But don’t pat yourself on the back just yet—some so-called health foods are really just junk food in disguise. Here are some common healthy food imposters that can seriously sabotage your nutrition goals.
Granola1 of 11
Whole-grain granola might seem like a healthy pick, but some commercial versions are loaded with more sugar than a can of Coke! Brown sugar and honey are often used to sweeten this snack, but sugar can also be disguised in the ingredients list as "brown rice syrup," "dextrose" or "evaporated cane juice."
Read those labels carefully: Some brands contain up to 25 grams of sugar in a tiny 1/4 cup serving. Consider snacking on a homemade version or low-sugar granola instead.
Fruit Snacks2 of 11
You'd think snacks with "fruit" in the name would be healthy for you, but these tiny candies are no healthier than a package of gummi bears. While there is a tiny bit of actual fruit involved (the "fruit puree" or "fruit juice" in the ingredient list), a quick scan of the label tells us that the bulk of the product is simply corn syrup, gelatin and a laundry list of additives and artificial colors.
An actual piece of fruit is a much healthier option and will provide vitamins and fiber that your body needs.
Low-Fat Yogurt3 of 11
Don't be fooled by the "healthy" fruit and yogurt combos lining the dairy shelves—several contain more grams of sugar than two Krispy Kreme doughnuts. And since the fatty acids are stripped out of low-fat dairy, it doesn't pack the same satiating punch as full-fat dairy does, meaning you'll be hungry again before you know it.
If you want a more nutritious yogurt option, choose either plain or Greek yogurt and add your own sliced fruit.
Pretzels4 of 11
While pretzels are low in fat and may be a healthier choice than a bag of chips, they still have essentially no nutritional value. Pretzels were the healthy snack darlings of the 90s, and that satisfying crunch means they pair well with everything from hummus to peanut butter.
However, one small serving can deliver a quarter of your sodium needs for the day. And beware of the flavored pretzels as well. In adding flavor, companies also add to calorie, fat and sugar totals.
Protein Bars5 of 11
An easy grab-and-go choice, protein bars make you think they are a quick and delicious way to meet your protein needs. Sadly, with so much added sugar and an ingredient list that reads like a chemistry textbook, many are no better for you than a full-size candy bar.
Pay attention to the label and check the calorie count as well. Many bars contain 300 to 400 calories and are better suited as a meal replacement than a snack. If you want the convenience of a bar, keep an eye on the sugar and calorie counts and choose one made with whole foods and only a few ingredients.
Trail Mix6 of 11
Trail Mix conjures up the image of a fit and happy hiker climbing their way up a trail while enjoying a handful of mixed nuts and dried fruit. And while that idyllic picture sounds lovely, in reality most of us are consuming trail mix at our desks—and said trail mix is a lot less healthy.
The trail mix that lines the grocery store shelves these days does contain nuts and dried fruits, but it's also likely to contain candies, chocolates and plenty of added sugars and salt. To keep this snack from turning into dessert, make your own trail mix or choose one with nuts and dried fruit (with no added sugars). Watch your portion size as well. A small handful can contain several hundred calories and a good deal of fat.
Gourmet Popcorn7 of 11
With flavors like White Cheddar, Jalapeno, Kettle Corn and Sea Salt & Pepper, gourmet popcorn is making a name for itself in the snack food aisle.
Though we may think these snacks are low-calorie, the flavored varieties add sugar, salt and fat to increase both the taste and our waistlines. A single serving of white cheddar popcorn can contain as much as 13 grams of fat—that's 20 percent of the recommended daily value. For a healthier option, air-pop your own corn and lightly salt.
Smoothies8 of 11
Smoothies have enjoyed their reputation as a health food for many years. And indeed, if they are made with whole foods and healthy ingredients these drinks can be nutritional powerhouses. But sadly, most store-bought versions are often loaded with extra fat, sugar and calories. Even versions using only healthy ingredients and containing no added sugars can end up delivering more of a caloric punch than desired.
To turn this frozen beverage back into a health food, skip the fruit juices and make your smoothies with plant milks, low-sugar fruits, protein, veggies and healthy fats.
Rice Cakes9 of 11
These light, airy cakes are low-fat, low-cholesterol and... low taste. Their flavor is as bland as their nutritional content. Even though a large cake is only 40 to 50 calories, it contains virtually no nutritional value whatsoever. Even "whole grain" rice cakes typically remove part of the germ, stripping the grain of its nutrition. The flavored cakes only add fat, sugar and other questionable additives.
If your heart is set on rice cakes, choose a plain version and add hummus and veggies or peanut butter to make it a more nourishing snack.
Veggie Chips10 of 11
You'll find quite a few people reaching for veggie chips in an effort to try and satisfy that urge for a crunchy snack while still eating healthy. But even though the bags of chips feature beautiful pictures of leafy greens, carrots and beets, just how healthy are they?
If you look closely at the ingredient list, you'll find that veggie chips often rival potato chips in salt and fat content. And though they do contain vegetables in the form of powders and starches, almost all of the fiber and nutritional content has been stripped away. For a healthier crunch, try carrot or celery sticks with hummus.