Santa’s Naughty List: 11 Foods Masquerading as Healthy

Health foods…it seems like everywhere you turn, you’re bombarded by foods pretending to be good for you, or as the lesser evil; just not that bad for you.

These so-called foods are a multi-billion dollar industry, and you’d be hard-pressed to believe that you can evade the net of their marketing ploys.

But here we are- about to pull the wool off of your eyes so that you can see what they really are; sugary, high-fat, and high-calorie junk foods that need an immediate caution sign.

What are they? Let’s check out some common culprits

Flavored Yogurt

Flavored yogurt might seem healthy at first, but the catch is in its high added sugar content. Sure, yogurt on its own is great for its calcium and probiotics, but when flavors are added, so is a lot of sugar to make it taste better. 

This ramps up the calorie count, and too much of it isn't great for your health. It can be almost like eating a dessert in disguise! Plus, many brands use artificial flavors and colors, which some folks prefer to avoid. 

And while yogurt does have good protein, the benefits can get overshadowed by these sweet extras. However, it's not all bad news – some flavored yogurts are lower in sugar or use natural sweeteners, so there are healthier options, you just need to find them..

Fruit Juice

Yeah, yeah we know the mantra “fruit juice is healthier than soda”, but is it really? You know, fruit juice can be a bit sneaky health-wise. It's from fruit, so you'd think it's super healthy, right? But here's the thing – when fruit is juiced, you lose a lot of the good stuff, like fiber. 

Fiber in whole fruit helps slow down sugar absorption and makes you feel full. Without it, you're basically drinking a lot of fruit sugar and calories, which can be pretty high. Also, it's super easy to drink a lot of juice without realizing it, which means more sugar and calories than you'd eat if you were munching on whole fruit. 

Plus, some juices have added sugars or aren't made from 100% fruit, which adds even more to the sugar count. It's a bit of a sugar bomb in a glass, honestly.

Field of Greens, however, is no such bomb. Well, a bomb if we’re talking about explosive goodness in every scoop- since that’s what you get in each serving loaded with superfoods.

Iced Tea

Ah, store-bought iced tea – it's a refreshing drink, especially on a hot day, but here's the catch: it's often not as healthy as it sounds. The main issue? It’s sugar once again, and lots of it. Many brands load their iced teas with sugar to sweeten them up, which can really add up in terms of calories and can contribute to sugar crashes and other health issues if consumed in large amounts. 

Also, these teas often contain preservatives and artificial flavors, which some people prefer to avoid altogether. The other thing is, when you're sipping on sweetened iced tea, you might not realize just how much sugar you're drinking, since it's hidden under the guise of health. It's often kind of surprising to folks, considering tea itself is naturally calorie-free and full of antioxidants when brewed at home without added sugars.

Eggnog

Eggnog, that classic holiday treat, has a bit of a bad reputation in the health department, and here's why. First off, traditional eggnog is made with some pretty “rich” ingredients: heavy cream, whole milk, sugar, and eggs. The negligible spices don’t offset the heavy dose of fattening ingredients.

eggnog in glass

This combo packs a wallop in terms of calories and fat. We're talking a lot of saturated fat, which isn't great if you're watching your heart health or cholesterol levels.

Then there's the sugar. Eggnog is often quite sweet, and that means a lot of added sugar, which tends to quickly add up, especially if you're enjoying a few cups of this festive drink. 

Overdoing it on the sweet stuff isn't just a concern for weight; it can also negatively impact blood sugar levels, which is particularly important for people with diabetes or those trying to manage their sugar intake.

Portion size is another thing. It's the holidays, so it's easy to go for a refill (or four). But even just a small serving of eggnog can have as many calories and as much fat as a full meal, and let's be honest, it's tough to stop at just one glass.

And if you add alcohol to the mix, that's even more calories and potentially less inhibition about how much you're drinking. It's a festive drink for sure, but in terms of health, it's pretty awful.

Breakfast Cereals

Millions of people eat breakfast cereals – they’re a morning staple for many, but there's a bit you should know about them in the health department. A lot of breakfast cereals, especially the ones marketed to kids, are loaded with sugar. It's like starting your day with a sugar rush, which can lead to a crash later on. This isn't great for maintaining steady energy levels, and it's a concern for overall health, especially with rising rates of diabetes and obesity.

Then there's the issue of whole grains, or rather, the lack of them in many cereals. Whole grains are fantastic for digestion and keeping you full, but many cereals are made with refined grains, which means far less fiber and nutrients. Plus, refined grains can spike your blood sugar levels more than whole grains.

Cereals often come with health claims like "fortified with vitamins and minerals," but this doesn't always make up for the lack of natural nutrients that you get from a more balanced, less processed breakfast.

Portion size can also be tricky with cereal. The serving size on the box is often much smaller than what ends up in our bowls, so you might be getting a lot more than you bargained for. It's a breakfast favorite, sure, but maybe it’s time to disrupt that status quo.

Flavored Coffee

Did someone say yum? Flavored coffee drinks – they're like a daily treat for many, but there's a bit of a health twist to them. These drinks, think your mochas, lattes, and frappuccinos, often come with a lot of added extras that can turn your morning pick-me-up into more of a dessert. The big issue? Sugar, again. A lot of these drinks are loaded with syrups and sugars. We're talking amounts that can sometimes equal or exceed what you'd find in a can of soda.

Then there's the cream and whole milk, which add a hefty dose of saturated fats. If you're not careful, those fats can add up fast. And let's not forget the whipped cream on top – delicious, sure, but it's another layer of sugar and fat.

Calories are another thing. Some of these drinks can pack as many calories as a full meal, which might not be what you're aiming for, especially if you're just sipping it on the side with your breakfast.

When you get into the habit of these sugary, creamy coffee-esque drinks, it's easy to overlook just how much sugar and fat you're consuming regularly. They're a tasty indulgence, but maybe not the healthiest for everyday consumption.

Popcorn

Packaged popcorn, especially the kind you pop in the microwave, is a popular snack, but it's got a few health caveats. First up, many microwave popcorn brands use bags lined with chemicals such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which has been linked to numerous health issues. While the industry is moving away from these, it's still something to consider.

Then, there's the issue of what's actually in the popcorn. A lot of microwave popcorn comes loaded with added fats, often in the form of unhealthy trans fats. These aren't great for your heart and can impact cholesterol levels. Plus, the buttery flavor often comes from artificial flavorings, not actual butter as you might believe.

Salt is another biggie. Pre-packaged popcorn can be super high in sodium, which isn't ideal for blood pressure and overall heart health. 

Portion size can be tricky and is often misleading as well. It's super easy to eat way more than the serving size listed on the package, especially when you're munching mindlessly in front of a screen.

Sure, popcorn can be a healthy snack – it's a whole grain, after all. But when it comes in a pre-packaged, microwaveable form with all these extras, it's not quite the healthy snack it could be.

Granola Bars

Granola bars often give off this healthy, outdoorsy vibe, right? But here’s the inside scoop: a lot of them are not as healthy as they seem. The main issue? Sugar. Many granola bars are packed with it, whether it’s in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, honey, or other sweeteners. This can make some bars more like candy bars in disguise.

Then there are the fats. Sure, you need some fats in your diet, but the types used in many granola bars – like palm oil – aren’t the healthiest, and are also saturated in nature.

While granola bars can have some good stuff like oats, nuts, and dried fruit, these healthy ingredients often play second fiddle to the amount of sugar and fat. And then there's the size – they’re small and easy to eat, which makes them convenient but can also lead to overeating.

And last but not least, let’s not forget about the additives. Many granola bars have a list of ingredients that includes various preservatives and artificial flavors, which isn't ideal if you're aiming for a whole-foods diet. They're handy and tasty, no doubt, but you might be well-served to only have them in a pinch.

A better option? A Whole Food Bar that actually has real food in it. We’re talking about a Whole In One Bar, which is especially useful to keep energy levels up when eliminating junk from your diet causes crashes to your vitality.

RTD Protein

Is protein powder bad? Not at all. Well, at least not all of them. Ready-to-drink (RTD) protein shakes might seem like an even easier fix for getting that muscle-building protein, right? 

But here's a peek behind the curtain: they're not always the healthiest choice. For starters, a lot of these shakes are pretty high in added sugars. This can be a bit counterintuitive if you're trying to stay fit or lose weight, because all that extra sugar adds up in calories.

Then, there's the protein source. Some shakes use protein forms that might not agree with everyone's digestive system. Or, on the other hand, the quality of the protein can vary widely between brands who opt to use inferior raw materials.

Artificial sweeteners and flavors are another moot point. Many RTD protein shakes attempt to use these to enhance taste without adding calories, but some people prefer to avoid these additives for health reasons altogether.

So, as you can see, the convenience factor of these shakes often comes with a trade-off in terms of preservatives and other ingredients that increase shelf life but might not be what you want in your body.

While you're getting protein from these RTDs, you might be missing out on other key nutrients you'd get from a more balanced meal. They're handy for sure, but in terms of overall nutrition, they might not be the best daily choice.

Condiments

Condiments can’t hurt, right? They’re those little extras that add a punch to our meals, but sometimes, they can pack more than just flavor. Take ketchup, for example. It's a staple in many households, but did you know it's often loaded with sugar? Yep, even just a dollop can add a surprising amount of sweetness to your plate.

various condiments

And then there’s mayonnaise. Delicious, creamy, but oh-so-rich in fats, particularly the saturated kind. A little might not hurt, but it’s easy to go overboard.

Barbecue sauce is another one. It’s a mix of tangy and sweet, but that sweetness often comes from a good amount of sugar. And sometimes, there's high-fructose corn syrup in there, which is one of the worst sugars out there.

Mustard might seem like a safer bet, but even this seemingly innocent condiment can have added sugars, especially the flavored or honey varieties.

Soy sauce is low in calories, sure, but it's incredibly high in sodium, which can be a concern if you're watching your blood pressure.

And let's not forget about relish, which, like ketchup, often comes with added sugars.

Sports Drinks

Sports drinks have done well at marketing themselves as this sort of health drink. But if you dive into what’s actually in them, there’s more to the story. They’re designed to rehydrate and replenish electrolytes lost during intense exercise, which sounds great for athletes. 

But for the average person, especially if you're not sweating it out for hours, they are very unnecessary.

A big point of contention is the sugar content. Many sports drinks are high in sugars, which can be a quick source of energy for athletes but can be excess calories for the rest of us. This can be a bit of a problem if you're just sipping them throughout the day without doing intense training.

Then there's the electrolytes, like sodium and potassium. These are great for recovery in high-intensity sports, but the amount they actually contain is pitiful and unlikely to do anything. 

While they may have their place in high-endurance sports, for the everyday person or during light to moderate exercise, plain water is often a better choice to stay hydrated without the extra sugars and additives. 

Sports drinks have their merits, but they’re not always the healthiest choice for hydration in everyday life.

Final Words

Now that you know that these naughty food items probably won’t be getting a visit from Santa, it would be in your best interest to restrict your consumption of the same. At the most, consume very occasionally and in a controlled setting; nobody wants that rendition of Grandma got run over by a reindeer after your third glass of eggnog!