When it comes down to choosing the right foods, you might think that ones that are normally touted as "healthy" should be good for you. Unfortunately, many foods have gotten this positive reputation, but could be a sugar or fat calorie bomb in disguise, or they might be hazardous to your health if eaten in excess. The good news is that we had a few dietitians weigh in on a few misleading "superfoods," so you can better manage your diet and portion control, keeping everything in balance.
"Sometimes referred to as nature's sports drink, coconut water is superhigh in potassium, which is great for preventing cramps during VERY strenuous workouts but lower in sodium than a typical sports drink, which you also need to replenish during and after a prolonged workout," explains Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club, to POPSUGAR. "The problem is that short of professional athletes and those working out for several hours at a time, it's unnecessary and contains about 60-120 calories per 11-14 ounce bottle. Also, many people don't like the taste so it's tough to consume enough to rehydrate properly. So for a regular workout at the gym, stick with water," she says.
"Often thought of as a super-low-calorie food for dieters, rice cakes are sorely lacking in nutrition, fibre, and flavour. Since it takes a ton of nut butter, jelly, hummus, or other toppings to make them taste better, the calorie count can skyrocket quickly, especially since you need to eat several to feel any satisfaction," says Harris-Pincus. "And the flavoured varieties can pack a lot of sodium and sugar without any significant nutritional benefit," she adds, so you'll need to be cautious when it comes to labels, too.
Not all dried fruit is created equal, and it takes some supermarket sleuthing to figure out which ones are better choices. "Adding raisins or other unsweetened dried fruits to oatmeal, yoghurt, or salads is a great way to pump up the nutrition and fibre in your diet. However, make sure there is no sugar added (with the exception of cranberries that are too tart to eat plain)," says Harris-Pincus. "One brand of dried mango contains 160 calories and 32 grams of sugar in six slices (1.5 ounces)," she says. Definitely read your labels here.
"For some reason granola cereal has always had a health halo around it, but the problem is that not all varieties are healthy choices. There are many brands that are packed with added sugar and are high in calories," Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN tells POPSUGAR. "Breakfast cereals, like granola, should instead be high in fibre, which may lower cholesterol, help stabilise blood sugars, and promote bowel regularity, not added sugar," she says.
"Just because a juice promotes that it contains green veggies or other colourful vegetables, it doesn't mean that the juice is actually providing a single serving of veggies. If you read the nutrition facts label on many brands, you may find that they actually contain zero percent of many important nutrients, such as vitamin A or vitamin C, and only provide extra calories," says Gans. "So read labels before buying, and look for a brand that contains at least one serving of veggies, such as a 5.5-ounce can of V8 Original vegetable juice, which provides 15 percent of the RDA of vitamin A and 60 percent of vitamin C," she suggests.
Take note: this is for farm-raised only, not wild-caught salmon, which is totally good for you. "If you're eating farm-raised salmon, you may be getting plenty of omega-3s but also more saturated fat than in wild-caught," says Kelly R. Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN to POPSUGAR. Here's the real issue though: "Some farm-raised varieties are artificially dyed pink and others have been found to have traces of antibiotics used to treat the fish in their crowded conditions. According to the Environmental Working Group, imported farmed salmon is also one of the top five foods with the worst environmental footprint," she says. Be sure to check labels, and stay safe.
Bottled Salad Dressing
"Don't get me wrong: some bottled salad dressings that don't contain a ton of weird ingredients and aren't loaded with sugar are perfectly OK. But others contain lots of weird ingredients, like high fructose corn syrup, emulsifiers, and artificial colouring," Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD tells POPSUGAR. "It's so easy to just whisk together oil and vinegar and have a salad dressing from scratch. Don't mess up your healthy salad by dressing it with a funky bottled salad dressing," she says.
"I don't really understand why trail mix is marketed as healthy because it usually is just nuts with candy," says Rizzo. "Yes, if you're spending the afternoon hiking, feel free to have the extra sugar. But for people who eat this snack at their desk or on their couch, it's no better than eating some candy with nuts on the side. In other words, it's full of sugar and calories that you likely don't need in a snack," she says.