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11 “Healthy” Foods That Nutritionists Won’t Touch

They sound healthy, they look healthy—but are they? Nutritionists help us distinguish between the “looks good” food to the truly good food.

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Gold plated dish and utensilspanchanok premsrirut/Shutterstock

Don’t believe the hype

Food marketers are smart: Time and time again, they manage to convince us that the foods we’re better off avoiding are the very things that will help us stay trim and healthy. It’s no wonder that trendy diets don’t work; there’s a ton of misinformation floating around.

To avoid falling victim to these marketing traps, you must stay informed. We spoke with nutritionists to find out which so-called “healthy” foods they avoid and learn what they eat instead. Following their lead may just be your ticket to eating a diet that makes you feel—and look—your very best. Here’s a handy guide to decoding food labels.

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Blended green smoothie with ingredients on wooden tableSlobodan Kunevski/Shutterstock

Green juice and smoothies

Sure, they’re served at basically every health food shop, and often considered ideal weight loss allies, but some dietitians aren’t fans of smoothies or juices. “I only recommend them if I have a client who needs to gain weight,” says Ilyse Schapiro, RDN.

“Chewing your food tells your body that it’s eating and consuming calories and gets it ready for digestion. When you sip your calories, this doesn’t happen,” Schapiro explains. In turn, you won’t retain as many nutrients, including fiber, so you might need additional calories to feel full and satisfied. If you’re watching your figure, take a look at these 15 foods that may boost your metabolism.

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Orange blossom mint teaTaste of Home

Drink tea and seltzer, instead

Stick to water, seltzer, or unsweetened teas as your primary beverages, Schapiro recommends. When you’re craving fruits and veggies, enjoy them whole and fresh instead of sipped through a straw.

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No guilt browniesTaste of Home

Reduced-calorie and sugar-free sweets

If you’re trying to eat a more wholesome diet, you might see low-carb brownies or sugar-free candies as smart substitutions for your favorite desserts. But diet pros say these treats are better off left on the shelf than in our stomachs.

Often these treats contain questionable sugar substitutes, and excess fat and salt to make up for the lack of sugar and calories, explains Angel Planells, RDN, CD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. “Plus, when you’re eating ‘diet’ desserts, people are tempted to eat more than they typically would,” Planells adds.

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Child's hand reaching for a piece of chocolate brownie stored in a glass cookie jar.Scapigliata/Shutterstock

Try less of the real thing

Have a small portion of whatever it is that you’re craving. “Eat a small piece of a real cookie or brownie, and take the time to really savor the flavor,” recommends Sarah Koszyk, RDN, the author of 365 Snacks for Every Day of the Year.

If you know you won’t be able to stick to small serving sizes, consider quelling your sweet tooth with some fruit, nature’s tastiest candy. Can’t decide what kind of have? Learn about these healthy and refreshing fruit recipes.

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Toasted hazelnut and chocolate ice creamTaste of Home

Eat-the-whole-pint “ice cream”

We’ve all seen those containers of ice cream advertising that the entire pint has just 300 calories. While these might seem like a smart choice, Amy Shapiro, RD isn’t a fan. “It teaches people that portion control doesn’t matter, and I truly believe if we all stuck to proper portions, no one would be struggling with weight.”

Shapiro doesn’t like the sugar alcohols used to create these products either. “Although they’re all natural, they can cause a lot of stomach discomfort, gas, bloating and even diarrhea when consumed in large amounts.”

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Berries chocolate sauce for ice creamTaste of Home

Eat the real thing

When you want something cold and sweet, skip the fake stuff and enjoy a half-cup serving of real ice cream, topped with fresh fruit and nuts, suggests California-based dietitian Yasi Ansari, RDN. Or try some of these other ice cream toppings nutritionists use.

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Set of dressings for salad: sauce vinaigrette, mustard, mayonnaise or ranch, balsamic or soy, basil with yogurt.Rimma Bondarenko/Shutterstock

Fat-free salad dressing

We need fat to absorb many of the nutrients in vegetables, so you’re actually doing your body a disservice by using fat-free dressings, Planells explains. What’s more, when brands reduce their product’s fat content, they’ll often add artificial sweeteners or sugar to keep their dressing tasty, explains Isabel Smith RD, CDN.

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Roquefort Pear SaladTaste of Home

Oil and vinegar always works

Use a small serving of regular salad dressing, Smith and Planells suggest. Or go for a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of vinegar, Planells adds. Looking for homemade salad dressing recipes? We’ve got your back!

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White cup of mint tea with fresh meant leaves on blue background.Jana Kollarova/shutterstock


You might have heard that this fizzy fermented tea can improve everything from digestion and metabolism to immunity and heart health. While the drink does contain vitamins, antioxidants and gut-friendly probiotics, there haven’t been enough studies to confirm that this drink actually delivers any real health benefits.

What we do know, though, is that a lot of the bottled kombucha for sale in stores is high in calories or sugar, Schapiro says. “Also, consuming too much of it can lead to digestive distress. It’s carbonated which can cause gas and bloating.”

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Green teavioletblue/Shutterstock

Drink regular tea

“I recommend regular tea. It has known antioxidant properties, and there is way more research out there on the benefits of tea than kombucha,” Schapiro says. Here are more mind-blowing health benefits of tea.

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Crisp crunchy organic vegetable chips with fried or oven-baked potato and beetroot chips served as a finger food snack on a wooden chopping board with sea salt and copyspacestockcreations/Shutterstock

Veggie chips and “straws”

Veggie sticks and straws might seem like a diet-friendly alternative to potato chips, but Patricia Bannan, RDN, the author of Eat Right When Time Is Tight suggests steering clear. “The first ingredients are usually ‘potato starch’ and ‘potato flour’ which offer little in the way of nutrition and provides zero dietary fiber,” she explains.

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Dried almond nuts in jar.Jiri Hera/Shutterstock

Get nutty, instead

“While these baked sticks and straws are lower in fat compared to fried potato chips, a better option for snack time crunching would be nuts,” Bannan says. “A one-ounce serving of pistachios, for example, offers protein, dietary fiber and healthy fats which will help keep you full.”

If you definitely want to stick to veggie chips, make sure the first ingredient is actually a whole vegetable, like sweet potato, beets or kale, Bannan says. Here’s how to make irresistible kale chips.

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Soft boiled eggsmeaofoto/Shutterstock

Egg whites and egg beaters

“The latest research has shown that there is no need to skip egg yolks. In fact, I encourage my clients to eat them due to the abundance of nutrients found in the yolk such as iron, selenium, folate, choline and vitamin B12,” says Lori Zanini, RD, CDE, the creator of For The Love of Diabetes online program.

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freshly made, delicious meal of eggs and vegetables; Shutterstock ID 344915381; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHanetta/Shutterstock

Have an egg already

Studies have found that eating high-quality proteins, like whole eggs, can promote weight loss,” Zannini says. All the better if you can find some that are organic, free-range and free of antibiotics. Read up on these 101 ways to use up a carton of eggs.

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closeup woman drinking ice cola in the glass.AN Photographer2463/Shutterstock

Diet soda

You may already know that diet soda contains artificial sweeteners, flavors and coloring. But here’s something you may not have known: Consuming two or more artificially sweetened beverages per day have been linked to an increased stroke risk among postmenopausal women, Ansari says. “There is also some evidence to support a link between long-term diet beverage consumption and an increased risk of chronic diseases such as dementia, type 2 diabetes and obesity.” Here are some more reasons you shouldn’t be drinking soda.

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Tangerine and Thyme Infused WaterTaste of Home

Juice-infused water

“I encourage my clients to stick to plain water, fruit-infused water or unsweetened iced tea or iced coffee,” says Ansari. Another smart option: A splash of juice mixed with seltzer water. “Replacing diet soda with seltzer mixed with a no-sugar-added juice option such as Welch’s 100% Grape Juice serves up a bit of flavor, as well as vitamin C and antioxidants,” says Jim White, RDN.

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Top view of yogurt in wooden bowl on green leaves backgroundTrum Ronnarong/Shutterstock

Low-fat and low-calorie yogurts

All yogurts are not created equal, cautions Rebecca Ditkoff, RD, CDN. “Some are a great source of protein, calcium and probiotics with minimal added sugars, which make a great addition to any meal or snack. However, sweetened yogurts—some of which have up to 20 grams of sugar—are more or less a dessert.”

Kara Lydon, RD, LDN agrees with Ditkoff’s sentiments and adds that it’s important to be wary of low-fat, or “light” yogurts, too. “They’re missing the satiating component of dietary fat, and they are usually less than 100 calories per serving which is not substantial enough for a snack,” she explains.

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Greek yogurt granola and blueberries on blue table top view.nadianb/Shutterstock

Choose full fat

Choose full-fat, Greek or Icelandic unsweetened yogurts. Not only will these options actually keep you satisfied and satiated, but they also they tend to contain two times the protein and half the sugar of regular yogurt, Lydon and Ditkoff explain. Top some with fresh fruit for added flavor. Take a look at these 9 benefits of Greek yogurt for your health.

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Two Granola Bars with Chocolate on wooden backgroundHandmadePictures/Shutterstock

Meal replacement bars

Whether you’re short on time or trying to lose weight, a meal replacement bar might seem like a good solution, but Zanini says you’re better off grabbing something else. “Many of these bars contain artificial ingredients and lack real food ingredients that will likely leave you craving more sweets,” she cautions. “They also tend to be poorly balanced. Without fiber, protein and fat, foods will digest quicker and likely lead to overeating later on.”

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Kind barVictor Moussa/Shutterstock

There is one good bar

When it comes to meals, whole foods are best. If you tend to be time-strapped, or just want to eat a bit healthier, consider prepping one of these make-ahead meals. And if you’re looking for a bar option to enjoy as a snack, Zanini recommends KIND Protein Bars. Not only are they free of artificial ingredients, but they also contain 12 grams of protein and five grams of filling fiber to help keep you full.

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Sliced bread Ciabatta and rosemary on wooden backgroundLisovskaya Natalia/Shutterstock

Reduced-calorie bread

Reduced-bread might seem like an easy way to keep some calories off your lunch plate. But more often than not, these products have little or no fiber, fat or protein. That can be a problem since these nutrients help keep you feeling full and add flavor and taste to your foods, explains Torey Armul, RD spokesperson for the Academy. In other words, you’re better off buying something else for your sandwiches and toast.

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Delicious freshly baked bread on wooden backgroundAnd-One/Shutterstock

Go 100% whole grain

Instead of focusing on calories, look for products made with 100 percent whole grains that contain at least two grams of fiber and three grams of protein per slice, Armul says. “In the end, you’re better off eating something that’s packed with nutrients, even if it is higher in calories than filling your body with empty calories. Just be mindful of your portions and stick to no more than two slices per meal.” Now, find out 28 more healthy breakfast recipes you can take on the go.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest