Snacks That Might Seem Healthy—but Aren’t

Don't get fooled by the marketers of these tricky junk foods
By Ian Kane
Ian Kane
Ian Kane
Ian Kane is an U.S. Army veteran, author, filmmaker, and actor. He is dedicated to the development and production of innovative, thought-provoking, character-driven films and books of the highest quality. You can check out his health blog at IanKaneHealthNut.com
November 7, 2021 Updated: November 7, 2021

If you’re already leading a lifestyle that involves a fitness regimen, then kudos to you. However, just having the fitness part of your lifestyle nailed down doesn’t guarantee your health. To complete the package, you need to eat well—and sometimes that can be tricky.

Many of the “healthy” food ands snacks in grocery stores offer alluring promises that don’t hold up to scrutiny. Marketing agencies have shrewdly figured out that slapping the words “healthy” or “natural” or photos of active people onto food and snack packages can get health-minded people to purchase them.

For example, someone might walk down the health food aisle of their grocery store and pick out some granola bars or veggie chips or purchase a zero-calorie beverage believing they’re wisely choosing a healthy snack.

But these foods aren’t always as healthy as you assume. But don’t despair if any of the foods you enjoy are on the list below—you can still eat them occasionally. Moderation is key so make sure these are a “sometimes food” and not something you eat daily.

Here are some of the sneaky treats hiding as “health” foods on a grocery store shelf near you:

Canned Fruits

Canned fruits seem to have several advantages: They are less expensive, easy to store, have long shelf lives, and are simple to prepare. Unfortunately, many canned fruits are smothered in syrup, which means lots of added processed sugars.

If you’re dead set on getting packaged fruit, pick some that are sealed either in their own juices, or water. And if you do use canned fruit, be sure to repackage it in an air-tight container instead of letting it linger in an open can. Fruit in open cans lets air in which in turn can cause bacteria to grow.

Tricky Trail Mixes 

While both fresh fruits and nuts are great for you, some fruit and nut mixes include processed ingredients, like salty cracker-like bits, Smarties, milk chocolate, or “yogurt” covered raisins. Look for mixes that only include nuts and dried fruit, and be aware that both can be high calorie so these are easy to overeat.

Margarine

Margarine masquerades as a healthier, “plant-based” alternative to butter. But this message can be highly misleading.

As nutritionist Kelly Jones said: “While artificial trans fats that made up classic margarines have been banned, many margarine products swapped out their hydrogenated oils for palm oil.”

Palm oil isn’t good for heart health—especially when you compare it to much healthier oils such as those derived from olive and avocado oil, which are much healthier for your cardiovascular system. Remember, heart disease is the world’s No. 1 killer.

Energy Drinks

Like many sports drinks, advertising agencies have gone into overdrive when it comes to marketing energy drinks. Energy drinks are branded as the fuel of extreme athletes, but these are anything but helpful.

These drinks contain a mixture of stimulants and caffeine that aren’t regulated and therefore, have no established upper limits. Energy drinks have been associated with many health problems, including cardiac events. According to the American College of Cardiology, energy drinks can affect the heart very quickly and cause incidences of abnormal heartbeats, full-on heart attacks, and other cardiovascular issues.

Protein and Granola Bars

Like energy drinks, both protein and granola bars are heavily marketed as being healthy food for an active lifestyle. However, if you read the labels on their boxes (or wrappers), you’ll see that they’re little more than glorified candy bars.

While many of the current health-conscious buzzwords are emblazed across these products’ packaging, such as “no preservatives,” “non-GMO,” and “gluten-free,” they can be misleading. That’s because, while each of these can be good by themselves, you have to back up and look at the whole picture.

Popular protein and granola bars are typically packed with sugar (or high fructose corn syrup) and sodium, as well as lots of empty calories. Conversely, they normally don’t contain much in the way of crucial vitamins, minerals, or even fiber.

If you want to add some extra protein to your diet, you can either start making your own protein bars or make some jerky by drying the lean meat of your choice.

Flavored Yogurt

Yogurt is another product that is assumed to be healthy. While that might be true for a choice such as “natural,” or unflavored Greek yogurt—which has lots of pre and probiotics that are great for gut health—flavored yogurts are an entirely different matter.

Don’t let the bright, flashy packaging fool you—flavored yogurt is loaded with added sugar to improve its taste, which is linked to increased risk of cancer, obesity, and various cardiovascular problems.

If you want to sweeten your yogurt, simply throw some fresh fruit (such as coconut and berries), nuts (like pecans or almonds), or cinnamon into the mix—you’ll get great taste without added sugars.

Ian Kane
Ian Kane is an U.S. Army veteran, author, filmmaker, and actor. He is dedicated to the development and production of innovative, thought-provoking, character-driven films and books of the highest quality. You can check out his health blog at IanKaneHealthNut.com