Surprisingly Unhealthy Foods Disguised as Healthy

Most people know whole foods, like fruits and vegetables, are good for us, but what about packaged foods that claim to be healthy? How much can we trust them?

Due to clever marketing or disinformation online, sometimes it’s hard to tell if a food is actually good for you. The foods in this list can fill in that category. They might seem healthy, but there are reasons to avoid them—and some might surprise you!

Fruit Juices

Sure, 100% fruit juice is natural, but there are two big problems:

  1. It’s also 100% sugar that’s been processed and has none of the fiber from the original fruit.
  2. If it’s pasteurized (which is most store-bought fruit juices), it’s not fresh—it’s been sitting on the shelf at least a few weeks. Plus, it will contain preservatives and additives like artificial colors and flavors to keep it from going bad. Yuck!

Without fiber or the vitamins and minerals present in whole fruits or freshly made juices, your body treats sugars from fruit juices the same as sugars from candy. It doesn’t know one is more natural than the other!


Some health food stores have pre-packaged juices. Look for raw, organic and unpasteurized. Even better, you can juice your own organic fruit at home. And better than that, ditch the juice and drink water or eat the fruits whole.

Store Bought Smoothies

Same deal as the fruit juices—smoothies on the shelf aren’t fresh, healthy or all that natural. Most of them have tons of sugar with little or no fiber.


Make your own green smoothies at home! A combination of fresh fruits, greens and healthy fats (like omega-3s) makes a great meal or snack that is packed with nutrition. has a good list of green smoothie ideas here.

Brown Rice

Normally, brown rice would be considered a very healthy food. But findings from Consumer Reports since 2012 show high levels of inorganic arsenic (a carcinogen that can harm your health) in brown and white rice, rice breakfast cereals, and rice cereals for infants.

While this arsenic can get into any plant foods, rice absorbs more of it—especially brown rice, since more of the arsenic is found in the bran.


Cooking your rice with extra water (with 6:1 to 10:1 water to rice ratio) and draining it afterwards can reduce the inorganic arsenic by 50%, according to the FDA. While you can still eat brown rice, play it safe and don’t make it the main staple of every meal. Try eating more of other healthy grains like:

  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Millet
  • Amaranth
  • Farro
  • Bulgur
  • Grits/Polenta
  • Couscous

Packaged Diet Meals and Snacks

Food manufacturers and diet companies are brilliant at making their products seem like the pinnacle of health, but it’s rarely (if ever) the case.

Whether it’s diet ice cream, meal replacement bars, low-calorie frozen meals, or even reduced fat peanut butter, manufacturers use harmful additives, preservatives, and artificial colors and flavors to make the product low in fat, carbs, or calories but still palatable.


Avoid these packaged nightmares all together and make your own meals and snacks. Make banana “nice” cream (blended frozen bananas), find quick and healthy meal recipes online, and eat fruit or veggies like carrots and hummus for snacks.

Canned Soups

Soup can be a very healthy meal, but many canned options are loaded with sodium. Excess sodium causes bloating, is hard on the kidneys (especially if you have blood pressure concerns), and can lead to overeating.

Plus, canned soups can contain BPA (more on that below).


Make your own! It doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming; the web contains some very simple but healthy soup recipes. Just use the term “low sodium soups” and you’ll find pages like this one with healthy options.

If you must get canned soups, look for ones with 300mg or less sodium per serving—the lower the number, the better. Men’s Fitness has some good suggestions here.

Bottled Waters

While you always want to stay hydrated, most plastic water bottles contain bisphenol-A, or BPA, which is a chemical used to harden plastics. Some experts believe BPA can disrupt hormones and cause heart, brain and behavioral problems.


Some plastic water bottles will say “BPA-free.” Those are better, but avoid plastic completely by purchasing a BPA-free reusable water bottle instead. It will last a long time and you can safely refill and take it anywhere.

The Bottom Line

These are great examples of why the more we focus on whole foods, eat homemade meals, and stay informed about the latest health advice, the better.

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