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"Healthy" Foods You Should Avoid to Get Fit

Social media, advertisements, and product labels all help to make certain unhealthy foods seem healthy. Below are 13 secretly unhealthy foods you may think are healthy.

Frozen Yogurt with Toppings

Frozen Yogurt has been gaining popularity again in the U.S., and it is now one of the trendiest treats on the block. Commercial fro-yo shops offer self-service machines, jumbo portion sizes, and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink topping bars filled with cookies, candy, and hot fudge. Bottom line: If you frequent the corner fro-yo shop, stick to the smallest portion size and choose real fruit toppings with a tablespoon of roasted almonds or pistachios.

Baked Chips

If you are one of the people scouring the grocery store snack aisle to make sure your potato chip choice is “baked” not fried, you might be surprised to hear that the fried chips may actually be a better choice. Here’s why: While baked chips do reduce the fat content of chips, they don’t offer as big of a calories savings as you might expect. In fact, many chips that say that they’re baked have just 20 fewer calories compared to their fried full-fat counterparts. In addition, because fat is filling, you may actually eat more calories when enjoying baked chips because they provide a higher carbohydrate to fat ratio than fried potato chips. When we believe we’re making a healthier choice, we often eat larger servings.

Gluten-Free Goodies

Gluten-free means good-for-you, right? Wrong! Gluten-free cookies, crackers and baked goods are often loaded with refined grains such as oat or rice flour, sugar and fat. Now it’s even possible to buy Betty Crocker cookie and cake mixes in gluten-free varieties, but other than removing gluten from the recipe, they don’t trim the fat, calories or sugar in any meaningful way. The best bet is to stick with natural gluten-free foods like fruits and vegetables, nuts, lean proteins, and nonfat or low-fat dairy products. When buying gluten-free baked goods and crackers, make sure you read the labels and avoid those that are rich in sugars or saturated fats.

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Fiber-Fortified Foods

Most of us fall short of the 25-30 grams of fiber recommended daily. You may be surprised, however, to hear that resorting to fiber-fortified foods is not a great solution to this problem. There are an increasing number of packaged products including cereals, snack bars, and crackers that are made with refined grains with man-made fibers added to them. Most of these products’ packages display claims about the high fiber content. Unfortunately, research suggests that some of the fibers manufacturers are adding to their products may not provide the same health benefits as natural fiber that comes naturally in whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, fruits and vegetables.

Boxed Rice Pilaf

Whole grains that cook in less than 90 seconds can be enticing. Brown rice, long grain rice, and other grain products are an essential part of a heart healthy diet. Whole grains like these are a good source of vitamins and minerals. Plus, complex carbohydrates have been linked to reducing diabetes and some cancers. Although boxed rice appears healthy and low in fat, just wait until you read the sodium content stunner! Spice packets, which accompany instant grains, can contain as much as 800 mg of sodium – almost half the daily recommended sodium intake. Excess sodium in the diet increases blood pressure and contributes to excess fluid in the body. A better choice? Cook a batch of whole grains on Sunday and add your own chopped garlic, onion, spices, and seasonings. You can portion out servings for the week in containers, so you have a quick, healthy whole grain side dish.

Sports Drinks

If you're going for a leisurely walk or doing some light housework, skip the sports drinks. While most sports drinks do contain important electrolytes (like potassium and sodium) necessary for those who are doing intense workouts or endurance training, you don't need a sports drink to fuel light activity. Nutritionists and industry experts agree that sports drinks are only beneficial during high-intensity exercise when your workout exceeds one hour. Many sports drinks contain 125 calories and nearly 15 grams of sugar or more per 20-oz. bottle. Spare yourself the extra calories and opt for plain water or a calorie-free beverage to keep you hydrated. Stick to this rule of thumb: only drink sports drinks when you are training for an endurance event, and don’t gulp sports drinks outside of activity — the extra sugars will be converted to fat, which won’t help your performance or your waistline.

Fat-Free Salad Dressing

When trying to lose weight, salads can be the perfect lunchtime meal or light dinner. But think twice about topping your salad with fat-free dressing. Many people assume that using fat-free dressing is a healthy choice as they are saving calories. Unfortunately, by skipping a full-fat dressing, you may be missing out on fully absorbing the nutrients found in fresh vegetables. Salads are chock-full of greens, which contain fat-soluble vitamins, essential minerals and antioxidants that protect our bodies from disease, but without the addition of some fat, our bodies are unable to fully absorb the nutrients in salad. A recent study showed that eating fat with your salad significantly increased how many nutrients were absorbed compared to fat free dressing.

Bran Muffins

Most bran muffins, even those sold at delis and coffee shops, are made with generally healthy ingredients. Bran is rich in fiber, omega three fats, protein, vitamins and minerals. The problem with today’s commercially available bran muffin is the portion size. Many muffins sold in stores dwarf the homemade muffins made a generation ago. A random sampling of some coffee and restaurant chain bran muffins showed that many topped 350 calories apiece, and that's before any butter or jam. In addition, the bran muffins at a popular bakery chain contain 600mg of sodium ― roughly one-third of a day's maximum. Even a healthful food, if over-consumed, can be not-so-healthful. Enjoy your bran muffin, but eat half, and save the rest for an afternoon snack. If you want to save money and calories, bake your own muffins using mini-muffin tins.

Store-Bought Smoothies

Most smoothie chains and coffee bars start out with good intentions and healthy ingredients. Smoothies often begin with a “base” of blended fruit, yogurt and low-fat dairy. The problem with this seemingly-healthy option is disproportionately large serving sizes (the smallest size available is often 16 oz.) combined with added sugar, ice cream, and flavored syrups. Commercially-available smoothies often include a half dozen add-in ingredients. The resulting combination racks up a hefty amount of fat and sugar that can reach anywhere from 500-600 calories!

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Energy Bars

Energy bars are the perfect pre-workout snack, right? Not so fast. Many energy bars are filled with high fructose corn syrup, added sugar, and artery-clogging saturated fat. In addition, energy bars are often laden with synthetic ingredients we can’t pronounce. Some energy bars (particularly meal replacement ones) contain more than 350 calories each ― a bit more than "snack size" for most people. If you are grabbing a snack on-the-go, choose wisely: try one-quarter cup of trail mix, or 1.5 oz. of low-fat cheese and three to four small whole-grain crackers. If you must reach for an energy bar between work and the gym, opt for a version made with dried fruit, nuts, and whole grains and avoid chocolate-coated bars, which tend to be higher in sugar, fat and calories.

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Foods Labeled "Fat-Free"

It’s essential that we all continue to remind ourselves that fat-free does NOT mean calorie-free. Fat free foods often lack flavor. To give them more tastiness, food companies pour in other ingredients such as added sugar, thickeners, and sodium. Always check the nutrition labels when buying packaged foods. Remember when it comes to fat, not all sources are created equal. “Good” fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats improve blood cholesterol and increase satiety. The overall composition of a food is just as important as its fat content, so check to see how your favorite foods compare in total calories, sodium, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Of course, it’s also important to remember that there are many very healthful naturally fat-free foods, including most fruits and vegetables.

Vegan Baked Goods

Just because a baked good is vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Popular vegan diet books, restaurants and bakeries endorse vegan cookies, cakes and breads as healthy super foods that can be enjoyed as a part of a balanced diet. Vegan products can pack just as many calories, sugar, and fat as traditional baked goods. The problem with vegan baked goods is that consumers see natural ingredients such as evaporated cane juice, agave nectar, vegan chocolate chips, and coconut oil, and make the assumption that these ingredients are healthier than traditional sugar, dairy and flour. Scary fact: commercially-available vegan chocolate frosted cupcakes contain 350 calories, 18 grams of sugar and 22 grams of fat per 2 oz. serving!

Multi-Grain and Wheat Breads

Terms such as "multi-grain," "7-grain," and "wheat" sound healthy on package labels, but the breads inside may not actually be made from heart-healthy whole grains. Many types of bread labeled "multi-grain" and "wheat" are typically made with refined grains. Whole grains, by definition, are foods that contain all the essential parts of the entire grain seed; this includes the bran, germ, and endosperm. Without processing, these components remain intact and provide more protein, fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. How can you be sure you’re getting whole grains? Read nutrition labels carefully. If the first item in the ingredient list is refined flour (it will typically say "bleached" or "unbleached enriched wheat flour"), you are not getting 100 percent whole-grain bread!