8 “Healthy” Foods and Drinks that Are Surprisingly Bad For You

There are lots of folks who have their own opinions about which foods are good for you. Nutritionists are routinely weighing in and recommending ways to maintain a healthy diet. It sometimes feels like you’re being bombarded with information. It can be difficult to know what you should and shouldn’t be eating. For instance, you’ve been told for the longest time that dark chocolate is a must, but in reality it only has a neglectable effect on your health. There are other examples of foods that you always thought were great for you, but actually cause harm. With that in mind, here are 8 surprisingly unhealthy foods that you should avoid along with healthy alternatives.

1. Sports Drinks

Gatorade and Powerade are some of the most popular sports drinks that athletes use to replenish themselves. However, they are chock full of sugar. In fact, a 32-ounce bottle contains a whopping 52 grams of sugar, which is more than the recommended daily intake! And let’s not even get into the artificial dyes!

Replace it with: water. Simple as that. If your goal is to hydrate yourself and get enough electrolytes, pure water does the trick.

2. Instant Oatmeal

When you think “oatmeal” you immediately assume it must be wholesome and healthy. You aren’t necessarily wrong, but it all depends on how you’re eating it. If it’s 100% oatmeal from a container, that’s indeed one of the best foods you can eat for breakfast. It reduces blood pressure and contributes to a healthy heart. But if you’re consuming the instant variety, you could be taking in 21 grams of sugar, which is 40% of your daily intake for what you thought was a healthy meal!

Replace it with: regular, unsweetened oatmeal. Toss in a few raw almonds and a touch of honey and you’ll be set!

3. Fruit Juice

Oranges and cherries are healthy, so why wouldn’t a glass of orange or cherry juice be good for you? First of all, you’re just consuming pure sugar with none of the fiber that you’d get from eating a piece of fruit. In fact, drinking a glass of orange juice contains just as much sugar as a can of soda! And don’t be fooled by the “no high fructose corn syrup” boasts. Sugar is sugar no matter the form.

Replace it with: fresh fruits. Think of it this way: if you eat an apple or orange, it will contain enough fiber for you to feel full. But if you’re just drinking the juice, you’re basically eating several oranges or apples with absolutely zero of the fiber.

4. Margarine

For the longest time, it was preached that butter was bad and margarine was the perfect replacement. After all, it is vegetable-based, which means it contains no cholesterol. However, not all is what it seems. Not only is it high-processed, it contains a lot of unhealthy saturated fats and even dangerous trans fats.

Replace it with: olive oil. Whether you are cooking something or want to dip your bread in it, olive oil is the far healthier alternative. Just make sure to use it in moderation.

5. Reduced Fat Peanut Butter

Taking out the fat in peanut butter must make it better, right? Well, when they remove the fat, they replace it with tons and tons of sugar because otherwise nobody will eat it. They also add a bunch of processed ingredients and preservatives that no jar of peanut butter should ever contain.

Replace it with: regular ol’ peanut butter. The fats it contains are actually good for you; just don’t overdo it. A spoonful is plenty to keep you full.

6. Trail Mix

Trail mix might seem like a great idea if you’re hiking or finishing a workout. After all, the nuts contain a lot of protein, right? And the dried fruits have to be good for you! Well, in reality trail mix is nothing more than glorified junk food. The nuts are often deep fried, those raisins are no better for you than candy and there are zero benefits to those little chocolate bits.

Replace it with: a handful of raw almonds. It gives you a protein boost without any of those other sugary additions.

7. Gluten-Free Pasta

You might feel great about yourself after making a bowl of gluten-free spinach pasta. But sadly, they have to replace that gluten with something so that it maintains that hearty taste, right? So of course they add weird, mystery ingredients that make it even less healthy for you.

Replace it with: Whole-wheat pasta if you can tolerate gluten or something less-processed if you can’t.

8. Diet Ice Cream

As delicious as ice cream is, it contains two of the worst combinations possible: sugar and fat. Diet ice cream would seem to be a miracle food then. But in truth, the additive they replace the milk with — polysorbate 80 — is really, really bad for you. It provides the ice cream with its creamy texture, but it also causes inflammation of the intestine. Plus, you might assume “diet” means you can eat as much of the ice cream as you want, so you’ll end up consuming a ton of empty calories.

Replace it with: Unsweetened Greek yogurt. Yes, it’s not the same, but it’s still creamy and refreshing and loaded with lots of health benefits when eaten in moderation.