6 Healthy Sounding Foods, That Aren’t So Healthy

With so many Americans overweight and unhealthy, marketers know that the best way to get someone to buy something these days is to tell them it’s good for them in some way. Companies know to use words like “whole grains”, “vitamins”, “low-fat”, “low-cholestoral”, etc… But often these claims mean nothing or it’s just a bit of vitamins added to something otherwise very bad for you. These are just a few examples of foods that people may believe is good for them but really it’s not.


  1. Vitaminwater– Sounds good for you right? Vitamins and water, what could be bad about that? And the bottles have all kinds of claims of how it will help you. But Coca-Cola is being sued for making people believe this drink, with 33 grams of sugar in each bottle, is good for them. Coca-Cola has even said, when defending itself, “no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking Vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.”
  2. Subway- In the fast food world, Subway seems like a good choice, after all it’s not all greasy like a burger place, and look at all of those people that lost weight eating it. Sure, if you have been eating a diet of fast food burgers, switching to Subway will likely help you lose weight and feel better but this doesn’t mean it’s health, just better than some of the worst food you can eat. Subway food contains things like nitrates, high fructose corn syrup, GMOs, artificial dyes, hidden MSG, and so many more harmful ingredients. Read 100 Days of Real Food’s Is Subway Real Food? for more detail.
  3. WhoNu- The cookies that call themselves, “delicious and nutritious.” When I first saw an ad for these I knew it was very unlikely true and wrote a blog post all about them and how these cookies were far from “nutritious.” The first ingredient in the cookies? Sugar, and they contain things like high fructose corn syrup, and many, many more ingredients. This is another case of an unhealthy food having some vitamins thrown in and called healthy.
  4. McDonald’s Salads- A McDonald’s burger contains 250 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 480 mg of sodium. The Premium Southwest Salad with Crispy Chicken is 450 calories, 21 grams of fat, and 820 mg of sodium, and many of their salads are as bad or worse.
  5. Cool Whip- Just look for recipes on Pinterest and you will see a ton of “healthy desserts” that feature Cool Whip. The benefits being lower calories and fat, but is that all that matters in food? I say, no. I’m just going to share the ingredients with you as I think that will help show just how bad the stuff is, water, hydrogenated vegetable oil (coconut and palm kernel oils), high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, skim milk, light cream, sodium caseinate, natural and artificial flavors, xanthan and guar gums, polysorbate 60, sorbitan monostearate, and beta carotene. Yum! In contrast, homemade whipped cream contains- cream, though you can also add a bit of sugar and real vanilla.
  6. Herbalife- The name has herb right in it, surely it’s natural. And it’s got all kinds of herbs in the ingredients! But is this just another case of take something loaded with crap and throw in a few healthy ingredients so you can say it’s good? In my opinion, yes it is. Soy protein is the ingredient that concerns me the most in these shake diet drinks, and to be fair Herbalife is not the only one to use this, Shaklee and many others use soy proteins. The soy used is highly processed and has been linked to a lot of health problems. Other ingredients in these drinks also concern me and are not something that goes along with a healthy, real food diet. I wrote more about my dislike of shake diets in a blog post, Meal Replacers vs Real Food.*

I could go on and on about foods that claim to be healthy but have questionable ingredients. When it comes right down to it, if you want to eat healthy you have to read ingredients labels and learn what they mean. It’s frustrating but you can’t trust the hype and all of the ads, you have to check things out for yourself.

What are some foods you see people say are healthy but when you looked into the ingredients found some dirty secrets? I’d love to hear your lists, share in the comments below.

*Disclaimer: I have many wonderful friends, even some bloggers, that sell and/or use shake diets, this is not a shot at them, just in my opinion these are not a healthy option. I encourage everyone to read ingredient labels, research ingredients and decide for themselves. And of course this goes for all of these items.

Photo Credit- sampitech

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  1. says

    This is so worth beating the drum about! now that we’re gluten free, and I’m forced to read all the labels, there are a rather uncomfortable number of items that don’t make it into my cart any more – and not because they contain gluten.

  2. says

    I recently learned about Vitaminwater, although I was never a customer as I wondered how healthy it is do ingest unknown quantities of synthetic vitamins. I guess it all goes back to what Michael Pollan says – don’t eat anything your grandparents or great-grandparents wouldn’t recognize as food.

    • says

      They say there are hardly any vitamins so the sugar and dyes are likely even worse. It seems like to me, it’s a way to make people feel better about drinking a very unhealthy drink. :)

  3. says

    The Subway one bums me out, though I guess I knew all that already, because it’s the fast-food-cheap-sandwich go-to place for me at school. On the other hand, what I usually get there is the veggie sub, which is basically their bread (which, non-organic as it is, can’t be much worse than what you get anywhere else) with a slice of cheese and every fresh vegetable they have in the place on it. But yeah, the reason I do that is that their meats seem pretty scary and I don’t want to go there.

    And BTW, not to wave flags for non-food products when real food IS what we should be eating–there’s a Cool Whip alternative called “Truwhip” or something which has way less scary ingredients. It’s not great, and whipped cream is way better, but for those for whom Cool Whip is a part of daily life they don’t want to give up it’s a much better substitute. (Trader Joe’s has a version of this too.) It’s weird stuff, Cool Whip–a true chemistry experiment the ordinary kitchen cook just CAN’T duplicated, even if they wanted to…:-)

    Great post–I want to show it to all my VitaminWater-swilling friends. :-)

    • says

      Yeah Subway is better than a lot of options but still not good at all. It’s to bad, it could easily be healthy.

      I never grew up using Cool Whip so not using it isn’t a big deal for me. Real whipped cream can replace it in a lot of things but yes from what I have heard Truwhip is better if you really MUST use something like that. :)

  4. says

    Oops, Herbalife got me shocked. I remember it used to be very popular a few years ago but since I got “educated” in modern time eco problems I have never considered it. Also Subway, I didn’t know they used GMOs, but why shouldn’t they when it’s cheaper. Thank you for letting us know. I believe that in a capitalist world where all is about money it is our own responsibility to take care of ourselves and to investigate what we are offered. I bookmarked the links, I am sure, quite interesting reads!

    • says

      Herbalife is quite popular were I live right now. I’ve heard several stories of people getting sick from using it. My doctor is no fan and I know several other doctors in the area that don’t recommend it.

      Yeah, Subway is one that often surprises people. It’s sad because it could easily be a truly healthy option.

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