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5 'Health' Foods That Are Totally Unhealthy

Rodale's Organic Life logo Rodale's Organic Life 8/13/2015 Kim McDevitt

© Westend61/Getty Images Don't be lulled by the marketing. 

Not all of you may be on a quest to lose weight, but most of you probably want to eat better. Eating better could mean any number of things, but my hope is that you’re all on a mission to eat more real foods and less processed ones. To choose local if possible, and to start preparing even one more meal than you typically used to at home.

We all have the best intentions. And when schedules start to get crazy and life starts barging in sometimes (Okay, maybe most times), quick and easy begins to take precedent over thought-out and healthy.

As you do your weekly shopping, trying to find that sweet spot of healthy and convenient, the food choices in front of you can be overwhelming. And while you have the best of intentions, many packaged foods sound healthier than they actually are.

Below are five common foods that often disguise themselves in the healthy category and an alternative tip to help you stay on track.

Flavored Yogurt

© iStock/Getty Images Calcium is a crucial nutrient for women. But if you’ve been to the grocery store recently, you’ve probably noticed there's almost an entire wall devoted to yogurt. All claim to be good for you in some way, but far fewer actually deliver on their claims. While some fruit blends contain no fruit at all, others have a puree on the bottom that rocks the sugar scale.

Pro Tip: To get your fill of calcium, vitamin D, probiotics, and protein, always choose a plain yogurt free from additives or sugar. Read the ingredient list! You can sweeten it yourself with a teaspoon of honey or pure maple syrup. Or you can add your own sweet fruits.

Low-Fat Peanut Butter

© Tetra images/Getty Images Do me a favor. Promise me that from this moment forward you will never, ever buy low-fat nut butter ever, ever again. Nut butters are good for us. But your nut butter should have one ingredient (maybe two): nuts (and possibly salt). To have any flavor, manufactures put all sorts of horrible additives, including sugar to compensate for the lack of fat. Fat is an entirely different post, but trust me on this one.

Pro Tip: Be an ingredient sleuth. Or even better, buy roasted unsalted peanuts and blend in your Cuisinart until smooth (about five minutes.) Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.

Bran Muffins

© Matthew Reeve/Getty Images Muffins are always dangerous, but the word bran sitting in front of it somehow quickly convinces us otherwise. Bran, after all, is high in fiber, minimally processed, keeps the digestive tract in order, and more. Though the bran is likely never to blame in the muffin, the high amount of sugar and canola oil is. In fact, the nutrition fact panel of a muffin (even a bran muffin) can be 400 to 500 calories, 40+ grams of sugar and usually worse for you than a chocolate chip cookie.

Pro Tip: Make your own muffins over the weekend in mini muffin tins. Store in the freezer and take out one or two to crumble over some plain Greek yogurt or pair with a hard-boiled egg for a quick breakfast.

Granola

© iStock/Getty Images Don’t get me wrong, I love granola. Because what’s not to love? Oats, fat, dried fruit, nuts. It’s all delicious. But with the tastiness typically comes a lot of calories all wrapped up in a little package. One-half cup of granola easily clocks in at more than 200 calories. So, while a half cup pre-run might be just what the doctor ordered, always make sure to keep your portions in check.

Pro Tip: Keep a ¼-cup measuring tool in your box of granola.

Pre-Made Smoothies

© Jamie Grill/Getty Images I’m a huge smoothie drinker. They are a fantastic way to pack in a lot of nutrients and are easy on the digestive system, especially after a hard workout. While making smoothies at home is a fantastic post-workout snack or breakfast, you can easily fall into a sugar bomb, leaving you with a bowl of Frosted Flakes as the better option. Opt for grab-and-go smoothies only if you can control ingredients or read nutrition labels. Look to make sure only whole foods, such as fruits and greens, are listed, and stick to about or under 300 calories, less if it’s a snack.

Pro Tip: Make a batch of smoothie one night and portion it out for three grab-and-go breakfasts in the a.m. My current favorite.

This article originally published on Runner's World's Zelle.

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