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9 Packaged Foods That Are Way Unhealthier Than You Thought (Slideshow)

9 Packaged Foods That Are Way Unhealthier Than You Thought (Slideshow)


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Quaker Oats Chewy Granola Bars

Granola bars sound healthy — after all, health nuts are always munching on granola as a healthy snack full of oats and fiber. But most granola bars are actually loaded up with sugar and chocolate. Quaker Oats Chewy Granola Bars are tiny, but just one Peanut Almond and Dark Chocolate one sets you back 205 calories, and you’ll get 19 percent of your saturated fat for the day. We recommend grabbing some raw granola instead — though even that can be surprisingly high in calories.

Stacy's Pita Chips

Pita chips are every chip-lover’s dream. They provide just as much satisfying crunch without all of the grease of potato chips. But guess what? A bag of Lay’s potato chips actually has less — 130 grams less — sodium than a bag of pita chips of roughly the same size.

Ocean Spray Craisins

We tend to love Craisins and dried fruit because they taste like candy but are actually made from fruit! Here’s a hint: if something tastes like candy, it’s not a good sign. Just ¼ of a cup of Craisins contains 29 grams of sugar, which is already over the daily recommended limit.

Orville Redenbacher Microwave Popcorn

Popcorn has always been touted as a healthy snack food, but in actuality, the popcorn that’s not too bad for you (whole-grain, no butter, and minimal salt) tastes pretty plain, so we tend buy the butter version. Just four cups of the Orville Redenbacher Regular Butter popcorn contains 30 percent of your saturated fat for the day.

Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup

Don’t you feel like you made a healthier choice when you have soup for lunch instead of a sandwich loaded with carbs? Well even though a cup of soup feels like a light lunch, you’re actually taking in 37 percent of your sodium for the day when you slurp some Campbell’s.

Chobani Greek Yogurt

It’s true that plain, low- or non-fat Greek yogurt is filling, full of nutrients, and can be a great way to start the day, but it gets complicated when you buy the kind with fruit on the bottom. The fruit is usually processed, doused in sweet syrup, and in the case of fruit-flavored Chobani Low-Fat Greek Yogurt’s, loaded with 15 to 17 grams of sugar.

Kashi Cereal

Kashi Mountain Medley has 220 calories and 12 grams of sugar per serving, and while that might not sound too bad, remember that the name Kashi is supposed to be synonymous with healthy and wholesome. You’d be better of eating Alpha-Bits cereal with only 10 grams of sugar.

Healthy Choice Frozen Food

It says “Healthy Choice” (or Go Lean, or Weight Watchers) on it so it must be healthy, right? Unfortunately, these frozen diet dinners are usually loaded up with fat and sodium, like the Healthy Choice Country Glazed Chicken, which delivers 600 mg of sodium.

Oikos Frozen Greek Yogurt

Frozen yogurt is the “healthier” alternative to ice cream, so frozen Greek yogurt should be even better for you, right? One serving of plain Oikos frozen Greek yogurt (½ cup only, you ice cream-lovers!) contains 19 grams of sugar, and the chocolate variety has 21 grams of sugar.


1. Popchips Veggie Chips

Known for having half the fat and all the flavor of a fried chip, Popchips now offer veggie chips. As compared to regular potato chips with 10 grams of fat and one gram of fiber per serving, veggie Popchips contain 3.5 grams of fat and three grams of fiber per serving. "We are thrilled to be expanding our portfolio to provide snackers with the next generation of our Popchips family. Inspired by some of today's most popular vegetables, we are really excited about our tasty veggie chips and showing our continued commitment to bringing innovation to the snack aisle," says Paul Davis, Popchips CEO. The veggie chips contain a blend of nine popular vegetables -- kale, spinach, tomato, pumpkin, potato, beet, bell pepper, navy bean and chickpea. Per one-ounce serving: 120 calories, three grams of protein, 20 grams of carbohydrates, three grams of fiber, zero grams of saturated fat and 200 milligrams of sodium

Known for having half the fat and all the flavor of a fried chip, Popchips now offer veggie chips. As compared to regular potato chips with 10 grams of fat and one gram of fiber per serving, veggie Popchips contain 3.5 grams of fat and three grams of fiber per serving. "We are thrilled to be expanding our portfolio to provide snackers with the next generation of our Popchips family. Inspired by some of today's most popular vegetables, we are really excited about our tasty veggie chips and showing our continued commitment to bringing innovation to the snack aisle," says Paul Davis, Popchips CEO. The veggie chips contain a blend of nine popular vegetables -- kale, spinach, tomato, pumpkin, potato, beet, bell pepper, navy bean and chickpea. Per one-ounce serving: 120 calories, three grams of protein, 20 grams of carbohydrates, three grams of fiber, zero grams of saturated fat and 200 milligrams of sodium


How to Make Healthier Alternatives to Ultra-Processed Foods

You’ve heard the fuss over processed foods (they can have various negative health consequences, including suppressing your immune system)—but do you know what ultra-processed foods are? First off, know that there are different levels of processing when it comes to the things we eat. Fresh fruits and vegetables appear in stores in basically their natural form. Things like milled oats and canned or frozen vegetables are minimally processed and are still pretty nutritious.

Ultra-processed foods are exactly why they sound like. “Think products like boxed cake mixes, instant noodles, and chicken nuggets,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition. “These usually have a long ingredient list with additives and preservatives.”

Healthier Choices Here's How to Read and Understand a Nutrition Label If you’re like me, you rarely leave the house without a snack in some kind of plastic wrapper tucked away in a coat pocket or squished at the bottom of your bag. The unfortunate reality is that many of these snacks contain a bunch of added preservatives and opaque ingredients. They kind of need to, in order to stay “fresh” in their wrappers and boxes for so long. Obviously, these aren’t so great for your long-term health either.

In a recent study published in the medical journal JAMA, researchers in France tracked the diets and lifestyles of around 44,000 adults (age 45 and up). They found that eating a lot of ultra-processed foods was linked to a higher risk of death. Though more studies are still needed, their results echoed many previous studies that linked elements of ultra-processed foods—with ingredients like added sugars, saturated fats, and high amounts of sodium—to negative outcomes like diabetes and heart disease.

“It also makes it hard to have room in your diet to include foods that offer nutritional benefits,” Gorin adds, “such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.”

Does the thought of giving up your pita chips make you want to cry? Me too.

Many ultra-processed foods, though, have healthier versions that can be made at home, meaning that you control the ingredients that go into them (and your body).

DIY: Frozen Meals

Let’s start with frozen meals, one of the most convenient and time-saving options out there. Is it convenient to pop a TV dinner into the microwave and sit down to eat a mere three minutes later? Yes. The problem is that a lot of these options—even the ones that claim to be “healthy”—are ultra-processed and have a ton of sodium, saturated fat, and preservatives (not to mention excessive calories).

The reality is one afternoon of meal prep can make it so you never have to eat frozen Lean Cuisines again. Dishes like burritos, curries, and soups are easy to make in batches and freeze in reusable containers or plastic bags.

Try one of these ten Chowhound-approved burrito recipes, complete with tips for freezing. Or one of these cozy meals that freeze well, ranging from lentil soup to cauliflower curry and Swedish meatballs. They heat up just as quickly as a TV dinner would in the microwave. Just make sure that you’re thoroughly cooking meats before freezing, and don’t over-pack containers since the water in them will expand.

If it’s frozen pizza that you crave, pull yourself away to the produce aisle and stock up on the main ingredient in our Cauliflower Pizza Crust recipe. Once you bake it, you can pop it in the freezer for up to two months (either fully topped or naked if you want to pick your sauce and add-ons at the last minute).

DIY: Instant Ramen

Another surprisingly fun and easy food to DIY is instant ramen, one of the top ultra-processed offenders. All it takes is a few mason jars, rice noodles or pre-cooked noodles, your favorite broth base, and toppings of your choice.

Vegetables like spinach and bean sprouts that can be eaten raw work best. Add hot water, wait a few minutes, and you’ve got instant noodles without all of the mystery additives. Get the Homemade Instant Ramen recipe.

Ball Glass Mason Jars, 12 for $8.98 at Walmart

DIY: Snacks

Now that meals are out of the way, let’s talk snacks. Though some granola and energy bars might be marketed as healthy, many of them have added sugar and artificial flavorings.

Thankfully, it basically takes the same amount of time to make granola bars from scratch as it does to buy a box from the grocery store, especially since most of the ingredients are pantry staples like oats and dried fruits or nuts. Simply mix the oats with a nut butter and sweetener like honey, dates, or maple syrup to bind, then fold in your favorite toppings. Lots of recipes are also no-bake, making them as quick to prep as a bowl of oatmeal.

If you’re more of a savory-snacks person, there are also plenty of make-at-home options for you. Swap out that bag of store-bought chips for homemade ones, which are as easy as slicing up your favorite vegetables and baking them. If you have a food processor, you can whip up your own version of goldfish with just five ingredients.

Homemade popcorn is one of the best-kept secrets of the snack world. Though it’s generally healthier than chips because it’s full of fiber, the added sodium and artificial butter flavoring found in many microwaveable packets cancels that right out. Instead, just pour a bunch of kernels into a paper bag and microwave. Voila—fresh, unprocessed microwave popcorn. Add some spices like cinnamon and butter or chili powder and a squeeze of lime.

DIY: Desserts

Last on our list (but first in our hearts): desserts. Admittedly, many homemade versions of things like Oreos, Pop-Tarts, and snack cakes are more time-intensive than simply buying them off the shelf. But wow, do they taste good. You can also control aspects like the amount of sugar or the type of flour. Try this homemade version of Oreos with an uncannily familiar filling, or swap out the fondant for your favorite flavor of buttercream.

If you’ve never tried to make your own pop-tarts, recipes like this one will blow your mind. Basically, it’s like making giant raviolis out of pie crust and filling. Just roll out your pie dough of choice, divvy up some filling like jam or brown sugar and cinnamon, and seal. They won’t last as long as the store-bought version, but then again, they likely won’t last long out of the oven anyway.

Choosing Products at the Store

Related Content These Feel-Good Snacks Are Eco-Friendly and Delicious If you’re just too pressed for time or energy to DIY some of these items, don’t worry—there are minimally processed options for premade snacks, foods, and even meals that you can find in the grocery store. In general, when checking out your options, make sure to look at the ingredients list.

“A processed food will be one that is closer to its original form,” says Gorin, “such as canned vegetables, frozen fruit, roasted nuts, or a bar with just a few ingredients and no preservatives.”

Dried fruit is a ready snack option, as are hummus and vegetables. Look for dark chocolate bars with high cocoa content to help curb your sweet tooth. Lots of grocery stores also have freshly prepared food like rotisserie chicken, which can help you save time when cooking.

If you’re really craving ice cream or chips or your favorite snack once in awhile, Gorin adds, just go for it. As long as they’re eaten in moderation, they don’t have to completely disappear from your life.


Hostess Apple Fruit Pie

There's fruit in these pies—they must be a step up in the right direction. Sorry to disappoint, but these oh so flaky, individually wrapped Hostess apple pies are more than 400 calories! Plus, they're packed with as much sodium as you would get if you ate three small bags of Lay's potato chips and more sugar than if you ate five Snickers Mini's.


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Hint of Salt Triscuits

These crackers are an easy way to add a healthy whole-grain carb to any snack. Triscuits are made with just three ingredients: whole-grain wheat, canola oil, and salt. Plus, the Hint of Salt variety surprisingly provides around 30 percent less sodium than original Triscuits. You may find that your sodium intake jumps up with the number of processed foods you eat, so finding low-sodium options is important.

For just 120 calories, six hearty crackers also provide 3 grams of filling fiber. P.S. When choosing carbs such as in crackers, look for 100 percent whole grains instead of a blend of refined and whole sources to get the most fiber out of each serving. (Related: What's the Difference Between Whole Wheat and Whole Grain?)


21 Healthy Foods Nutritionists Always Buy at Trader Joe&rsquos

Unless you love to cook and have a ton of free time, eating healthy on a budget is not always easy&mdashbut Trader Joe&rsquos makes it a heck of a lot easier. In fact, the affordable supermarket chain is setting trends in the healthy food space. Everyone&rsquos obsession with cauliflower rice (and cauliflower gnocchi and cauliflower pizza crust) is largely thanks to Trader Joe&rsquos Instagram account. Not to mention, cult favorites Everything but the Bagel Seasoning and Mandarin Orange Chicken. But don&rsquot be fooled not everything you see at the grocery chain is healthy.

&ldquoA key to sticking with the healthy items is to shop the perimeter of any Trader Joe&rsquos store,&rdquo says nutritionist and holistic health coach, Jen Silverman. &ldquoThis lets you stick with the fresher items, such as fruit, vegetables, yogurt, meat, and fish, since packaged, preservative-rich, shelf-stable items are always located in the center aisles.&rdquo

Sweet Nova's nutritionist, Tanya Freirich, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, says that it&rsquos always important to check nutrition labels, especially in a store like Trader Joe&rsquos where there are so many flashy, eye-catching labels and packages. Take the chip aisle, for example. &ldquoEven baked or fried in coconut oil, potato chips are, unfortunately, still chips," she says. "Go for the actual vegetable chips, like the kale or beet chips, which provide more fiber and vitamins than those from a potato. And never go to the grocery store hungry!&rdquo

While we all know the obvious healthy choices, like leafy greens, fruits, and pre-washed veggies, we asked some of the country&rsquos leading health experts to share their favorite healthy food buys from Trader Joe&rsquos. (We can&rsquot survive off of apple slices and carrot sticks, after all.) Here are 21 products that are not only healthy, they&rsquore affordable and easy to incorporate into a busy schedule.


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Niçoise Gnocchi Salad

Haven&rsquot made it to the grocery store in a minute? That doesn&rsquot mean you can&rsquot whip up an impressive dish. This lovely, snackable take on a salad Niçoise is composed largely from pantry items, like canned tuna and roasted red peppers, plus a couple of common refrigerator staples&mdashfrozen green beans and eggs. We use packaged gnocchi, shelf-stable gnocchi as a creative swap for the fresh potatoes typically found in a salad Niçoise. Dressed up with a super simple vinaigrette this &ldquothrow-together&rdquo salad could easily pass for a well-planned. In other words, keep this one in your back pocket for the next time you need a last-minute appetizer for entertaining.


9 Surprising Foods That Are Only Pretending to Be Healthy

It’s no shock that nutritionists will tell you to load up on more avocados and kale than chili cheese fries and cake, but sometimes the line between healthy and unhealthy food seems pretty blurry. When you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet, you don’t want any surprises throwing you off track. Four top nutritionists shared nine foods that seem like nutritious superfoods or smart options, but are actually surprisingly unhealthy.

1. Nut Milk-Based Smoothies: “Having a smoothie for breakfast sounds like a healthy choice, but when it’s made with just fruit and nut milk you’re missing out on key nutrients,” cautions Kayleen St. John, a registered dietitian at New York City-based Natural Gourmet Institute, a health-supportive culinary school. “Unlike dairy and soy milk, most nut milks lack protein and fat. A fruit and nut milk smoothie is essentially all carbohydrates and you’re missing the protein and fat your body needs to make a smoothie a legitimate meal replacer. Try adding some nuts, seeds, or nut butter to this smoothie to round out the macronutrient [fat, carbs and protein] profile.”

2. Turkey Breast Slices: “Most people think of turkey as a good, lean source of protein. Although it can be if you buy it packaged, it’s typically packed with sodium, fillers and carcinogenic nitrates,” offer the Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, and authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure. “You’re much better off choosing turkey breast cut fresh from the bird. If you do choose a packaged one, go for one that’s low-sodium and nitrate-free.”

3. Flavored Greek Yogurt: “Yes, Greek yogurt is an awesome snack. It’s packed with protein, low in fat, contains live cultures of probiotics and if unsweetened, is low in sugar,” explains Lisa Hayim, registered dietitian and founder of The Well Necessities. “The concerning part is the seemingly innocuously flavored options such as blueberry, blood orange, honey and mixed berry. They can pack up to 30 grams of sugar, most of which is coming from added sugar, not the actual fruit itself. I recommend my clients buy plain, unsweetened yogurt with less than eight grams of sugar per serving and toss in fresh fruit themselves.”

4. Non-Dairy Creamers: Virtuous choice? Not exactly (or at all). “While these may seem like a lower-calorie, less-saturated-fat alternative to cream, these typically are a combination of synthetic chemicals mixed in with hydrogenated oils, sugars and milk products [even though they’re called “non-dairy,” many have casein in them, which comes from milk]. These are generally an artery-clogging, insulin-spiking combo and contain chemicals that increase inflammation in the body,” the Nutrition Twins say. Bottom line: steer clear.

5. Rice Cakes: Are you a crunch-craver? Those delectable discs of goodness probably beckon to you. “Many dieters turn toward rice cakes as a low-calorie snack option,” comments Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE and author of the book Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. “However these puffed cakes are typically made with white rice — a high-glycemic, quickly digested carbohydrate that can spike blood sugar and insulin levels, which causes your body to store fat instead of burn it. If you love rice cakes, select ones made with 100 percent brown rice for a whole grain alternative.”

6. 100-Calorie Packs: “Dieters are used to restricting calories, causing them to desperately miss their favorite indulgent foods. When these 100-calorie packs came out, people got excited and couldn’t believe they could now have their favorite food at just 100 calories,” offers Hayim. “People use them for snacks, desserts and sometimes even meal replacements. My problem with this is that I want to teach my clients how to make real food choices (foods with functional benefits) and mindful decisions. If they want dessert, chocolate, peanut butter or whatever it is, I want them to have it mindfully — in a comforting setting, with thought and no intense emotions present. Once my clients understand this concept, they are able to fully enjoy their favorite previously ‘banned foods.’ You’ll feel empowered by your choices and will be able to control the amount and calories consumed.”

7. Superfood Overload: Even nutritionists are fatiguing on the buzzy phrase. “If you’ve been religiously buying the hottest superfoods (like maca powder, lacuma powder and cupuaçu) you may be wasting your money,” warns St. John. “Essentially all fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants and fight inflammation. Don’t buy the hype and stick to eating as much local (not exotic) produce as possible.”

8. Energy Bars: When it comes to energy bars, you should DIY them if possible so that you can control exactly what goes into this popular snack. “These [products] typically are as high in calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar as a candy bar. Most list some form of sugar at the top of the ingredient list and also include artery-clogging hydrogenated oils. You’re better off going for a real candy bar and acknowledging it as a dessert, rather than thinking you’re doing something good for your body by eating an ‘energy’ bar,” advise the Nutrition Twins.

9. Gluten-free Snacks: Ah, to be young, wild and g-free. Turns out, this lifestyle — while pivotal for some — isn’t for everyone. Nowadays, GF snacks can be more of a marketing ploy than anything else. “Unless you have celiac or a noticeable reaction to gluten, buying gluten-free snacks doesn’t help anyone except the snack-food companies. Gluten-free snack products (think crackers and pretzels) are usually depleted of any nutrients and no healthier than other snack products,” advises St. John.


“Mommy wine culture.

Stop drinking away your problems and glorifying alcoholism.”

“I feel like people don’t know how important their diet actually is.

Simply reducing sugar a little seems to be a huge deal for some people and I think that really shows how unhealthy sugar actually is if you’re having withdrawal symptoms like tiredness and headaches from it.

They’ll just treat it like a normal thing to give kids loads of sugar at all times, give them fruit for once. And sugar alternatives and sweets ‘without sugar’ are even worse as the alternative works as a d*mn laxative.

People should know what’s in their food.”