Top 10 Deceptively Healthy Foods


Don’t let dietary myths and deceptive packaging fool you at the grocery store. Marketers love to slap buzz words like “natural” and “light” on a package. But that doesn’t mean it comes with any of the advertised nutritional benefits. Before you call something healthy, consider what something is made of and where it comes from. It’s crucial to be an informed consumer by reading between the lines of food labels. Here are 10 foods and categories of deceptively healthy foods that aren’t as healthy on closer inspection.

“Natural” foods

Shocker? Not really. In terms of food, being natural is not equivalent to being healthy. The FDA has no standard on what “natural” means so it’s quite meaningless. Each manufacturer decides how they want to define and apply it regardless of how processed the food is. Since there is no federal regulation over products that are labeled natural, the term is often used for marketing tactics rather than health purposes.


A cup full of pulverized fruit, what’s not to love? The sugar content for one. For another, the juices lack the fiber and bioactive components of whole fruits and vegetables. There are multiple studies that indicate how potential health benefits of vitamins are attributed to a variety of components related to the entirety of fruits and vegetables rather than the essence of their consumption.

This is disadvantageous for the gastrointestinal tract in the long-term by not giving it the chance to do what it’s made to do – thoroughly digest and absorb nutrients. The real deception comes from some companies that don’t make their juices from fresh ingredients even if the packaging claims they’re made with “real” fruits.

Whey protein powders

Whey is a great source of complete protein because it derives from an animal product. The problem is that many protein powders come highly processed. A quick glance through the ingredients will reveal that there are sugars hidden under complex chemical names.  Plant-based proteins in comparison are considered incomplete protein sources, but they can meet all protein needs via complementation. Ideally, the best way to get protein is not through a powder, but through a balanced diet that includes from fish, eggs, nuts, etc.

Instant oatmeal

Instant oatmeal comes in convenient pre-measured packets that make your morning routine a little bit easier. But this quick-fix is full of sugar (10 grams per packet) and is too small to fill you up. By the time you battle rush hour and sit down at your desk, hunger pangs will have you reaching for a snack. The other major problem is that they are filled with sugar. Instead of relying on prepackaged oatmeal, try garnishing old-fashion/steel-cut oats or preparing overnight oatmeal if time is a problem.

Granola and cereals

“Made with whole grains” is a stamp of a healthy product, right? Manufactures fortify grain-based products with artificial vitamins and minerals because so many nutrients were lost in the processing procedure. They also pay attention to the serving size and amount of added sugar. The sugar is injected straight into the granola clusters, but is also found in dried fruits. Even in the absence of such fruits, sugar can be found in the form of a concentrated glaze on the granola or cereal. People often overconsume one serving of processed foods like granola or cereal, which leads to elevated blood glucose levels that have been linked to chronic diseases like diabetes. The best option is to make your own granola at home.

Trail mixes 

Similar to granola, the serving sizes for trail mixes are small because the portions are  dense. Nuts contribute to the majority calories, but they aren’t the real culprit in why trail mixes are considered unhealthy. While the number of calories are important, it’s useful to consider what portion of these calories are actually nutritious. Nuts provide protein but the sugary and salty coatings don’t. Inclusion of additives such as chocolate or banana chips are just another form of added sugars and fats.

Fat-free foods 

From skim milk to fat-free salad dressings, we have so many options when it comes to low fat content in ingredients. It might feel like the lesser evil to buy the low fat snack food, but you are really signing yourself up for an extra serving of sugar and other nefarious additives.

Why? Fat is flavor, so taking it out leaves a vacuum that needs to be filled. The downside to this is that your body has to breakdown more artificial additives that aren’t found in the original item. Instead of being scared to consume something with fat, learn where to get the good fats.

Vegan- & Gluten-free anything

Plant-based foods can be a great source for nutrition, however, some companies market their products as vegan or gluten-free, with the intention of attracting consumers who don’t aren’t sure exactly what that label guarantees.

Vegan products may omit common sources of fat such as eggs and milk from animal products, but this doesn’t mean vegan items are free of guilt. Typically, they are high in added sugars, which can become stored fat if you eat more sugar than your body needs. In the case of gluten-free products, there is a low scientific incentive to cut gluten if you’re not allergic to gluten. Sure you will avoid common sources carbs, but gluten has its benefits like lowering triglyceride levels. Avoiding gluten without having gluten sensitivity is like drinking Lactaid milk if you’re not lactose intolerant.


They’re known to include probiotics, which are bacteria that promote a healthy gut. The question of their effectiveness of it is not guaranteed since probiotics vary on what the manufacturers decide to include. As long as something is deemed safe to eat, the product can be sold for consumption. With that said, whether you buy organic Greek yogurt or not, there are added sugars like syrups or granola that make the benefits of yogurt questionable. It’s better to add your own sweets, with fresh fruits than to rely on the food company to do that for you.


Before bandwagons for alternate sources of sugar were created, honey was one of the top choice for sweeteners. Today, it still retains consumer preference despite the popularity of agave nectar and stevia. Honey is said to possess anti-inflammatory properties, but that’s not necessarily the case when comes to ingestion. Honey is a little more chemically complex than other forms of sweeteners such as table sugar, but there’s no denying that it’s still sugar in the end. Without moderation, it can lead to a dramatic increase in blood glucose levels and cause hyperglycemic.


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