Diet & Nutrition

Ten foods that are surprisingly bad for you

Our dietitian dishes up ten foods that are surprisingly bad for you.

Take a stroll down the health food aisle and you’ll be bombarded with bogus health claims and clever marketing phrases that make you think you’re buying high-end health food elixirs.

Truth is, however, not all products – especially if they’re from the health food aisle – are as healthy as they seem. In fact, I’d argue there’s a tonne that leave you worse off. Case in point: the following ten foods that are certainly not as healthy as most people think.

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1. Coconut oil

It might be good for your skin and your hair, but from a nutrition standpoint, it’s not so impressive. Coconut oil is rich in saturated fat, which is bad news for heart health.

Coconut oil devotees will tell you that it boosts your levels of ‘good’ cholesterol – but what they often miss is that it also boosts your levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol, too.

2. Plant-based meats

We all could do with eating less meat – but replacing it with commercial meat-free meatloaf of facon (read: faux bacon) is not the answer. Products that mimic meat tend to be packed with highly refined ingredients and, more often than not, are too high in sodium and saturated fat to be labelled as ‘healthy’.

3. Veggie chips

Moreish, salty veggie chips really aren’t any better for you than a plain potato crisp. They can contain excessive levels of sodium and saturated fat, so it’ll pay to check the label.

4. Sushi

I know it’s touted as a healthier takeaway choice when you’re stuck in a food court for lunch, but truth is, sushi can be jam-packed with sodium, which is not good news for heart health.

It rarely resembles a balanced meal as it’s mostly high-GI white rice with a little protein, and lacks all-important veg.

5. Dried fruit

Yes, dried fruit is better for you than sweets like lollies – but it’s still a concentrated source of sugar, so should only be included in your daily fruit serves every now and then.

6. Almond milk

No longer just available at hipster cafes – almond milk is now mainstream. And while it might seem healthier, almond milk is essentially just water that has had almonds soaking in it.

Unless fortified, it’s low in protein and calcium – two key nutrients that regular milk and fortified soy alternatives provide.

7. Protein bars

Protein, protein, protein… it’s all we’ve heard about in the world of wellness for years! Expensive protein bars, however, are simply not necessary in a balanced diet.

Chances are, you’re already eating more than enough protein from real food and don’t need to load up on ultra-processed protein powders in the form of protein bars.

8. Honey

Yep, honey is on this list, too – and that’s because it’s technically classed as an ‘added sugar’, which means it should be minimised. In case you’re wondering, maple and rice malt syrups are also in this basket. Sorry, sweet tooths!

9. Bliss balls

Commercial bliss balls can provide a significant amount of kilojoules and saturated fat. Instead of a store-bought version, I’d recommend making your own at home with dates and nuts, and keeping the portion size small.

10. Gluten free bread

And anything else gluten free, for that matter. Unless you have a medical need to avoid gluten, you’re not doing yourself any favours by ridding your diet of it.

When gluten is taken out of products like bread, it’s usually replaced with a bunch of processed ingredients to make up for the taste and texture.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.