Surprising Foods That Masquerade as Healthy

Yogurt with granola and fruit
Jill Chen/Stocksy United

Some foods have what's known as a health halo—they seem like smart choices, but in reality, they're not. I call them food fakers! Here are a few of my favorite examples.


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

While granola is made up of healthy ingredients, it's generally calorie dense, meaning a small amount has a lot of calories. And while it's fine in small servings, people frequently consume granola like standard cereal or snack on it by the handful, which can get calorie costly. A cup of traditional granola has around 450 calories and 16g fat! Even low-fat granola often has nearly 400 calories per cup. When you're in the mood for cereal, mix something high in fiber with puffed cereal for a bowl that's both filling and large.

Regular Greek Yogurt

I love Greek yogurt but I always stick with the 0% or 2% fat varieties. Why? Full-fat Greek yogurt is higher in both calories and fat. An 8-ounce serving of the plain type has around 280 calories and 20g fat. The fat-free stuff, on the other hand, has about 130 calories for the same amount and it often comes in snack-sized containers with 100 calories each. Be careful, because the packages look extremely similar!

If you don't like eating Greek yogurt plain, stir in a no-calorie sweetener packet, toss with fruit, and top with high-fiber cereal. Such a great breakfast! If you're eating the yogurt as a snack, make it interesting with salsa or other ingredients.

Restaurant Salads

I know what you're thinking. How can a lettuce-based meal be a bad choice? The problem isn't the greens, it's all the stuff that gets added in order to make the salad more appealing.

Common culprits? Breaded and fried chicken, candied nuts, full-fat cheese (and lots of it!), fried noodles or tortilla strips, and way too much fatty dressing.

People often assume vinaigrettes are healthy, but they're often just as fattening as creamy dressings. A 2-tablespoon serving of vinaigrette has around 180 calories and 18g fat, and restaurant salads are usually tossed or served with three to four times that amount!

Always get dressing on the side (something light, if they have it) and then dip your fork into it (don't pour the entire ramekin's worth over your salad). Then avoid those high-calorie add-ons, and stick with fresh veggies and lean protein.

Sandwich Wraps

Many people think of wraps as lighter alternatives to traditional sandwiches, but that couldn't be farther from the truth.

While tortillas are thin, they're generally massive. Unroll a wrap and you're likely to find a tortilla the size of your steering wheel! That alone easily can contain 300+ calories. Plus, those tortillas can hold far more food than a couple of bread slices, which means even more calories!

If you're on the go, opt for a sandwich on thin slices of whole-wheat bread or ask for it to be wrapped in lettuce. At the grocery store, look for high-fiber tortillas with 110 calories or less.

Either way, fill your sandwich with lean protein like turkey slices or chicken breast, lots of veggies, and low-calorie condiments (mustard is a flavorful choice).

Restaurant Baked Potatoes

In general, a baked potato can be a good choice, but the problem with ordering a baked potato when you're out is that restaurants tend to serve enormous ones.

While the standard serving size for a baked potato is a reasonable 6 ounces, most restaurants serve potatoes that clock in at a whopping 12 ounces, which means they have more than 300 calories each. That's before you add anything at all to them! your best bet is to stick with half a potato and top it with salsa or eat it plain. 

Sugar-Free/Fat-Free Desserts

It's easy to assume that anything sugar-free or fat-free is automatically diet friendly. But these foods are often loaded with calories, despite being low in sugar or fat.

Sugar-free sweets tend to be high in fat and nonfat desserts frequently include high amounts of sugar. If you're out and about and craving dessert, go for fresh berries with a squirt of whipped cream or have a small scoop of sorbet. And at the supermarket, always check nutritional labels to get the full story.

Bran Muffins

Bran muffins are usually not diet friendly. No matter what you were told years ago and no matter how much fiber they contain, bran muffins are typically not a diet-friendly breakfast choice.

Flour, butter, sugar, eggs, oil... do any of these ingredients sound light to you? An average bran muffin packs in around 450 calories and 14g fat! Even muffins marked low-fat are often loaded with way too many sugary calories.

If you're out for breakfast, you're much better off with an egg-white scramble. At a brunch meeting? Grab a big piece of fruit. And if you want to make muffins at home, use better-for-you substitutes like light whipped butter or light buttery spread, fat-free liquid egg substitute or egg whites, and no-sugar-added applesauce.

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