.
Becky Kerkenbush says: "pass on in favor of water. Sports drinks contain empty calories, which can lead to weight gain and tooth decay. They also may contain artificial flavors and colors." Similar conclusions can be drawn for other post-workout drinks and some commercial protein shakes.
11. Thin cookies
No surprise that those "100 calories or less" and "thin" versions of your favorite cookies are still processed baked goods. Granted you are tricked into believing they aren't as indulgent as the regular with good packaging but you should try and be concious of this.
Jamie Logie says: "these things are void of nutrition and will end up making you hungrier, as your body is still craving the nutrients it thought it was going to get. There is no fiber, protein or healthy fats in these cookies, all of which promote fullness." Empty calories that leave you feeling gross, stay away!
You've been killing it in your workout regime and sticking to your diet plan with iron willpower.Ddon't let these posers get in the way of your goals. If you find you can't live without your veggie burgers, or your Instagram page experiences a sudden drop in likes because you don't post any more health food pics, try to enjoy these products in moderation as part of a balanced lifestyle.