If you care about what you eat, you’ve probably read many, many lists warning you about health foods that aren’t really that healthy. Hint: They usually contain more fat and sugar than you might have imagined. By now, you know that some kinds of yogurt contain as much sugar as ice cream. Or that a "sensible" bowl of granola can pack as many as 600 calories.
Yet there are plenty of other foods that nutritionists will tell you are subpar in a much more subtle way. “It seems like every week we hear of a new ‘superfood,’” says Libby Parker, a registered dietician at Not Your Average Nutritionist based in San Luis Obispo, California. “But if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Pretty much any food is fine in moderation, but too much of anything, even healthy foods like kale and carrots, isn’t good for our bodies.”
We asked some of our favorite nutritionists to weigh in on the foods that just aren’t worth it:
"Coconut oil is being added to everything from smoothies to coffee to roasted veggies, all in one day. But it’s still a saturated fat, and you should use no more than two tablespoons a day. Coconut oil should replace less healthy fats that you may be consuming. It's all about balance." —Lisa Bruno, R.D.N.
"Gluten-free cookies and cakes are still cakes and cookies. The absence of gluten does not mean a product is better for you or that it will help you lose weight. When manufacturers remove wheat, they usually add lower nutrient flours, such as rice or tapioca. Or they add sugar or fat to improve the taste. They’re still high in calories and usually more expensive." —Alyssa Rothschild, R.D.N.
"Marketers of alkaline water claim it will neutralize your blood acidity levels and improve your metabolism. However, our bodies do an excellent job at maintaining a consistent blood pH on their own. Save your money and stick to plain tap or mineral water." —Colette Micko, R.D.N.
BAKED POTATO CHIPS
"Baked chips might be lower in calories and fat, but they’re still empty calories and often higher in sodium. I have many clients who end up eating the whole bag of chips because they view them as the 'better option.' Eating multiple servings of chips will not only impact your weight but can raise your blood sugar. Try healthier air-popped popcorn, roasted veggies, seeds, or nuts." —Haley Hughes, R.D.
"Even though the caffeine level listed on the can is often compared with a couple cups of coffee, when it’s mixed with other ingredients like guarana, it can raise your heart rate and send you to the emergency room. And avoid consuming them with exercise, which already elevates your heart rate. Even if you've never had a problem with them before, it is like playing Russian roulette with your body." —Libby Parker, R.D.
"Most bars contain overly-processed ingredients such as soy protein isolate and several types of sweeteners. Even bars touted as 'low sugar' usually contain sugar alcohols, which can lead to an upset stomach, or other non-caloric sweeteners that have been linked to weight gain. For quick, high-protein snacks on-the-go, I would rather see clients choose whole foods such as a nut mix or jerky. Try making your own bars. That way, you’ll know exactly what's going into it." —Jenn LaVardera, R.D.