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8 foods you thought were healthy but aren't

Limiting the consumption of added salts and sugars is important for nutrition and health. But as you may have already discovered all is not what it seems in the world of healthy eating! There are many foods that at first glance seem healthy, but due to their additives aren’t healthy at all.

In this blog post, we reveal eight foods you thought were healthy but aren’t as well as offer our top tips for healthier alternatives.

1. Breakfast bars

The ultimate grab and go early morning snack, breakfast bars have been touted as the best way to get the fibre and nutrition you need, even when your busy routine leaves you short on time. These yummy, quick snacks, however, are packed full of sugar (usually labelled as high-fructose corn syrup) and hydrogenated oils. The added flavours and dried fruits in some varieties can also send your sugar levels sky-high.

Whilst it’s true that not all breakfast bars are created equal, as 100 Days of Real Food found in their rundown of popular breakfast bars, even those marketed as 100% natural and wholegrain contain a child’s full daily allowance of sugar.

To avoid the high sugar and oil levels, not to mention the artificial additives, try making these coconut and banana breakfast squares at home.

2. Instant porridge

From one breakfast favourite to another, porridge is a hearty breakfast option that can be made even more interesting thanks to a variety of toppings. Instant porridge or oatmeal, however, isn’t as healthy as it seems. Its instant status means it’s packed with unhealthy sugars, salts and syrup.

Don’t tar every instant porridge brand with the same brush, however. Always check the label to ensure your quick fix brekkie is as healthy as it seems. Your choice of toppings can also turn a healthy breakfast into a not so healthy, early morning sugar rush.

To do porridge the healthy way, stick with traditional rolled oats, preferably wholegrain. Add interest by experimenting with these healthy topped porridge recipes.

3. Flavoured yoghurt

Yoghurt is a nutritious addition to any diet. It’s high in nutrients and protein, which unlocks some pretty impressive health benefits.

Eating natural yoghurt daily can improve digestion, enhance bone health, contribute to good heart health and promote better weight management. Eating probiotic enhanced yoghurts has even been proven to boost immunity as Healthline explains:

“Probiotics have been shown to reduce inflammation, which is linked to several health conditions ranging from viral infections to gut disorders… Moreover, the immune-enhancing properties of yoghurt are partly due to its magnesium, selenium and zinc, which are trace minerals known for the role they play in immune system health. Vitamin D-fortified yoghurts may boost immune health even further.”

With an endless variety of flavours to choose from, daily yoghurt consumption doesn’t have to be a bore. But beware the flavoured yoghurt.

The majority of flavoured yoghurts contain artificial sweeteners, which reduce the health-enhancing goodness of yoghurt. Some of the artificial colours and sweeteners used in flavoured yoghurts have even been linked to serious health conditions.

Again read the label of your favourite flavoured yoghurt products to double-check that they are natural and free from the artificial additives that make this seemingly healthy breakfast choice a bad one. We want yoghurt that is just yoghurt. What you top your yoghurt with makes a difference too, so choose toppings with care. Antioxidant, vitamin and mineral-rich toppings, such as blueberries, nuts and seeds, are always great ways to go.

To avoid sugar and the health risks, always opt for plain, Greek yoghurt. This can be sweetened with fruits of your choice or you could try these creative and healthy Greek yoghurt combinations for size.

4. Prepared salads

I bet you didn’t think you’d see a salad in our rundown but here it is! Prepared salads may be billed as healthy and nutritious but to extend their shelf lives, they are high in sugar and other artificial additives. This makes them unhealthy and high in calories. 

When purchasing a prepared salad, always read the label, particularly if there’s a dressing included in the mix. These dressings are often ladened with sugar, processed oils and flavour enhancing additives.

Better yet, to make sure you’re realising all the benefits of a healthy lunch choice, always make your salads. Our summer salad recipes offer plenty of food for thought, whether you’re looking to enjoy a salad at your desk or as a family for dinner.

5. Canned soup

Canned soups may be convenient, but they’re far from healthy. To aid preservation of the ingredients within, canned products are high in salt, with most easily containing more than 50% of your daily salt allowance.

To keep salt intake down and your veggie count up, we always recommend making your soup at home using fresh ingredients. Your homemade soup can be divided and frozen to make it just as convenient as the unhealthy canned variety.

As these healthy summery soup recipes show, the warmer months aren’t the time to give up on this delicious and easy to prepare meal.

If you do need to purchase canned soup – it is after all super convenient – why not add a handful of fresh, lightly steamed veggies or leftover cooked wholemeal pasta, brown rice or quinoa? These healthy additions create a one-bowl meal that contains less salt and make canned soup go much further.

6. Wraps

Wraps are always a tasty change from the usual sandwich but did you know that the wrap itself contains a bevvy of unhealthy ingredients?

The average wrap contains sugar, added sweeteners, preservatives, stabilisers and anti-mould agents. White wraps are more processed than white bread, a fact that will shock most as wraps are generally seen as the healthier alternative. Even selected, healthier spinach wraps use food colouring to achieve their signature green colour.

Instead of buying the usual white wrap, go for 100% wholegrain or wholegrain seeded wraps and use them to try these healthy wrap recipes. Be selective about the size of your wraps too, and choose wholegrain wraps that are taco sized.

7. Veggie burgers

Plant-based eating is more popular than ever, which means many of us will be grabbing a veggie burger to stick on the barbeque this summer.

Premade, shop-bought veggie burgers, however, can be more processed than the meat alternative. The majority of shop-bought veggie burgers are made from soy or vegetable protein, which originates from soy and wheat, not vegetables. They are also highly processed.

Making your own at home is the healthiest way to enjoy a barbequed veggie burger this summer. You could even go vegan with our plant-based naughty but nice burger recipe.

8. Dried fruit

Dried fruit offers an energy boost when added to porridge or enjoyed all on its own as a snack. It’s very nutritious, fibre rich and loaded with antioxidants, which can help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, lower blood pressure, aid weight management and promote better digestive health.

Certain dried fruits have also been proven to be beneficial during pregnancy. It is, however, important to note just how high in sugar dried fruit is.

Dried fruit contains naturally occurring sugar and a lot of it. Dates, for example, contain up to 66% natural sugar, whilst raisins consist of 59% natural sugar. These sugar levels can diminish the health benefits mentioned above if enjoyed in large quantities.

Some dried fruits contain this naturally occurring sugar and added sugar or syrup, which can be even more harmful to health. To avoid health risks and reap the rewards of eating dried fruit, avoid the varieties that contain added sugar and eat only small amounts.