What foods are commonly mistaken for healthy options?

July 6, 2013

Q: I often become confused when trying to choose healthy snacks because of the high volume of misinformation out there. I’m just finding out that a lot of things I thought were good for me are not as good as I had once believed. In your experience, what foods are most commonly mistaken as being part of a healthy diet?

A: In the interest of boosting sales, food companies and marketing geniuses have brainwashed the public into believing certain products are healthy. Because of this, I spend a great deal of my time dispelling myths and teaching my clients what foods to avoid when getting in shape. Here’s the skinny on foods I believe people most commonly mistake as healthy alternatives.

Loaded salads

The nutritional value of a salad depends on what you put on it. If you load it with croutons, cheese, nuts and creamy dressing, you will change an innocent bowl of vegetables into a fast-food salad loaded with calories.


Yogurt has been billed as a healthy snack as long as I can remember, but be careful when choosing your poison. Some yogurts have high amounts of sugar, making them equivalent to eating candy. Choosing yogurt with fruit is even worse because the level of sugar is even higher. A much better alternative would be plain yogurt, or nonfat Greek yogurt, because not as much sugar is added.

Granola bars

I know what you’re thinking, “What could possibly be wrong with something made of oats, nuts honey and seeds? Well, let’s not forget these healthy ingredients are cemented together with loads of sugar and hydrogenated oils, making them a less-than-desirable healthy food choice.

Sports drinks

Sports drinks were invented to replenish electrolytes after an intense game or competition but somehow worked their way into mainstream convenience and grocery stores. Although these drinks can be very beneficial for people playing sports, chugging them down throughout the day can add loads of sugar carbs to your diet, spiking insulin levels like a football after a game-winning touchdown, causing the body to gain weight and store fat.

Fruit juices

Fruits have a lot of vitamins, minerals and fiber that are beneficial to our bodies, but they are also high in sugar. Turning them into juice will eliminate the fiber and leave you with a high-calorie drink. Some juice companies will also add sugar to this concoction, making the situation even worse. So be sure to read the labels, and if you must have fruit juice, pick the brands with more natural ingredients and less sugar and preservatives.

Protein bars

Combining protein into a portable, healthy bar is a great concept but has proven to be a difficult task. For taste and shelf life, producers have added lots of sugar as well as hydrogenated oils, ruining the healthy benefits and creating a glorified high-protein candy bar.

Rice cakes

Rice cakes are not the best choice for a healthy snack because they are made from refined carbohydrates that elevate insulin levels. Many dieters flock to rice cakes because they are low in calories and light in weight, but the end result is rapid digestion and a rush of sugar into the bloodstream causing fat storage and prolonged hunger.

So the next time you choose a healthy snack, be sure to keep these tips in mind. There are much better choices out there than those mentioned above.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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