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Junk Food in Healthy Disguises. 5 Foods You’d Never Know Were Bad For You.

Posted Sep 24 2010 3:23pm

It’s not easy eating clean, especially as food companies get savvier at repackaging junk food to sound healthier than it really is.  The supermarket aisles are full of bogus claims, and even the smartest shopper can be fooled.  Here’s our list of the top 3 foods that people think are healthy but really are not.  You’ll be shocked, we promise.

1.  Vitamin Water.  The words “vitamin” and “water” sound hydrating and refreshing, right?  Flavors with names like “endurance,” “energy” and “focus” suggest nutritional benefits, but lurking beneath these clever marketing themes, Vitamin Water is no better than soda.  In fact, it could be worse than soda.  For example, their “Defense” flavor contains 125 calories and 33 grams of sugar.  A 12 oz can of Coca-Cola contains 110 calories and 30 grams of sugar.  Granted, Vitamin Water is fortified with vitamins and doesn’t use high fructose corn syrup, but it tricks the consumer into thinking it’s a healthy drink.  The bottom line is it’s full of sugar and provides no “defense” against a sugar crash.  Want a slightly sweet hydrating drink?  Squeeze a slice of fresh orange into water.  Simple as that. 

2.  Sushi.  Japanese sushi restaurants are on every corner of New York City nowadays, as well as in bodegas, drug stores and gas stations.  When New Yorkers want to dine out and not pig out, sushi is the go-to choice.  Little do they know a slice of pizza may be the healthier option. Here are the biggest threats to otherwise healthy sushi. 

Soy sauce.  Used as a flavor enhancer, soy sauce contains more than 1000 mg of sodium per serving (1 tablespoon), roughly 50% of your daily allotment.  On average, diners consume 3-4 tablespoons of soy sauce per sushi meal.  You do the math.

Spicy Rolls.  Mayo lurks in items labeled “spicy” and bumps up the calorie count by nearly double compared to rolls prepared without the spicy sauce.  For example, a Spicy Tuna Avocado Roll contains 290 calories and 11 grams of fat, whereas one without the spicy sauce contains 170 calories and 3 grams of fat.  Even worse, spicy rolls tend to be filled with old or undesirable shreds of fish because the peppery sauce masks any unpleasant tastes. Gross.

Special Rolls.  These are very popular, and for good reasonthey’re typically loaded with high-fat ingredients like fried tempura, mayo and avocado.  One shrimp tempura roll contains upwards of 510 calories.  Yikes!

3.  Activia Yogurt.  Clever marketing makes customers believe Activia is a miracle food that regulates your digestion.  Dannon, the makers of Activia, contend that the live, active cultures in its yogurt are the secret to digestive health, and Activia can solve all your intestinal irregularities.  Most people don’t know that most, if not all, yogurts contain probiotic microorganisms (they naturally exist in dairy).  The only thing you’re getting from Activia versus other brands is tons of sugar.  The strawberry flavor contains 17 grams of sugar per 4 oz container.  That’s equivalent to half a cup of regular Mountain Dew.  The protein content is also disappointingonly 5 grams.  Fage, a brand of Greek yogurt, contains 6 grams of sugar, 90 calories per 6 oz serving (versus 110 in Activia’s 4oz) and a whopping 15 grams of protein. Sweeten it with a little honey, and you’ll spare your body the “Fructose Syrup, Sugar, Corn Starch, Kosher Gelatin, Natural Flavor, Carmine, Sodium Citrate and Malic Acid” that Activia contains.

In closing, a few simple pieces of advise to becoming a smarter consumer.  One, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  (Baked Cheetos are not healthy because they’re baked.)  Two, read and ask questions.  Scan ingredient lists and don’t rely on the splashy health claims on the front of the box.  These are there to trick you–to distract you from the truth behind its contents.  If you cannot pronounce the ingredients, don’t buy it.  Three, take back your control.  Buy whole foodsfruits, veggie and whole grainsand prepare food yourself.  You control what goes into your meals.  Stop letting big-business food executives feed you a load of bologna, literally.

Got any other foods to add to our list?  We want to hear them, so comment below.

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