5 Fake “Healthy” Foods

Natural Health Food Not all "health" food is as healthy as marketers want you to believe!

As consumers become more educated about the foods they put in their bodies, marketers are taking note and trying to cash in on your health. Today’s trend is to market “natural” food, and many unhealthy foods are disguised as “healthy.” But, buyers beware!

The proof is in the pudding, err, I mean juice and cereal bars. Just quickly research recent class action lawsuits against Pepsi’s Naked Juice or Kellogg’s Kashi and the use of the claim “all-natural” when they, in fact, contain artificial ingredients. [1]

Look past the marketing lingo and read the label carefully. The truth about any product is in the nutrition facts panel and the list of ingredients. Review them closely, and avoid high sugars, unhealthy fats, and unfamiliar or artificial ingredients. When in doubt, go with your gut, and your gut will thank you later.

Below are 5 of the top offenders masquerading as “healthy” foods:

1. Agave Syrup – This one sounds pretty healthy, right? Wrong. Agave syrup is far from “natural” and is highly processed. Nutritionists strongly urge consumers to stay far away from agave syrup because the processing of this ingredient is very similar to the process for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

After processing, the agave syrup is typically over 65 percent pure fructose [2].  To put that in perspective, “high” fructose corn syrup usually contains about 55 percent fructose. You might want to read that again.

Now, fructose does naturally occur in fruit; however, the amount of fructose in fruit is very, very little compared to agave syrup. And the fructose in whole fruit also comes along with a fair amount of fiber, vitamins and other good stuff. But a shot of fructose from agave nectar is bound to shock your system and wreak some havoc. So, steer clear of agave nectar, and feel free to read more about the fructose effect from Celeb Nutritionist Kimberly Snyder: http://kimberlysnyder.com/blog/2012/08/15/what-everyone-ought-to-know-about-fructose/.

2. Granola & Cereals – Store bought granola usually just isn’t that good for you, despite what the package says.  Take for example Quaker’s Natural Low-Fat Granola that may state that it is “low in fat,” but don’t skip over the sugar. It contains a whopping 18g of sugar per serving, which is the same as a twinkie. (and, you don’t need to add milk to eat a twinkie). [3]

There are healthy granolas on the market, just read nutrition facts panel closely. And, we recommend making your own from scratch. Need a few good recipes? Try these from Health Magazine: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20700837,00.html.

3. Yogurt – There is nothing more disappointing than hitting the hotel breakfast buffet and the only “healthy” option is low-fat yogurt loaded with artificial sweeteners, artificial colors and gosh knows what else. Steer clear, my friend. Yogurt is supposed to support a healthy gut, not hurt it.

We are fans of yogurts for its natural probiotics, protein and calcium – not to mention, it makes a nice creamy mixer in smoothies. Yum! But, if you’re going to buy yogurt, skip the flavored versions and opt for unflavored. Don’t let the “fruit on the bottom” trick fool you either. You have one mission: buy unflavored, unsweetened and organic yogurt with live cultures.

4. Gluten Free – Gluten free is the new “fat free,” and neither is automatically synonymous with “healthy.” So, just because it says gluten free doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better for you (unless you have gluten allergies, of course). The fact of the matter is that a chocolate chip cookie with gluten or without gluten is still a chocolate chip cookie, and it probably contains the same amount of sugar and fat.

If you are consciously avoiding gluten, then use the same smart choices you would with any of your shopping. Avoid prepackaged foods as much as you can by shopping the perimeter of the stores – produce, refrigerated, bulk and meats. When you need to buy prepackaged food, ensure it is certified gluten free and read the nutrition facts panel and ingredients list before you buy.  If it has ingredients you don’t recognize, don’t buy it. [4]

5. Pasteurized Fruit Juice – This is an argument that nutritionists have fought for decades, is pasteurized fruit juice really any good for you? Some experts suggest that fruit juice is just as bad for you as soda, that’s because they are both loaded with sugar. And, if the fruit juice you’re drinking isn’t loaded with sugar, there is reason to be suspicious – does it contain artificial sweeteners? Is it even fruit juice or a combination of juice concentrate and water? Read your facts panels, please! [5]

Some juice companies claim that fruit juice contains naturally occurring vitamins. Well, the truth again is in the nutrition facts panels. Look closely at your 100% juices, do they contain any vitamins other than Vitamin C? Not really, unless the juice is fortified with – wait for it – artificial vitamins. Wouldn’t you rather get your Vitamin C and B12 from an organic multivitamin or from food rather than served up artificially along with 18 grams of sugar disguised as healthy juice? [6]

If your sweet tooth is craving a little juice, we suggest you make your own at home with fresh fruits and vegetables or buy the fresh bottled organic juice at the supermarket. Better yet, blend up a smoothie with whole fruits, vegetables, sugar free almond-milk, and other nutritional add ons like protein and fiber to make it a meal.

Don’t fall prey to the tricks of the marketing trade by becoming a savvy label-reading consumer. And, don’t worry, not everyone is out to get you – there are good, honest brands out there too. We’d love to hear from you if there are any other foods you think should make our list fake “health” foods to avoid, we know that unfortunately there are many more out there.


[1] http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Regulation/Kashi-agrees-5m-all-natural-lawsuit-settlement-Bear-Naked-to-pay-325-000-to-settle-related-suit

[2] http://healthimpactnews.com/2013/agave-is-far-worse-than-high-fructose-corn-syrup/

[3] http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20307363_24,00.html

[4] http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2015/01/will-a-gluten-free-diet-really-make-you-healthier/index.htm

[5] http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2014/03/why-fruit-juice-is-nearly-as-bad-for-you-as-soda/index.htm

[6] http://www.bolthouse.com/product/dailygreens/nutrition



Co-Founder at The Natural Citizen
Wanderer, wonderer and health foodie, Angela is an avid label reader and devoted smoothie mixologist. She co-founded The Natural Citizen with the intent to bring honest-to-goodness wellness to everyone!

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