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Healthy Food That’s Bad for You: The Ugly Truth

Healthy Food That’s Bad for You: The Ugly Truth

Counting calories and watching your macros are all essential while dieting, but did you know there is healthy food that’s bad for you? Despite being considered “healthy,” some food may actually be holding your diet progress back. To avoid these pitfalls, check out this list of so-called healthy food.

Healthy, Tasty Food You Can Swap for Junk Food

Healthy food that’s bad for you

Fruit juices

The first item on this list may be a surprise for many people. Health experts agree that fresh fruit and vegetables are important parts of a healthy, balanced diet. Fruit and vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals, and valuable fiber.

However, oftentimes fruit juice that is commercially available contains additional sugar and flavorings. Always check the label before purchase. Watch out for the words “concentrate” or “cocktail” as this usually indicates that the juice is not 100 percent pure.

Even in its natural state, too much fruit can contribute to elevated blood glucose levels and weight gain. This is especially true for certain fruits like mangoes and ripe bananas. Higher quantities of fruit are needed to extract just one cup of juice, so in the end, you may end up consuming more than you expected.

Soy milk

Soy or soya milk is popular among Asian populations who are largely lactose intolerant. It does have several health benefits, however. Its benefits include being a source of plant-based protein, it’s cholesterol-free, and has vitamins and minerals.

Plain soy milk and soy products like tofu are considered healthy. However, many types of soy milk on the market are full of added sugars. These negate the health benefits of soy milk and should be avoided.

Just like bottled or packed fruit juices, check the label before you consume soy milk. Soy milk flavored with artificial strawberry, chocolate, or other flavors adds extra unwanted calories and sugar. One bottle of sweetened soy milk can contain just as much sugar and calories as a can of soda!

Canned and dried fruit

Similar to fruit juice, canned and dried fruit can be deceptive. The mention of the word fruit makes it sound healthier than it actually is. Canned fruit that contains sweetened syrup is not considered healthy.

Preserved fruits and vegetables are considered healthy (in some cases, healthier than fresh produce) when they are canned with just water. Canned food is oftentimes more convenient and accessible, especially in households without a refrigerator. Other healthy alternatives are frozen and dried fruits and vegetables.

Be wary when it comes to dried fruit though. While dried fruits are convenient for long-term storage and good for various recipes, they should not replace fresh fruit. Dried fruit is calorie-dense and essentially contains the same nutrients as fresh fruit. For example, a serving of grapes is about half a cup, but this same serving is equivalent to only 1 tablespoon of raisins. Therefore, it is easy to overeat when it comes to dried fruit.


Yogurt is promoted as a health food because of its protein, calcium, and probiotic content. While these are indeed healthy, many yogurt products are not healthy. Yogurt is often sold as a flavored blend. This is because the taste of plain yogurt may be too sour for some people.

Unfortunately, many of these flavors contain artificial dyes and refined sugar. Dyes can be an allergen for some people. Refined sugar increases calories and spikes blood sugar levels. Excess glucose is quickly converted into fat.

Frozen yogurt is a healthy alternative to ice cream, but it is still important to check the label and make sure the sugar content is acceptable for your diet. Look for yogurt products that contain fresh fruit and “no added or artificial sugar” on the label.

How to Read Food Labels for Healthy Eating

Tuna and other fish

In general, tuna and other fish are healthy sources of protein. Fish is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Especially when steamed instead of fried. In addition, fish contains beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins.

What makes fish unhealthy is the rising mercury content of many fish. Certain varieties of tuna, swordfish, and mackerel contain high levels of mercury and should be avoided if you are pregnant. Smoked and charred fish and meat also carry additional carcinogenic (cancer-promoting) risks.

Salads and dressing

Another surprising food on this list is salad. A generic vegetable salad contains lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, and dressing. You can add protein sources like chicken or beans to make your salad a complete meal. While most of these items are low-calorie, high-fiber, and part of a healthy diet, the wrong dressing can turn a perfectly healthy salad into a diet disaster.

Creamy salad dressings such as ranch, Caesar, and thousand island may be restaurant favorites, but these contain more fat, sodium, and sugar than you would expect. In addition, it is important to mind your serving sizes. A typical serving of dressing is just 1-2 tablespoons.

Avoid eyeballing or pouring your dressing and sauces directly onto your food. Opt for homemade dressings or vinaigrettes as your dressing.

healthy food that's bad for you

Sports drinks

Lastly, on this list of healthy food that’s bad for you are sports drinks. Sports drinks are popular with athletes and gym-goers alike because they replenish more than just water during heavy activities. Sweat contains electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, and the like. Sports drinks contain these electrolytes with additional carbohydrates to refuel the body.

However, some sports drinks contain as much sugar as other sodas and juices. It is not ideal to drink sports drinks when you are sitting on the couch or at a desk all day. Importantly, sports drinks do not replace the need for water. Drink these in moderation.

Key Takeaways

The words “healthy” on food packaging and advertisements can be misleading at times. Just because a certain food contains just a bit of fresh fruit or vegetables does not automatically make it healthy. Always strive to be a mindful consumer and read the labels of all products you purchase. If you have a particular diet, make sure that these foods don’t contain anything you can’t or shouldn’t eat.

Learn more about Healthy Eating here.


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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Unhealthy foods https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/go-red-get-fit/unhealthy-foods Accessed December 2, 2020

Eating processed foods https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/what-are-processed-foods/ Accessed December 2, 2020

Vegetables and fruits https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vegetables-and-fruits/ Accessed December 2, 2020

Are canned fruits and vegetables good for you? https://fruitsandveggies.org/stories/canned-fruits-vegetables-good/ Accessed December 2, 2020

Is eating dried fruit healthy? https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-eating/is-eating-dried-fruit-healthy Accessed December 2, 2020

Confused about eating soy? https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/confused-about-eating-soy Accessed December 2, 2020

Advice about eating fish https://www.fda.gov/food/consumers/advice-about-eating-fish Accessed December 2, 2020

Meat, fish and dairy products and the risk of cancer https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/exposures/meat-fish-dairy Accessed December 2, 2020

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Written by Stephanie Nicole Nera, RPh, PharmD Updated Jan 06