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15 foods you think are healthy that aren't

Meagan Morris is an entertainment and lifestyle journalist living in New York City. In addition to SheKnows, Morris contributes to many publications including The New York Times, Yahoo! News, PopEater, NBC New York and Spinner. Follow he...

Sneaky 'bad-for-you' foods

Would a nutritionist agree with you on what makes a healthy food? Maybe, maybe not. A new poll conducted by The New York Times found that though there are foods — like kale and apples — that are generally considered healthy by everyone, there are some huge differences between which foods the general public and expert nutritionists think are healthy.

Naturally, foods like cookies are considered unhealthy by everyone, but you'll probably be surprised by some of the foods you thought were healthy but aren't.

Coconut oil

Only 37 percent of the nutritionists surveyed by The Times thought coconut oil was healthy. So, what's the deal? It's true that coconut oil is high in fat, but it's supposed to be the good kind of fat that helps lower overall cholesterol. The problem comes in because of its health halo — it might be healthy, sure, but that doesn't mean it should be consumed in large quantities or even daily.

Beef jerky

Beef jerky is one of the foods coveted by paleo diet devotees and bodybuilders for its large concentration of protein. That said, the preservatives — like sodium nitrites — and sodium packed into the small portions aren't a great addition to your diet.

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Hamburger, like beef jerky, contains a bunch of muscle-building protein, but the amount of fat found in it knocks it down a few notches in the experts' eyes.

Trail mix

Trail mix is filled with healthy ingredients — like nuts and dried fruit — along with some not-so-healthy stuff like M&M's. While trail mix does bring a decent amount of protein, it's easy to eat handful after handful (and consume hundreds of extra calories) in just a few minutes.

Frozen yogurt

Frozen yogurt is often touted as a good alternative to high-fat, high-calorie ice cream, but nearly two-thirds of the nutritionists surveyed by The Times think it's unhealthy. The reason? You guessed it: added sugar. Yogurt is tart and many companies add excess sugar to make it more palatable.

Orange juice

Orange juice makes The Times' list — and ours — because of its sugar content. Fruit and veg juices are trendy, but juicing takes all of the healthy fiber out of the produce. Plus, most juices are loaded with added sugar.

Diet soda

Diet soda might technically be calorie-free, but it's filled with questionable substances that are FDA-approved but still a little sketchy. If you do drink it, do so in moderation.

Instant oatmeal

Oatmeal might be healthy, but the instant variety you find in little packets definitely isn't. Most of the instant varieties have been processed and stripped of the good stuff. Instead, make a bowl of the old-fashioned kind of oats and mix in added flavors like honey and fruit.

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Bran muffins

Bran is healthy, so bran muffins must be chock full o' healthy carbs, right? Yes, but the portions sold in stores are huge — some can top 400 calories or more just for one muffin. If you want to get in some fiber, opt for oatmeal or regular bran cereal (but make sure there's not a lot of added sugar!).

Prepackaged deli meats

Like beef jerky, prepackaged deli meats found in the grocery store are full of preservatives like nitrites that aren't good for the body, as well as a bunch of sodium. The amount of fat added into the salami and other meats is usually pretty high for the amount of real nutrition in the meat.


Wraps are touted as a healthier alternative to bread, but that's not always the case. A study conducted by SafeFood found that many of the tortilla wraps sold in stores contain more calories — as many as 1,000 in one piece. Not only that, they're high in sodium. Instead, go for a piece of lettuce to satisfy your wrap craving.

Dried fruit

Fruit is healthy, so dried fruit must be healthy, right? Nope. Many food companies add extra sugar to the dried fruit, making it extra sugary since most fruits already have plenty of natural fructose already.


Pretzels are often touted as a healthy alternative to chips since they're low in fat. However, most store-bought twists are high in sodium and empty carbs.

Sports drinks

It's tempting to rehydrate after an intense workout with electrolyte-infused sports drinks, but try to avoid it. Most of the common sports drinks are filled with calories and added sugar — as many as 240 in a 12-ounce serving. It's like all of your hard work goes to waste just by drinking it. Instead, stick to water.

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Skim milk

Skim milk was touted as a low-fat (read: healthier) version of milk. The truth: It's filled with added flavors and chemicals to make up for the taste taken out with the fat. A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that people who consumed full-fat dairy were less likely to be obese than their skim-drinking counterparts.
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