Adding healthy foods to your diet is more complicated than you might expect
Some of the most popular “healthy” choices, such as salads and smoothies bowls, may be hiding added fat, salt, and sugar.
Eating healthy comes down to avoiding processed foods and using the cleanest ingredients you can find, dietitians told Insider. That means some of the more convenient or tasty diet snacks might not make the cut.
Some smoothies may be packed full of nutrients, but they can also be “sugar-bombs,” culinary dietitian Jennifer Lease told Insider.
A well-balanced smoothie should contain some protein and healthy fat to offset the carbohydrates from the fruit. The combination will keep your blood sugar stable and leave you feeling fuller for longer, Lease said.
You also might want to avoid store-bought smoothies, since they’re likely to contain tons of added sugar, artificial colors, and extra calories. Registered dietitian nutritionist Beth Stark said to skip the trip to the juice bar and make a healthful smoothie at home instead.
Granola is pretty much synonymous with healthy eating. However, many popular oat blends sold in supermarkets are filled with added fat and sugar.
A typical granola mix might contain rolled oats, nuts, and dried fruit. But those healthy ingredients are often processed with butter, vegetable oil, white sugar, and corn syrup to make them taste good and extend their shelf life.
You avoid some of the added sugar by making your own granola at home, but most recipes will call for a natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup.
Veggie or quinoa chips
Repeat after me: veggie chips are not vegetables. Sadly, those crispy, thin slices of parsnip and yuca are just as deep-fried and salted as a potato chip.
The same goes for chips made with quinoa or other seemingly nutritious ingredients, Cassetty said.
“Just because something is organic or has the word ‘quinoa’ in it doesn’t make it the healthiest choice,” Cassetty told Insider. “Cookies and chips are still processed foods.”
Low-fat salad dressing
Most dietitians would tell you low-fat is not the same thing as healthy, and they’d be right.
Diet salad dressings make up for their lack of fat with a shocking amount of extra sugar, salt, and preservatives. For example, a two-tablespoon serving of Ken’s Fat-Free Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette contains more sugar than a fun-sized Snickers bar, according to Eat This, Not That.
Stark recommended making a vinaigrette with olive oil, vinegar, and fresh herbs and seasonings at home to cut back on hidden sugars. She also said not to get hung up on limiting fat — without some healthy fat in your diet, you won’t properly absorb certain key nutrients from your salad.