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.
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 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.
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. Watch out for these 9 sneaky signs that you’re drinking too many of your calories.
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.
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.
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 the 10 healthiest fruits for your body before heading to the store.
Eat-the-whole-pint “ice cream”
We’ve all seen those containers of ice cream advertising that the entire pint has just 300 calories. (Halo Top and Arctic Zero are two popular such brands.) While these might seem like a smart choice, Amy Shapiro, RD isn’t a fan. “I hate the marketing here. 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”