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Six “Healthy” Foods That Could be Sabotaging Your Health Goals

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Utah chapter.

It’s still early enough in 2018 that everyone on your Facebook and Instagram feeds is talking about their health goals, workouts, and healthy meals. It doesn’t take much scrolling to find a recipe that claims to be New Year’s Resolution friendly. If you’re making your own resolutions, you may be trying to find healthier swaps for foods you’ve been eating. There are many foods and drinks that are typically considered healthy that are actually packed with sugar and calories. Keep in mind, the American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar (meaning there’s no limit on foods such as bananas) and that men consume no more than 37.5 grams of added sugar. On food labels, sugar can be hidden in the ingredients list by calling it different names, including: cane sugar, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, anything ending in -ose (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose), and syrup. If you want to know what popular foods you might be eating that are actually working against your health goals, keep on reading.


1. Flavored Yogurt

Yogurt is one of those foods that everyone seems to think is great for you. Many health social media pages promote choosing yogurt as a healthy snack. However, it’s actually full of sugar. One container of Yoplait Strawberry Banana yogurt has 150 calories and 18 grams of sugar. For a woman, this is 72% of the maximum amount of sugar that can be consumed in a day.  For comparison, a Krispy Kreme Original donut has 150 calories and 10 grams of sugar. Literally, even a donut has less sugar than your typical flavored yogurt.

Try this instead: Chobani Original Plain Non-Fat Greek Yogurt

As opposed to a traditional flavored yogurt, this one is plain and contains no added sugar. It has just 80 calories and 4 grams of sugar (which are naturally occurring due to the lactose in yogurt). Plus, you get 15 grams of protein with this choice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t taste quite as good right out of the package as the super sweet kind does. I like to eat mine with Stevia, a little bit of vanilla extract, and fresh fruit. It’s super yummy without all of the bad stuff!

2. Bottled Tea

By now, the majority of people know that soda = bad and are looking to reduce their soda consumption. With that choice, many are switching to grabbing a bottled tea when they want something to drink. I’m sorry to break the news to you, but bottled teas are loaded with sugar. Just one bottle of Snapple Apple has 47 grams of sugar. What?! Having 200 calories doesn’t help its case much. For comparison, a pack of two Twinkies has 35 grams of sugar. No one is arguing that a Twinkie is healthy (and it actually has less sugar), so let’s quit with the Snapple.

Try this instead: Tea Bags

Make your own tea! Most types of tea bags have no calories, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that has more than ten. Homemade tea has way better flavor, anyway. You can make it hot or iced depending on your mood. If you still want a sweet tea, you can just add the sugar yourself! One teaspoon of sugar is the equivalent of four grams. You’d need to add a lot of sugar to even come close to how much is in a Snapple tea.

3. Salad (kinda)

OK, salad in general is definitely super healthy. But, just because it’s a salad doesn’t mean it is healthy. Many salads you get in restaurants are loaded with unhealthy toppings such as fried chicken, fried onions, bacon, and fatty cheeses. But… what’s the biggest source of sneaky calories and sugars? DRESSING! When it comes to salad, my advice to you is to watch how much dressing you’re putting on. As an example of how calorically dense dressing can be, a serving (2 tablespoons) of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing contains 140 calories. Some salads from restaurants can be shockingly bad for you. The Chili’s Caribbean Salad with Grilled Chicken (sounds healthy, right?) has 720 calories, 1,160 mg of sodium (the recommended daily limit is 2,300 mg), and 70 grams of sugar. Seventy grams! For that, you could have SEVEN Krispy Kreme donuts.

Try this instead: Homemade Salad Dressings

Making your salad homemade is way healthier, and lets you control what goes into it (say goodbye to food ingredients you can’t pronounce!). Check out this article from Wholefully with recipes for 8 healthy dressings. If you are eating a salad at a restaurant, make sure you get your dressing on the side so you can control how much you’re putting on. A little goes a long way!

4. Trail Mix

I seriously wish I could keep on pretending this is a healthy choice. In just ¼ cup (and really, who eats just ¼ cup of trail mix?!) of Kroger Simply Classic Trail Mix, there are 150 calories and 9 grams of sugar. If you only eat the serving size this isn’t the worst thing in the world, but let’s be real, most of us consume whole bags of this stuff (and there are 13 in the container).

Try this instead: Homemade Trail Mix

I love to combine just unsalted mixed nuts and dried cranberries with a dash of salt (so I can control exactly how much goes into it). This is super healthy and packed with nutrients. Remember, just don’t go overboard because nuts are calorically dense!

5. Protein Bars

High-protein diets are really trendy right now. With consumers looking to consume more protein, high protein products are on the rise. Unfortunately, not all of them are great for you. One of the Clif Builder’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bars, for example, has 280 calories, 21 grams of sugar, and a bunch of questionable artificial ingredients. Although the name would make you think otherwise, these are not helping you achieve your health goals.

Try this instead: Tone It Up Protein Bar

As opposed to the Clif bar, these are made entirely from real, plant foods (they are even vegan!). These have each have 160 calories and 8 grams of sugar. There are some good bars out there, you just have to make sure to read the nutrition label so you know exactly what you’re getting. If you switch to protein powder, you’ll have a lot less calories and sugar and a lot more protein. The Tone It Up Protein Powder (also vegan) has just 90 calories per serving, zero grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein (5 more than the bar).

6. Instant Oatmeal

Instant oatmeal has a surprising amount of sugar in it. The Quaker Strawberries and Cream Instant Oatmeal only has 130 calories per pack, but also sneaks in 12 grams of sugar. That’s a ton for a food that naturally has none!

Try this instead: Better Oats

This brand also makes an instant oatmeal, meaning it’s still perfect for busy mornings before class. Their Maple and Brown Sugar flavor has 100 calories and only 1 grams of sugar. That’s so much better than your traditional instant oatmeal and it tastes just as good!


The most important thing to remember is to always read the nutrition labels of what you’re buying. It’s easy to just assume a product is healthy without double checking. Many food manufacturers sneak a lot of added sugar into products, so always make sure to check! You might be that weird person at the grocery store who analyzes all of the food labels (hello, that’s me), but eventually you will learn what products are truly good for you. If you’re interested in learning more about the effects of adding sugar into foods, check out the Netflix documentaries Fed Up and Sugar Coated.


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I am a sophomore at the University of Utah currently pursuing a major in Communications, with an emphasis in Strategic Communications, as well as a minor in Political Science.  I was previously Miss Teen Ohio United States, and I am now a writer for Her Campus Utah. I enjoy outdoor activities, cooking, volunteering, traveling, and writing. I am a passionate advocate for mental health and suicide prevention.  After graduation, I plan on starting my own business. I hope to inspire more women to enter into leadership positions or even become their own bosses. 
Her Campus Utah Chapter Contributor