It’s easy to distinguish junk food from health food, right? If you avoid packaged cookies, cakes, candy, and anything that resembles a Twinkie, you’re probably covered. Unfortunately, a lot of junk food — or at the very least, food that’s really not very healthy for you — is disguised as something harmless. If it’s packaged and sold as something that can give you energy, like a granola bar, or because it has healthy components like fruit, nuts, or whole grain, we assume it’s healthier. Sometimes the packaged food has the word “lean” or “light” on the front of it, so we stockpile our freezers thinking that we are not cheating on our diets. Curious to find out which are the worst culprits? In actuality, many “healthy” packaged food choices are just as sugary, salty, or caloric as their vilified counterparts, and we’ve tackled some of the worst culprits.
If you are concerned about having these products or other “junk foods in disguise” in your fridge or pantry too often, then there are some ways that you can get your family back on the health track. First, you should check the nutrition label for some red flags. Even though a snack may have whole grains, it could also be loaded up with salt, so keep a wary eye on the sodium content.
The same goes for sugar. High amounts of sugar are often hiding inside snacks and other foods that seem healthy because they have fruit inside them, or resemble fruit, like dried fruit, which we sprinkle on top of our salads thinking that we are still eating healthy (Remember, according to the USDA, companies do not have to list the percentage of daily value for sugar, but the World Health Organization recommends that adults do not consume more than 25 grams of sugar each day.)
The other way these unhealthy culprits hide is through low calorie counts. Sure, that snack or frozen food might only be 200 calories, but if the label lists 150 of those 200 calories as “from fat,” then those are 150 calories that you probably don’t want to be munching on. In actuality, despite any packaging with seductive buzzwords like “low-fat” and “whole-grain,” caution should be taken around any packaged foods. Plus, serving sizes are off-kilter too. A serving of popcorn may only be 30 percent of your saturated fat for the day, but there are 2.5 servings per bag, and most of us will just eat the whole thing.
Quaker Oats Chewy Granola Bars
Granola bars sound healthy — after all, health nuts are always munching on granola as a healthy snack full of oats and fiber. But most granola bars are actually loaded up with sugar and chocolate. Quaker Oats Chewy Granola Bars are tiny, but just one Peanut Almond and Dark Chocolate one sets you back 205 calories, and you’ll get 19 percent of your saturated fat for the day. We recommend grabbing some raw granola instead — though even that can be surprisingly high in calories.
Stacy’s Pita Chips
Pita chips are every chip-lover’s dream. They provide just as much satisfying crunch without all of the grease of potato chips. But guess what? A bag of Lay’s potato chips actually has less — 130 grams less — sodium than a bag of pita chips of roughly the same size.
See the rest of the 9 Packaged Foods That Are Way Unhealthier Than You Thought (Slideshow)
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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter@JoannaFantozzi